What Are The Health & Safety Requirements For Office Chairs In The UK?

Medical professionals are all agreed that prolonged periods of sitting are detrimental to the health of the population. It can cause minor back, neck or shoulder aches, spinal vertebrae compression and muscular and ligament strain, as well as creating an environment where weight gain becomes more likely. In the UK there is no current legislation as such that requires employers to comply in terms of seating alone, but it is covered in the current VDU Health and Safety at Work Legislation.

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Image courtesy of orionpozo via Flickr creative commons

What Should My Employer Do To Protect Me?

All employers have a responsibility to assess and reduce health risks in the workplace in general. In terms of seating, they are required to analyse the workstation and perform a risk evaluation, then take steps to eliminate or reduce any potentially harmful effects. UK workers have the right to demand a work area that is well lit, a chair that has an adjustable height and back rest, and the right to take frequent short breaks from sitting throughout the day.

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Image courtesy of ☺ Lee J Haywood via Flickr creative commons

Different requirements will come into play dependent upon the type of work being performed and the individual needs of the employee. Another thing required of all employers after a risk assessment has been performed is adequate staff training to ensure employees are aware of any potential health risks and know how to combat them. Each employee should be taught how to set up their workstation optimally and how to lift heavy or awkward objects correctly. They should also be permitted to take short, frequent breaks from sitting – the government recommends at least five minutes in every hour.

What Can I Do To Look After Myself?

Employees need to take some level of responsibility for their own health and safety in the workplace. Learning and performing stretching exercises at intervals throughout the day can go a long way towards eliminating health risks. Employees can utilise opportunities provided naturally in the course of their duties to take breaks from sitting, such as walking to the photocopier or doing some filing. Not sitting rigidly in one position for any length of time will also help, as will maintaining a general high level of fitness. Adjusting office chairs to suit your own specifications and keeping mobile are both essential. If you do sit a lot at work try to be more active outside of working hours and spend less time slumped on the sofa.

How Do I Know If I Am At Risk?

The government guidelines apply to people whose jobs require them to sit for prolonged periods of time. The generally accepted definitions of this are those who either have to sit continually for a period of sixty minutes or more each day, or who will sit for a total of two hours or more each day in total. If either of these apply to you then you have the right to ask for frequent breaks and an ergonomic chair/workstation.

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Ergonomic seating image CO Contract Office Chair

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