Home > Health & Wellbeing > Standing for Long Periods

Standing for Long Periods

By: Kevin Watson MSc - Updated: 23 Nov 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]
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
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
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