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Standing for Long Periods

By: Kevin Watson MSc - Updated: 24 May 2016 | 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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[Add a Comment]
Lifeguard- Your Question:
Hi, I am a full time life guard on a pool, we use to sit on chair but management have took them away, we now stand on a ruber mat between 6-9 in the morning we stand for 40 minutes until we rotate of the pool, we come of the pool and clean still on our feet from 9am our rotation goes 20minutes standing to sitting back to standing then back off the pool were we clean, just wounding is this right ? Are we allowed to do this

Our Response:
There doesn't sound as though there's much wrong with this from the way you've described it. Are you not allowed to walk up and down?
SafeWorkers - 25-May-16 @ 10:10 AM
Hi, I am a full time life guard on a pool, we use to sit on chair but management have took them away, we now stand on a ruber mat between 6-9 in the morning we stand for 40 minutes until we rotate of the pool, we come of the pool and clean still on our feet from 9am our rotation goes 20minutes standing to sitting back to standing then back off the pool were we clean, just wounding is this right ? Are we allowed to do this
Lifeguard - 24-May-16 @ 8:43 AM
Ane - Your Question:
I am working in an international retail store chain, most departments in it have no seating if it's a customer facing role. 8+ hours a day on concrete floor. Lifting heavy items is daily. I am in a role which provides no seating 100% of the working time. The employer does provide safety footwear, but the only role it fills is steel caps against dropping amything heavy on the feet. It is so uncomfortable I started noticing most of the coworkers have purchased their own boots to battle the painful feet, from their own budget.Is that not also an employer's responsibility to make sure the footwear provided meets the requirement to stand for prolonged periods of time, or at least finance the purchase of your own fit of work footwear? The current shoe has such a low comfort quality it is appalling it passed. Especially when there is such a vast variety of much more comfortable footwear for the job, having in mind concrete floors aren't going anywhere.

Our Response:
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. So if you cannot perform your duties sitting down then your employer is not obliged to provide seating. With regard to the shoes, if they are not fit for purpose e.g they will prevent injury but do not facilitate walking/standing all day, then make a representation to your employer asking them if they will look at sourcing different footwear.
SafeWorkers - 5-May-16 @ 12:07 PM
I am working in an international retail store chain, most departments in it have no seating if it's a customer facing role. 8+ hours a day on concrete floor. Lifting heavy items is daily. I am in a role which provides no seating 100% of the working time. The employer does provide safety footwear, but the only role it fills is steel caps against dropping amything heavy on the feet. It is so uncomfortable I started noticing most of the coworkers have purchased their own boots to battle the painful feet, from their own budget. Is that not also an employer's responsibilityto make sure the footwear provided meets the requirement to stand for prolonged periods of time, or at least finance the purchase of your own fit of work footwear? The current shoe has such a low comfort quality it is appalling it passed. Especially when there is such a vast variety of much more comfortable footwear for the job, having in mind concrete floors aren't going anywhere.
Ane - 2-May-16 @ 11:53 PM
I work on a deli counter and stand for 8 hrs 3 days a week.I have a hip bursitis and am in pain.Should I be working ? Regards Barbara ford
Bab s - 7-Apr-16 @ 10:52 AM
I is to stand for 8 hours per day as cashier in petrol station supermarket Qatar.And its to pain full but the job is very easy.what solution can i get.
dude - 5-Mar-16 @ 6:07 PM
Jeffery - Your Question:
I work in production and have to stand on a concrete floor all day I had a chair which was taken away recently.is my company legally obliged to supply chairs if I can do part of my job while seated. We have a testing lab which still has chairs in. Feel victimised.

Our Response:
As the article says: "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." Make a formal complaint to your employer, referring to this legislation.
SafeWorkers - 11-Feb-16 @ 2:16 PM
I work in production and have to stand on a concrete floor all day I had a chair which was taken away recently.is my company legally obliged to supply chairs if I can do part of my job while seated. We have a testing lab which still has chairs in. Feel victimised.
Jeffery - 10-Feb-16 @ 10:44 AM
I have a job demonstrating products in grocery stores. I have to stand for at least 5.5 hours of a 6 hour shift. My feet are really painful after a shift, and I have knee issues. I like my job in spite of this.
soxfann1 - 8-Feb-16 @ 7:31 PM
Skip - Your Question:
I work as a receptionist and normally work 8 hour shifts with out a break, we are technically allowed a working break which I don't mind but for our whole shift are required to stand. Other sites at the hotel have seating and we would be able to do the same job with a seat (not using it all the time just while doing computer tasks) should we be provided with adequate seating for our role? Kind regards

Our Response:
Firstly anyone who works for 6 hours or more is entitled to a break away from their desk for a minimum of 20 minutes. As for the 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. Speak to your employer about this. If they refuse to act and you feel it is affecting your health contact the Health and Safety Executive for advice.
SafeWorkers - 22-Jan-16 @ 10:41 AM
I work as a receptionist and normally work 8 hour shifts with out a break, we are technically allowed a working break which I don't mind but for our whole shift are required to stand. Other sites at the hotel have seating and we would be able to do the same job with a seat (not using it all the time just while doing computer tasks) should we be provided with adequate seating for our role? Kind regards
Skip - 21-Jan-16 @ 4:15 AM
I just started a bartending job, and on Saturdays, the restaurant I bartend at is open 11AM-10PM, and there's no where for me to sit behind the small bar space, so that's 11 hours straight of pure standing, now add onto that lifting sometimes heavy supplies and boxes of beverages (for stocking the bar). I've only been working there for a week and my back is so messed up and my legs and feet are already terribly swollen and throbbing with pain. Is this even legal?
isbee - 18-Jan-16 @ 4:23 AM
I work 5-8 hour shifts at BJ's in the United States in Maine. I have asked my employer for a seat many times but they just laugh at me. At the end of a shift my back hurts so bad? is there anything I can do?
Chart - 17-Dec-15 @ 9:16 PM
I am a reception staff member at a hotel, and I have to stand all day, having one 15min. for tea and. 30 min. break for dinner, my legs started having spider webs all over, talked to my colleges and they complain about the same plus back pain, corks, tiredness, aching legs and feet, and we are not aloud to have any chair at reception, managers just do not allow it. What should we do, to make our situation better?
CYIN - 16-Dec-15 @ 11:21 PM
jomanash - Your Question:
Hi, I work in Amazon warehouse I stand and walk all day picking for 11 hours and sometimes we do this six days in the week and have one day off. The lunch time is only 30 minutes and it takes time to go pass the security checks and then go to my lockers room to get my lunch and by then I have little time to eat and sometimes I get up before I finish my food. Neverthlesse, My legs are swollen and I can see the veins in my legs like they going to explode and also my hips and kidneys started hurting me these last couple of days. I come home unable to walk properly and feel like I am going to die coz of the pain in my legs. So what do you think of this ??

Our Response:
If you think you have a legitimate cause for complaint you can raise a grievance via your employer's procedure. There is more information Here. You could also ask to see a copy of the employer's risk assessment and see whether you think these health/safety issues have been addressed effectively.
SafeWorkers - 14-Dec-15 @ 2:27 PM
Hi, I work in Amazon warehouse i stand and walk all day picking for 11 hours and sometimes we do this six days in the week and have one day off. The lunch time is only 30 minutes and it takes time to go pass the security checks and then go to my lockers room to get my lunch and by then I have little time to eat and sometimes I get up before I finish my food. Neverthlesse, My legs are swollen and I can see the veins in my legs like they going to explode and also my hips and kidneys started hurting me these last couple of days. I come home unable to walk properly and feel like I am going to die coz of the pain in my legs. So what do you think of this ??
jomanash - 14-Dec-15 @ 6:13 AM
I a working with shel petrol station since 9 years they never provided chair. This unhuman if you ask for chair you are lazy you will be sending home. This is a sham in the uk they have made rules for everything and they ignored this for managers and retailers to destroy our health. If i lose my health why i would complain. I hope to get help for this matter.
Mo - 9-Dec-15 @ 9:00 PM
Hi, i work at Debenhams at packing and i stand for 8 hours in the same place, we cannot move our "status" from pack to pick or to rotate or do anything(if you are a packer you wil be a packer all the time)and we do not have any chairs, thr employer said that if we sit (on a bubble wrap or on anything to just take a 5min brake) they will send us home. We only have a 30min brake in a 8 hours shift wich is actually 20 min because it takes a lot of time to get out of the warehouse and go to the canteen, to the locker etc, it's impossible to work. My feet hurt a lot, sometimes it feels like my whole body is going to colapse. My heels are in pain, my veins just exploded on my legs too, i have a bumb next to my heel and i fell like crying all the time because of this pain. They have seats only for admins and managers, the rest of us are really discriminated! We are all mostly foreign people that came here and they know we are scared to lose this job because it is the only one we have...what can we do? Who can we talk to?
can't take it anymo - 29-Nov-15 @ 7:38 AM
I've just gotten a job at boots, and they make me stand behind the tills for 5 hours straight, even though I have rhumatoid arthritis in my hips, knees and spine. They refuse to give me a chair even though 2 other people on my tills have them, because I am 'young'. Surely this isn't legal?
CA - 20-Nov-15 @ 9:47 PM
I work behind a bar during the day and I find it very hard standing for 3/8hours. I have always had issues with my feet and have special insoles for my dropped arches. Another thing they have dropped my working hours from 27hours a week to 9hours a week with out any notice! Is it legel?
Picklecake - 17-Nov-15 @ 9:42 AM
Lippy - Your Question:
Hi, I work for the NHS and have to do 46 hours a week at least once a month but sometimes I have to do 92 hours in one month is this legal?

Our Response:
Some roles (e.g in sectors that require 24 hour cover) are exempt from the working time regulations. Otherwise and in general, the working time is average over a 17 week period.
SafeWorkers - 4-Nov-15 @ 12:45 PM
Hi, I work for the NHS and have to do 46 hours a week at least once a month but sometimes I have to do 92 hours in one month is this legal?
Lippy - 3-Nov-15 @ 3:56 PM
I work in Poundland on Argyle Street have been there over one year. I stand from 10am to 7pm in the same position Saturday and Sunday. I only get an hour for my break minus time to get from and to tills. Now my feet, knees, hips ache excruciating and my neck as i am tall. They lock and they are stiff. I have requested a change of hours because of the pain. I am exhausted due to the fact i also serve 4 customers per minute all day like a production line. It's like a form of torture. And in winter we do it frozen because they can not maintain a safe woek place temperature. They failed an environmental health check. Been applying for new work every chance i get. Feel literally like i am becoming crippled.
n/a - 25-Oct-15 @ 7:50 AM
I am a hca on an acute respiratory ward. I was on my 2nd night shift, i was 7:20am, 10mins before home time. i was sat at front desk as i had completd al my work. sister saw me sat down and got told off and asked to get up and do something. this has happened before. i work 11.5 hours excluding breaks, often in short staffing conditions. the ward can be very heavy in terms of patients who need lifting and also constanlty up n down the ward. i consider myself a very hard worker and do not slack in any way however afer work such long hours i think it is unfair to be humiliated in front of collegues almost at the end of a shift having completed all my work. it is not against the law to have a little sit down when your feet are throbbing and you are aching all over.
pav - 19-Oct-15 @ 3:53 PM
In pain - Your Question:
Hi I work for Natwest bank and recently our seats have been removed so I stand for 9 hrs a day 5 days a week. (less lunch break for 1 hr) Management attitude towards staff is very bad. We've been told that if we din't like it we should find another job. I have been in this job for 15 years. I am not young as I was when started. I have back acke and my legs are burning when I go to bed. I was off sick due to back pain for one week and on my return to work on the white board said Sacked (my name), to humilliate me in front of everyone and as a warning "not to go sick again" it has been there for 2 weeks, no one dares to wipe it off or challenge manager. I know "the law" around this but also know that no employer has been prosecuted or made to provide seats. Why is that I don't know. I need a way out.

Our Response:
Is this just an issue with your branch? Do you have head office/HR department who can deal with it. The whiteboard issue is an example of unprofessional behaviour. Do all the branches operate the same policy regarding the seats? It might be worth raising a grievance - the Workplace Regulations Act of 1992 states: 'A suitable seat shall be provided for each person in the workplace whose work includes an operation of a kind that the work (or a substantial part of it) can or must be done sitting.'
SafeWorkers - 12-Oct-15 @ 1:51 PM
Hi I work for Natwest bank and recently our seats have been removed so I stand for 9 hrs a day 5 days a week. (less lunch break for 1 hr) Management attitude towards staff is very bad. We've been told that if we din't like it we should find another job. I have been in this job for 15 years. I am not young as I was when started. I have back acke and my legs are burning when I go to bed. I was off sick due to back pain for one week and on my return to work on the white board said Sacked (my name), to humilliate me in front of everyone and as a warning "not to go sick again" it has been there for 2 weeks, no one dares to wipe it off or challenge manager. I know "the law" around this but also know that no employer has been prosecuted or made to provide seats. Why is that I don't know. I need a way out.
In pain - 11-Oct-15 @ 3:06 PM
I have osteoarthritis and have shown my employer my letter frm hospital twice. We verbally disscussed this and agreed i could do 4hours stood on the till then do 4hours on shopfloor. Now the assistant manager said on a shift cos there no more staff i had to do 8 hours on till with half hour break.i explained to her what we had agreed she wasnt interested. I walked out after 4half hrs because i was in agony. Now ive had to have 2 meetings to tell them why i left them short staffed and i got to take proof in again. I feel theres no communication and think i may lose my job
Lesley Boyd - 10-Sep-15 @ 9:56 PM
jackie - Your Question:
Hi I work for amazon and im on pack and I stand for 10 hours a day and ive just noticed my heels are swollen even my ankles

Our Response:
Speak to your employer about this. Are there any opportunities for you to walk around? Or job rotate with other individuals? Your employer has a duty of care towards you and the law does state that employers must supply suitable seats if workers are able to perform their duties, or a substantial part of them, sitting down. There are also other things your employer can do to help alleviate these problems such as providing the right footwear, flooring etc - the article gives full details.
SafeWorkers - 8-Sep-15 @ 1:55 PM
hi i work for amazon and im on pack and i stand for 10 hours a day and ive just noticed my heels are swollen even my ankles
jackie - 7-Sep-15 @ 9:14 PM
Cdm15 - Your Question:
I am a student nurse within the NHS. Whilst on placement during a 12-hour shift I was told that I am only allowed to sit down when I'm on a break, so twice during shifts. I am not a paid employee, is this acceptable?

Our Response:
We don't know exactly what your position is but as a student you will be expected to work under the same conditions as a paid nurse. We don't know how long your breaks are for but assuming you're not actually standing in one spot whilst on your shift (ie you're walking around), then there should not be too much of an issue. Check with the Health and Safety Executive or your University if you're genuinely concerned.
SafeWorkers - 27-Aug-15 @ 1:02 PM
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