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Standing for Long Periods

By: Kevin Watson MSc - Updated: 9 May 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Standing Long Periods Veins Feet Heart

Around half of UK employees spend most working days on their feet. In other words, more than 11 million people around the country stand for hours on end.

The effect on the nation's health is serious. Standing for long periods causes or contributes to a variety of medical problems.

Who's Affected?

Those employees who have to stand at work are often in lower-paid jobs. Among them are retail staff, assembly line workers, security staff, engineers, catering staff, library assistants, hair stylists and laboratory technicians.

Furthermore, some of these employees cannot walk to ease the strain on their muscles. They have to remain in place until they are due for a break or it's time to go home.

The Health Problems

Standing for long periods is bad for health because of the strain on the lower limbs. Problems include aching muscles; hazardous pressure on hip, knee and ankle joints; and damaged feet.

The problems with feet include corns and bunions. Standing can also lead to flat feet and heel spurs.

The symptoms people usually experience are lower limb swelling, tiredness and discomfort. Medical professionals also link standing to varicose veins and a condition known as chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). With CVI, veins cannot send enough blood to the heart.

Another serious condition associated with standing is coronary heart disease. Workers may not develop heart disease as a direct result of standing for long periods. But if they have an existing heart problem, standing for hours can make it worse.

Canadian studies make a further connection between ill health and standing. Back pain is twice as likely to occur in workers who stand for most of their working days rather than sit.

Other health issues related to standing include hip and knee arthritis, high blood pressure, and locking of joints.

The Law

The Workplace (Health and Safety) Regulations 1992 refer to standing. The law says that employers must supply suitable seats if workers are able to perform their duties, or a substantial part of them, sitting down.

No prosecution of an employer under this law has taken place. There have been five improvement notices served on employers. These notices have insisted upon seats for workers. All the employers complied.

Attitude

Part of the reluctance to encourage workers to sit is attitude. Employers believe that staff who are standing create a better impression with customers.

Workers are also to blame in some instances. They may feel it's rude to be sitting when dealing with members of the public. And yet no one accuses professionals such as solicitors and doctors of being rude when they sit behind desks and see patients in their offices.

To make matters worse, health and safety researchers often fail to appreciate the damage standing causes. Professor Messing of the University of Quebec in Montreal is an expert in prolonged standing. She says researchers don't take standing seriously because they work in an environment where they have the choice to stand, sit or walk away from their workstations. Many employees who stand all day don't have this freedom.

Solutions

Sitting down all the time at work is not a solution. Prolonged sitting also causes a range of health problems.

The best advice, endorsed by experts in the field, is to:

  • Cut the time workers spend standing or walking
  • Arrange for work-surfaces to have adjustable heights so workers can alternate sitting and standing
  • Arrange rest breaks with employers
  • Ensure adjustable chairs are available

These goals are not necessarily easy to put in practice. Employers may have to make significant changes to workstations. But the long-term benefits can offer a good return on investment. One estimate, for example, says the UK loses two million working days a year because of lower limb disorders.

The right flooring and footwear have roles to play as well. Hard concrete floors, a common feature in factories, are the worst of all surfaces to stand on for long periods. There is absolutely no flexibility to concrete. Carpeting, rubber, cork and wood are far better surfaces.

If these more suitable surfaces are impractical, anti-fatigue mats can help. These mats provide just the right amount of cushioning to make standing easier. They also have sloped edges to prevent trips.

Mats mustn't be too soft, however. Soft mats can actually increase the feeling of tiredness in backs and legs.

As for footwear, this must be practical and comfortable. It should not pinch the feet or toes; insoles should be shock absorbing; and heels must be no higher than five centimetres.

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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
I work in security and I'm suppose to be on my feet all day because apparently it looks "professional" exact words of the manager, Think I listen psshhh, Health over wealth buddy, just bring up a pay rise topic and they'll walk away??
SlowMoe - 9-May-18 @ 2:01 AM
Hi I'm a employee of JAE inc. from Cavite Philippines...I want to ask if it is ok that the employee of them is standing for so long..we will work for 11 hrs.standing..what we will do for that kind of issue?
Shasha - 1-May-18 @ 11:55 AM
Nj - Your Question:
My husband is a security officer working shifts of 9 hours at a time. During his shift he has to walk constantly. He has 2 x 30 minute breaks but has to be mobile/moving for the rest of the time. Are there any guidelines etc for how long you should have to walk/be on your feet?

Our Response:
We don't know of any, specific length of time but the HSE does have some useful advice for those who have to stand for protracted periods at work.
SafeWorkers - 30-Apr-18 @ 2:13 PM
My husband is a security officer working shifts of 9 hours at a time. During his shift he has to walk constantly. He has 2 x 30 minute breaks but has to be mobile/moving for the rest of the time. Are there any guidelines etc for how long you should have to walk/be on your feet?
Nj - 28-Apr-18 @ 4:37 PM
Hi I have reading all you guys story, I just wanted to say that I have had may of the complaints, some of you guys are describing. Employers will hardly make any allowance or acknowledge that some of their working practices andenvironment are almost dangerous to your health I have worked at places were people have had to cry and be signed off sick for HR to do anything. The places I have worked for, seem to have the mentality that employees are shirking responsibilities, when you say you cant do something as it causes you pain and then the managers make the workload harder so you quit. I do advise that anyone that has work healthcare to join it and see a physio and a podiatrist. I have had so much relief from seeing these clinicians, and they have educated me on how I can use exercises and stretches, to relieve pain and strengthen my body against more injuries, which is much more helpful then my doctor telling me to change jobs..
Bells - 9-Apr-18 @ 11:40 PM
My son started work as a commis chef at a hotel in Edinburgh one month ago but unlike his previous employer in another part of Scotland, he stands all the time and is not allowed to sit or take breaks even when working 10 hour shifts. His legs have now swollen to the point that it was painful to walk and he had to lean on his elbows at his kitchen station to get some relief. As a result, he could not work as fast as he should. The pain was such he was off sick 2 days this week and he went to hospital outpatients (as he was meanwhile still applying to join a doctors surgery) and therefore did not receive sick notes. He did receive medicine and tubigrips. Yesterday, returning to work, he was fired because he couldn't work fast enough to meet the hotel's busy demands. Is this fair and is it legal ? My son understands the hotel's position, but he isn't a shirker and I think it's pretty unfair.
LG - 29-Mar-18 @ 5:53 AM
CheersForChairs - Your Question:
I work in a hotel on the front desk and spend 8 hours a day if not more standing at reception. Myself and co workers experience pain in our lower back, hips and legs daily and often mention this to our manager. We have been told we are not allowed chairs and that it is not "brand standard" which I think is a poor excuse. If we go in the back office for a seat we can be there for 2 mins and then a manager will tell us to get back out the front whilst they continue to sit for the majority of their day?How is that even fair?

Our Response:
Make a complaint to main employer/company head quarters if your direct managers won't help. General recommendations are that you should alternate between sitting and standing if you are working fo a long period and cannot walk around. The law says that employers must supply suitable seats if workers are able to perform their duties, or a substantial part of them, sitting down.
SafeWorkers - 19-Mar-18 @ 2:09 PM
I work in a hotel on the front desk and spend 8 hours a day if not more standing at reception. Myself and co workers experience pain in our lower back, hips and legs daily and often mention this to our manager. We have been told we are not allowed chairs and that it is not "brand standard" which I think is a poor excuse. If we go in the back office for a seat we can be there for 2 mins and then a manager will tell us to get back out the front whilst they continue to sit for the majority of their day? How is that even fair?
CheersForChairs - 16-Mar-18 @ 5:41 PM
I work in a shop I suffer from osteoarthritis in both my knees I think this is due to standing for long periods of time for 10ho 10 hours is such a long time and a half-hour break so by the time you just started to relax it's time to go back and if you say any think if you don't like it go basically
Me - 26-Feb-18 @ 1:47 PM
Dee - Your Question:
If you're off work for 5 months due to work related stress if you find another more suitable job do you have to work you're notice or just tell them you won't be coming back?

Our Response:
That decision over whether you should work your notice period, is on that should be made by your employer.
SafeWorkers - 5-Feb-18 @ 2:08 PM
If you're off work for 5 months due to work related stress if you find another more suitable job do you have to work you're notice or just tell them you won't be coming back?
Dee - 2-Feb-18 @ 7:44 PM
It was agreed I could return to work after time off with various ailments and I would switch roles and be given a stool so I could manage my back pain after 6weeks occupational health delivered a report work had asked for saying I should be provided with a stool which didn't happen then I njured my back and right knee trying to lift then separate a build up of shopping baskets I immediately told my supervisor what happened and I was in so much pain I could not finish my shift after continually advising her I was allowed home after several days off I returned to work on the wed although hoping on one leg and in considerat pain I managed to finish my shift after an uncomfortable night I woke the following morning with ano obviously swollen knee I could not put weight on itbecause of the pain, I was advised to completely rest my knee for a minium of 4 weeks
Griff - 22-Dec-17 @ 12:23 AM
jd63 - Your Question:
I work in retail and the shop I work in has recently been taken over by a larger company. This new company insists that we take a half hour unpaid break when working shifts of 7 or 8 hours. I know this is legal, however, at the same time they have extended our lone working hours on a Sunday to 9 hours. This makes it impossible to take any sort of break yet we're still docked half an hours pay. Surely this can't be right?

Our Response:
No your break must be taken somewhere in the middle of the day (not at the beginning or end) and you must be allowed to spend it away from your desk/where you usually work. Raise it with your employer. If you're not happy with the outcome call ACAS with the view to taking it further.
SafeWorkers - 27-Nov-17 @ 12:22 PM
I work in retail and the shop I work in has recently been taken over by a larger company. This new company insists that we take a half hour unpaid break when working shifts of 7 or 8 hours. I know this is legal, however, at the same time they have extended our lone working hours on a Sunday to 9 hours. This makes it impossible to take any sort of break yet we're still docked half an hours pay. Surely this can't be right?
jd63 - 23-Nov-17 @ 10:12 AM
HR of my company said,that they only have to provide a place to sit if I am able to sit on it for 3 hours strait doing my work. I work 12h x7. After a week like that your body is broken.We also have to look at pc screens to monitor errors on the conveyers. Some of them are placed so Lo that a you have to kneel or bend to use them. They also placed under several electrical motors that are very nosy. We spend 12 hours every day under them.
Ridim - 13-Nov-17 @ 2:11 PM
Shaz - Your Question:
I work full time and spend 7 hours walking the patrolling the streets. I am 57 and have been doing this for 5 years. I have just been diagnosed with arthritis in the foot and a Bunyan, which I am sure was caused by walking on concrete all the time. In addition I have constant pain in my hips and lower back. Although I am not standing still all day I am sure constant walking is detrimental to my health. My employees are not interested as it's part of the job. Walking all day should be risk assessed surely ? Advise wanted please.

Our Response:
All jobs should be risk asssessed. Ask to see your risk assessment and discuss further if you're not happy with risk reduction measures put in place. If you have developed athritis, you should discuss this with your employer to see if there are any measures that can be put in place to help with this.
SafeWorkers - 30-Oct-17 @ 12:31 PM
I work full time and spend 7 hours walking the patrolling the streets. I am 57 and have been doing this for 5 years. I have just been diagnosed with arthritis in the foot and a Bunyan, which I am sure was caused by walking on concrete all the time.In addition I have constant pain in my hips and lower back. Although I am not standing still all day I am sure constant walking is detrimental to my health. My employees are not interested as it's part of the job. Walking all day should be risk assessed surely ? Advise wanted please.
Shaz - 27-Oct-17 @ 2:48 PM
Angry - Your Question:
My employer has informed myself and my other co-workers that we are not allowed to sit down at all during our shifts (shifts vary from 4 to 9 hours in a quiet cornershop), even if all of our tasks are completed. If we are caught sitting or on our mobile phones at any point, our wages will have a week docked from them. He has refused to give us a contract of employment or copies of our wage slips. Breaks are also refused as there is only ever one person working at any one time (including cigarette breaks, which being a very heavy smoker means that I find it difficult to do my job properly when I can't smoke.)What advice do you have?

Our Response:
An employer should provide seating/allow you to sit if your job can be done sitting. There is no right to use a mobile phone while you're at work, even if you are at a quiet point. You only have an automatic right to a break if you work more than 6 hours, but the break does not have to be paid. You do have a right to an employment contract and to your wage slips, contact ACAS about this, you may be able to take it to a tribunal.
SafeWorkers - 29-Sep-17 @ 12:30 PM
My employer has informed myself and my other co-workers that we are not allowed to sit down at all during our shifts (shifts vary from 4 to 9 hours in a quiet cornershop), even if all of our tasks are completed. If we are caught sitting or on our mobile phones at any point, our wages will have a week docked from them. He has refused to give us a contract of employment or copies of our wage slips. Breaks are also refused as there is only ever one person working at any one time (including cigarette breaks, which being a very heavy smoker means that I find it difficult to do my job properly when I can't smoke.) What advice do you have?
Angry - 27-Sep-17 @ 5:09 PM
Singa - Your Question:
Hi I work in a retail and wholesale I stand for 9hrs I just want to know if that is good for a person not to put an old box either to stand on

Our Response:
This is up to each individual really, although as the article says, an employer is supposed to provide seating wherever possible.
SafeWorkers - 15-Sep-17 @ 12:07 PM
Anonymous - Your Question:
I am an assembly line workers 10 hours a day. No leaning no standing still at all. Its time to take a stand! We are people too that work hard and deserve respect! We know our jobs and take them seriously. No more being talked down to or belittled! HAD ENOUGH! Safey commities NEED to take this seriously as it is a safety issue across the world!

Our Response:
Have you made a representation to your employer about this? Employers should provide some kind of seating if your job can be done sitting down.
SafeWorkers - 15-Sep-17 @ 10:42 AM
I am an assembly line workers 10 hours a day. No leaning no standing still at all. Its time to take a stand! We are people too that work hard and deserve respect! We know our jobs and take them seriously. No more being talked down to or belittled! HAD ENOUGH! Safey commities NEED to take this seriously as it is a safety issue across the world!
Anonymous - 14-Sep-17 @ 12:43 AM
Hi I work in a retail and wholesale I stand for 9hrsI just want to know if that is good for a person not to put an old box either to stand on
Singa - 13-Sep-17 @ 5:54 PM
Shopworker - Your Question:
Hi, I work in a retail shop often for 8 hr shifts.I am diabetic and have feet / leg issues amongst other health concerns.I am not allowed a chair so have to stand unbearably all my shift. I am not wanting to sit all shift as the work is varied including restocking and serving. There are only ever 2 staff on shift and we are not allowed to leave the shop -not even for lunch. It is the seating that concerns me as I struggle to stand all day. the occasional sit, especially when there are no customers in the shop would help my well being enormously. Is the companys approach legal?Thank you.

Our Response:
The Workplace (Health and Safety) Regulations 1992 refer to standing. The law says that employers must supply suitable seats if workers are able to perform their duties, or a substantial part of them, sitting down. Please see the rest of the article for information about what you can do.
SafeWorkers - 13-Sep-17 @ 2:19 PM
Hi, I work in a retail shop often for 8 hr shifts. I am diabetic and have feet / leg issues amongst other health concerns. I am not allowed a chair so have to stand unbearably all my shift. I am not wanting to sit all shift as the work is varied including restocking and serving. There are only ever 2 staff on shift and we are not allowed to leave the shop -not even for lunch. It is the seating that concerns me as I struggle to stand all day. the occasional sit, especially when there are no customers in the shop would help my well being enormously. Is the companys approach legal? Thank you.
Shopworker - 12-Sep-17 @ 1:03 PM
We all at my work place have to stand for 12 hrs and plus with no heater all the mangers took all the chairs away because of a lady fell asleep now everyone is suffering isn't this against the law
Kevinv1 - 26-Aug-17 @ 9:00 AM
Can employer make me Stan in ONE spot for an 8HR shift only moving to go to the toilet
J - 25-Aug-17 @ 2:04 AM
Can my employer make me stay at my station for EIGHT HOURS STANDING??only allowed to go to the toilet,no talking??I now have blisters from standing all shift
J - 25-Aug-17 @ 2:03 AM
Hi, I suffer from bunions and flat feet, and work in retail, if I'm on the go at work and constantly moving my feet don't seem to ache, but if I'm stood still at the till for an 8 hour shift, I literally cry with the pain by the end of my shift, there is no seating, and management won't take me off the tills, is there any thing I can do, I have been offered the bunion op but can't afford to take the time off work to have it done.
Ni - 15-Aug-17 @ 5:08 PM
Hi I work in a coffee shop with a concrete floor for 6.5 hrs I have a fifteen minute break during my shift. I have no seat on which I could take short rests during my shift dispite asking several times. I am now suffering from osteoarthritis in my knee and hip and I'm waiting to see a surgeon for a joint replacement my physio has written to my employers stating that I need a chair to prevent further damage but they have refused is this allowed
Wendy - 10-Jul-17 @ 6:29 PM
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