Are you sitting comfortably? Workplace sitting & safety regulations

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For those of us who work in an office – sat behind a desk for the best part of eight hours a day – the thought might not cross our minds that such inactivity could be a potential risk to our health.

Yet sitting for long periods is, in fact, associated with a significant risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

One study – headed under the grandiose, rather long-winded mouthful “Standing-based Office Work Shows Encouraging Signs of Attenuating Post-Prandial Glycaemic Excursion” – carried out tests involving office workers in sitting and standing positions. Using an ergonomically-adjustable desk, a group of desk-bound office workers changed from a sitting to standing position – and it improved their blood glucose levels with a relatively small extra amount of standing.

Sitting At a Desk is a Real Risk to Our Wellbeing

The average Brit now spends approximately 8.9 hours every day sitting down, which slows down the body’s metabolism and prevents fat reserves from breaking down.

The inescapable reality is that the majority of us spend our lives engaged in some kind of self-imposed, partial inertia, sat down working at our computers or laptops and staring at glaring screens for inordinate lengths of time.

This poses a real risk to our health and well-being.

Regulations to Help Employees

When it comes to the modern workplace, part of the solution is found and resolved in the Workplace Health, Safety & Welfare Regulations 1992. These guidelines stipulate the employer has a responsibility to ensure their employees are sitting in a seat that is suitable and appropriate to their daily tasks.

Covered under the umbrella of these principles are any special needs or requirements of a particular worker, including employees with any disabilities. Remaining static or in an awkward posture at a work station for a protracted period can ultimately result in a chronic injury.

Employer’s must consider how they can best design seating in an ergonomic fashion so that it reduces the risk of any long-term physical injury.

Employers should also encourage employees sitting at a desk all day to take regular breaks, change routines and activities, as well as providing the necessary health and safety information.

Common Desk-Bound Conditions

Over the years – and particularly with the pervasiveness of desk-bound occupations – there has been a marked interest, concern and awareness in the potentially damaging effects and long-lasting repercussions sitting can have on an employee’s health.

Of particular anxiety are poorly designed and arranged computer equipment, workstations and furniture – all of which can potentially result in discomfort, neck and back pain, a variety of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), and repetitive strain injury (RSI).

Research has revealed that, over a three year period, nearly two-thirds (64%) of office workers in the UK suffered from disorders and infirmities directly associated with working in an inappropriate workspace environment.

Nearly a third of employees complained of aching shoulders or back pain, a quarter with neck pain or headaches, and approximately a fifth said they had sore arms or wrists or eye strain.

Significantly, around a third of all GP referrals relate to musculoskeletal disorders, arthritis and back pain – and the loss to employees and the economy is even greater, with 9.5 million days lost due to ill health each year.

An Employers’ Duty of Care

Recent research indicated that some employers are falling short when it comes to taking care of employee’s who spend a high proportion of their working life sitting at a desk – with 78% of UK companies breaching current health and safety regulations.

The situation has also been exacerbated by workers who ‘hot desk’ or are mobile workers, with only 13% saying they had received a relevant risk assessment of their workstation.

The bottom line is that comprehensive and real health and safety in the workplace depends on effective and good management understanding the needs and welfare of its staff.

We have a successful track record in dealing with work related injuries so call us today for a free, no-obligation assessment on 0808 139 1590, or email us at