If your staff spend long periods sitting down, it’s important that you understand your responsibilities under health & safety law, and what you can do as an employer to make sure your staff are comfortable and remain injury free at work.
Health implications of repeatedly sitting down for too long
When members of your team have complained about sitting for too long, they will likely be experiencing one or more negative side effects of not being mobile enough at work.
This could be comfort, health or injury related, so you must take swift action.
If your team’s work is desk-based, you must take steps to ensure they have access to a comfortable chair suitable for the work they’re doing and work to keep them mobile at regular points during the day because there are very real consequences to repeatedly sitting down for too long.
Repeatedly sitting down for long periods can cause:
- Increased risk of developing chronic illnesses such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease and depression.
- Poor posture can lead to back pain and other muscular aches and pains.
- Repetitive strain injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Poor circulation due to restricted movement can cause cramping or numbness in the extremities.
- fatigue & difficulty concentrating
- neck and shoulder pain
- poor circulation in the legs
What does the law say?
According to the Workplace (Health and Safety) Regulations 1992, employers must provide sufficient seating if employees can perform their job duties while seated.
If workers are not able to adequately fulfil their tasks by sitting down, then suitable alternatives should be offered.
Suitable rest breaks must also be provided to ensure that employees can take regular breaks throughout the day, so they can move around and avoid sitting down for too long.
Employers have a responsibility to ensure that employees are provided with adequate working conditions, and this includes taking into account the types of tasks your team are carrying out.
If your staff are desk-based for most of the day, then you must take steps to provide them with comfortable seating, rest breaks, and other equipment that can help them remain injury free.
What happens if you ignore H&S seating rules
The potential outcome of ignoring health & safety seating regulations is serious and could result in a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation, fines or even prosecution.
Non-compliance with H&S laws can also lead to significant compensation payments for those affected, as well as the possibility of civil claims brought against the employer by employees.
Minimising the H&S risks to employees that sit for long periods
There are a few practical steps employers can take to limit the health and safety risks associated with sitting for long periods:
- Provide ergonomic seating that is adjustable, swiveling and comfortable.
- Offer stand-up desks or standing breaks throughout the day.
- Introducing an exercise program such as stretching or yoga classes into the workday.
- Involving staff in a regular workplace health check program.
- Encourage regular movement such as walking around during breaks.
- Make sure that employees have access to healthy snacks and drinks.
- Ensure proper lighting and adequate ventilation in the workspace.
- Promote the benefits of walking meetings
- Create a culture of open communication so employees can speak up about concerns they have about sitting too long.
- Encourage physical activity to form part of lunch breaks and provide enough time for this to be done
Strategies to minimise the length of time people stay seated
Employers should look at ways to break up prolonged periods of sitting with frequent standing or walking and other activities that involve movement.
This could include introducing standing desks or task-related standing activities.
Employers should also ensure that seats provided to workers are comfortable and ergonomically designed with adjustable features to further reduce any risk of strain or injury while seated.
Investing in quality office chairs that offer lumbar support can help to improve posture and comfort levels among staff members.
To encourage regular rest breaks, employers can consider introducing standing, stretching and walking activities at regular intervals throughout the day.
Simply having a few minutes to stand, stretch or walk around can help reduce the physical effects of sitting down for too long.
Finally, employers should provide staff with training on healthy posture habits to reduce the risk of developing any type of musculoskeletal injury.
Posture awareness classes can be offered to employees as part of an overall health and safety program.
Industries affected by sitting too long
Many industries require staff to sit for long periods such as:
– Office-based roles
– Call centre roles
– Retail roles
– Hospitality roles
– Manufacturing and production roles
– Healthcare roles.
All employers should carry out regular risk assessments at work to make sure that the health and safety of their staff are not compromised.
The risks associated with sitting for too long must be addressed in any workplace, regardless of industry, as it can have serious implications on employee well being.
By implementing the right measures to reduce the risks associated with sitting for long periods, employers can ensure that their staff remain healthy and happy at work.
The best chairs for long periods of sitting down
When it comes to selecting chairs for long periods of sitting, employers should look for options that are ergonomic and adjustable.
Ergonomic chairs offer support to the body’s natural posture and can help reduce strain on the neck, back, shoulders and arms.
Features to look for include adjustable height, lumbar support, armrests and a swivel base.
The material of the chair should allow for breathability and comfort, with extra cushioning for added support.
Adjustable features such as seat height, backrest height and tilt angle provide more flexibility and can accommodate different individual needs.
The chair should also be lightweight to make it easy to move around.
The key is to find a chair that offers support and comfort, as well as being adjustable for each user.
Investing in quality chairs with these features can help reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries caused by sitting for too long.
As you can see, it’s important that employers understand and act upon their responsibility to keep workers safe, and that employees have access to suitable seating when a large part of their day involves sitting down.
If you would like support with managing and understanding your HR and Health & Safety responsibilities, please contact us.