Two hours of standing on the job isn’t likely to have harmful health effects on the body, but longer periods of standing may create long-term health risks such as blood pooling in the legs, chronic back pain, musculoskeletal disorders, and elevated risk of heart disease. Recent studies suggest that employers should focus on reducing prolonged periods of standing at work and provide more flexible work environments. It would be wise for employers to consider a mix of sitting and standing for their employees. State Comp Safety News recommends additional adjustments employers can make to help reduce risk.
Newton’s third law states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. When you’re standing, you actually apply a force onto the ground, while at the same time, that ground applies an equal force back up into your body.
If your employees work on their feet most or all of the day, over time that force can cause plantar fasciitis, low back pain, leg pain, and other musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Varicose veins and other circulatory problems are also associated with prolonged standing or walking.
As an employer, you can help alleviate these problems by making a few adjustments and providing some tools that help minimize the effects of prolonged standing.
What your employees need to do
Your employees can follow these steps to help reduce the risk of injury:
- Request anti-fatigue mats for their workstations. These provide a softer surface to stand on and reduce the stress applied back to the body.
- Choose footwear that is appropriate for the work environment. Consider comfort, weight, ventilation, and the amount of support provided by both the sole and upper portion of the shoe.
- Use anti-fatigue insoles inside the shoes, especially for employees who walk over large areas.
- Notify you immediately when the physical workplace requires attention, such as:
- Anti-fatigue mats that fail to rebound after pressure is applied/removed.
- Workstations that force employees to assume awkward or unnatural postures to complete work.
- Change positions frequently. If possible, alternate between a standing and seated position. Shifting weight from one side of the body to another can also help.
- Take scheduled breaks: leave your regular work area. If you’ve been sitting, take a walk around the building or outside. If you’ve been standing, take a seat in the break room.
At your safety meeting
Discuss with your employees the challenges they face in your particular workplace.
- Provide details about workplace hazards that might assist them in selecting appropriate footwear.
- Ask them to identify the challenges they face, such as when they’re forced to work in awkward positions or stand in one place too long.
- Find out why they’re working in awkward positions. Sometimes the solution is as simple as moving things to a more convenient location.
- Strategize with your employees about rotating different tasks throughout the day that have different physical demands.
- Consider whether they can perform some tasks from a seated position.
- You might consider something similar to bar stool, complete with a footrest, if they still need some type of elevation.
Good design of your workplace and awareness of conditions that create discomfort can help employees stay on their feet, be productive, and keep your business operations moving.