Home > Health & Wellbeing > Standing for Long Periods

Standing for Long Periods

By: Kevin Watson MSc - Updated: 27 Sep 2017 | 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]
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
I work in a company in South Wales that makes aircraft "seats". We have tools and benches that are made for being used with stools. But are not allowed to have or bring our own stools in. We work for more than 80hours a week stood in heat and uncomfortable saftey shoes. The effects are endless and pain full.
Adam67 - 14-Jun-17 @ 6:23 PM
Hi, I am a floor supervisor in a hotel. I walking 8.5 hour a day, using a stairs as well. Our manager is doesn't tolerate if we going to take 5-10 min break 2 times a day for rest, only the launch time. Many times we can't stand up, walking because of the pain in our legs and feets.Our feets are swollen and painful. Our veins are purple.
Supervisor - 9-Jun-17 @ 3:37 PM
I work in a busy card shop and I am standing for 6 hours at a time is this allowed with out a break ?
Shump - 17-May-17 @ 4:04 PM
I work for a traffic management company they want us to stand for 11 hours a day . I was just wondering if this safe and is it against the law .
Milkie - 5-Apr-17 @ 2:15 PM
Im working as a bellman in Rosa Malacca.The hotel owner scolded me and curse me for sitting and not doing my job.This is arguably the worse case i heard in my life.I dont know how to tell him that it is hard standing long but he refuses to listen no thanks to his wife!
Shaunny - 15-Mar-17 @ 2:28 PM
LucyD - Your Question:
Sorry if this has been asked before but what constitutes "a long period of time?" Is standing for a length of time ever good for you?

Our Response:
Five or more hours would be considered a long time to stand still. Note that if you're walking around, it's not the same as standing in one place.
SafeWorkers - 17-Feb-17 @ 12:06 PM
Sorry if this has been asked before but what constitutes "a long period of time?" Is standing for a length of time ever good for you?
LucyD - 16-Feb-17 @ 8:46 AM
Hlooo Plzzz try to provide chairs fo retailers whu mostly work in Mall Coz standing fo 8-9Hours will get lots of pains So DAT v loose our interest n sale n attending d customers If v can take rest v ll b active to do our work Mostly The product con seller ll b active in morning to 3-5hours Plzzz plz d chairs to sits
Mussu - 29-Oct-16 @ 6:29 PM
Hi I work in a car manufacturing company on a production line the floor if solid concrete I have been feeling pains in my lower back so I asked the company if I could have some sort of mats their reply is we will move you onto another shift on another line where their o Sre mats is this against the law or are the in there rights to do this
Jonny ed - 15-Oct-16 @ 1:38 PM
Kirkl - Your Question:
Hi I could you please advise, I work for a retail company as a customer service supervisor, the checkout staff at the store are no issued with seats as the company says it is at the managers discretion and the manager says the staff work better when standing, the only staff to be given chairs are staff that are pregnant or are on light duties, I have read up the article about seating and wondered if there is a minimum amount of time working that seats should be issued as staff would be able to carry out there full duties with seats but these are not provided.

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. 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.
SafeWorkers - 11-Aug-16 @ 1:50 PM
Ido a job which involves standing for long periods of time,directing customers to buses when train lines are closed. If its not busy and there is a seat near by I will seat down, for a few minutes. I have been told by the Management I should not seat down when working, which can mean three to four hours before a break. That in my view is a long time to be expected to stand for.
is it me - 10-Aug-16 @ 8:44 PM
Hi I could you please advise, I work for a retail company as a customer service supervisor, the checkout staff at the store are no issued with seats as the company says it is at the managers discretion and the manager says the staff work better when standing, the only staff to be given chairs are staff that are pregnant or are on light duties, I have read up the article about seating and wondered if there is a minimum amount of time working that seats should be issued as staff would be able to carry out there full duties with seats but these are not provided.
Kirkl - 10-Aug-16 @ 1:36 AM
Sorry I meant only half hour dinner break not an hour!
llama - 14-Jul-16 @ 1:19 PM
I work nights on a busy reception desk and can be stood up for hours on end. We do 8, 9 and 10 hour shifts til early hours of the morning. We have a rubber mat but that hurts your feet more. We have a hour dinner and we should have 2 breaks but that's not always guaranteed. My feet hurt and my hip n my back ate starting to really hurt n I just feel exhausted all the time. The other clubs are allowed chairs and to sit down but for some reason we aren't? Is this allowed? I think we have a too quick of a turnover of shifts as well and don't have another time to rest properly! Working twice in one day!
llama - 14-Jul-16 @ 1:11 PM
Hi.I had accident at my work place (production operative in food factory and 8 hours I have to stand) I slip on the meat waste and water and I had a knee cap dislocation. I was 2,5 month out of work because I could not walk without crutches. Now I'm back but need to weat breaces on my leg, I'm waiting for the surgery of stabilizing the knee cap. I ask nurs from my work place for a chair or stol for last two hours of my shift but they say NO. I'm struglin every day,last two hours are worse,every few weeks there is a day that I can not go to work because my knee is so swollen and painful as a result of forcing it at work place. My question is can they end my contract because of this days that I am not able to come to work,because of knee pain. I just know that if I will go I will not stay to end of the shift,and my workplace is 20 miles from my home,so I would not have a transport in a midle of a day to go back home. I'm waiting for my operation my ortopedic clinic is vety busy my doctor have a 100ts of cases like mine. Can they sack me from the factory because of those days??? It's happen 3 or 4 times from the day of thr accident that happen at december 2015. I can see their reaction they are not happy that I'm not at work,after come back to work I always afraid to talk with my superviser because I know they are upsed.I always inform them 1,5 before my shift that I'm not able to go to work today.Thats why I havve ask them for a chairthat would help me with my pain and I think that my knee would not be so forced all the time.please can you answer me,I have a son and I dont want to lose this job I am really trying to be there every day but my knee is killing me sometimes.Karol
pira22 - 13-Jul-16 @ 2:00 PM
Mr moo - Your Question:
I work 12 hour shifts usually not getting a break until after 10hours im on my feet all day and usually cover a distance of around 12 miles walking supervisng in a foundry after 3 shifts every part of my lower body aches especially back pain. Is it uk law to give more breaks to workers who stand.

Our Response:
All workers are entitled to a minimum 20 minute break if they work longer than 6 hours. If you are not getting the relevant breaks, you should make a formal complaint to your employer.
SafeWorkers - 13-Jul-16 @ 9:40 AM
I work 12 hour shifts usually not getting a break until after 10hours im on my feet all day and usually cover a distance of around 12 miles walking supervisng in a foundry after 3 shifts every part of my lower body aches especially back pain. Is it uk law to give more breaks to workers who stand.
Mr moo - 12-Jul-16 @ 3:33 AM
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