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Standing for Long Periods

By: Kevin Watson MSc - Updated: 21 Dec 2020 | 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.


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.


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]
For sciatica try a chiropractor- it worked for me.Otherwise epsom salt baths help but don’t solve it.
Jojo - 21-Dec-20 @ 6:31 PM
My husband works in a petrol station.He works 3, 8 hours shifts.In those 8 hours he has no breaks as management states that employees must be 100% productive, 100% of the time.He literally stands for 8 hours straight.He is the only male working there and so he has to put all the stock away himself. The company has now taken on more staff than there are shifts and he is worried that they will get rid of him as he is 2 years off retirement.The local council has visited the shop and mentioned it but state there is nothing they can do to help the situation.Is this right?Or is the council worker misleading him?
whalley - 29-Oct-20 @ 6:12 PM
Why employers are so paranoid about people in the sitting position is weird.
Al - 6-Sep-20 @ 11:02 PM
It is so sad to read about the workers who are working for long hours standing with pain. I really felt very sad after reading the pains of a pregnant woman too. Seriously, some steps need to be taken to safeguard them, as they have to take care of the company and their family including themselves too. There will be a way. I am a researcher in Computer Injury Prevention Techniques and will be happy to share my research with the Governments. Let's work happily ??
Arun - 2-Aug-20 @ 4:37 PM
Look at a pharmacy - they never allow their employees to sit down. Why is nobody doing anything about that?
Hugo - 17-Jul-20 @ 5:35 PM
I work 8 hrs standing and a pregnant, my feet’s are extremely swollen. I work in ware house and I don’t want to lose my job because it sustains me and my family.
Lia - 29-May-20 @ 11:20 PM
I work 12 hour shifts days and nights from 6 till 6 and I am expected to walk around on a concrete floor with only 45 minutes break in between is this bad for my mental health as well as my body a chair that was provided has now been taken away is there anything I can do
Straightarm - 27-Apr-20 @ 8:27 PM
Hey, I work as a pharmacy assistant and I’m honestly finding work painful at the moment. I can handle the slightly short shifts but I usually am working 6-9 hrs at once. It’s really affecting me, as I’m not aloud to sit at all, walk around or even slouch. It’s so painful, and I’ve tried everything (shoes, baths, physio) and nothing helps. Then I face constant abuse from customers and sometimes from management. It’s so upsetting and sometimes I have to use my toilet break to just cry. All this on top of the fact that I have into stand in one place all day, where I probably serve people only about 10% of that time. I’m not allowed to read, sit, talk to other employees, or keep myself busy. It’s so boring I can’t function. It sounds silly but every second is painful. And I only get one break, sometimes not even 30 mins. I’m so tired and I need advice.
Aimee - 29-Feb-20 @ 2:26 PM
I work for one of the richest men in the world ..whos name you see everywhere. I work in his distribution center working 4 days 10 hr shifts that's a normal work week except when Prime starts then I feel like I live there. Concert floors yes but we have mats at our work stations. My body has really been taking a toll. My legs, feet and definitely my knees hurt. I know it's a labor job. But it pays my bills and keeps a roof over my head. I wish there was a miracle pill I could take my pain away. But my boss is working putting his rocket ship into space for everyone.
Tntbeyond - 1-Jan-20 @ 1:37 PM
I worked at least 10.5hrs, sometimes 11hrs, 12 hours and occasionally 13hrs daily, 30-31 days every month or 26-27 days some fewer months. I got paid only £5/hr. Absolutely no holiday pay and actually no holidays at all even Christmas, Easter, New year, BH and what have you. No annual leave or any form of Leave whatsoever. No NI or pension contribution on my behalf and totally very wicked disregard for my humanity. I've actually been fired. I have no one to complain to, but my case will be televised for the world to see because I will send my boss back to Satan and go to jail or make sure I followed him to Hades to make sure we both burned thoroughly. Thank you.
mz - 27-Nov-19 @ 2:40 AM
I stand on my feet 8 hrs a day I’m suffering from sciatica any hints to do make more easy day.
None - 12-Nov-19 @ 5:17 PM
I work for 8 hours a day stood at a desk on a concrete floor, sticking labels into clothing. I work Sunday - Thursday 2pm - 10pm with an half an hour break at 6pm. My feet are starting to kill me more and more each day to the point where I’m struggling to walk at home. I don’t know what to do because I really need this job but I think we should at least be allowed to sit down.
HS - 30-Sep-19 @ 10:21 AM
I work in the A&E department of a hospital as a porter and we do 12 hour shift and walk around 14 miles on average a shift but down time is a massive part of our duties at times but we are meant to stand around waiting for a call, are we entitled to a base where there are suitable seating for us when we have got down time
Jacko15 - 4-Jul-19 @ 7:26 PM
We use to sit down at are jobs , now they makes us stand up,over25 yrs I been back suffer , disgentivefrom neck to tailbone.now standing is affects me more ,weak soreness and fatigue,is there any help out there to help with this problem
Gus - 3-May-19 @ 2:04 PM
would this instance still apply, if i was to be asking for the flexability to work standing up at my work place desk, as i have been reading that sitting for too long a a computer station is just as bad as standing for long periods.
po15 - 7-Apr-19 @ 10:27 PM
Hello. I have been searching online for help and can't seem to find any info so Im hoping someone here could help me. Recently started a new project at work. (I work in a factory producing moulds for cars mainly rubber) Anyway with the new project they have installed new work stations. And I have complained for the past 2months that they are too low for me. After about 3 weeks I starting getting a pain in my neck, like a stiff neck, still complaining and now also about the pain it's causing and still nothing has been done. I ended up going to the doctors receiving painkillers and advised to have some time off to rest my strained neck. Rested my neck felt better again gone back to work they now said they will set up an investigation into it asking my height and what was hurting etc. And sent back to my work station nothing has changed it's still too low and two more weeks later and I'm in pain again with my neck. Looking forward to another weekend in pain and who knows how much worse it will get and they don't seem to be doing anything. Is their legal requirements or regulations for how high my workstation should be? There is 3 of us that work this machine along with the workstation to trim, sign and finish the parts. The other guys are much shorter than me. Should the work station be height adjustable to suit the 3 of us individually? Any more time off and I will end up losing my job as they are very strict on absences. Yet at the same time they're not helping me and I dont know what to do. Please any help would be appreciated. Many thanks
Jordan - 22-Feb-19 @ 4:31 PM
Hi i was wondering if you can help me out on this. I work in a cold food plant on an 8 hour shift ... and we have 2 rest breaks and a lunch break ... rest breaks are 20 min and lunch is 35.... how long before my first rest break ?? is it 2 to 3 hours or is it 5 hours ???
Sette - 21-Feb-19 @ 5:49 AM
I work as a chef and we it's long hours. Its 10-3 5-10. We have to stand all through the shift. I am pregnant and suffer with varicose veins and pgp ( pelvic gridle pain ). The doctor has advised me to make sure I'm not standing for hours at a time as it will not help my condition and could worsen it which will make me end up on crutches and to be put on sick. The owner today has took me into the office with our pr representative and had ago at me over it. Tried to explain to my boss and she wasn't listening to me and threatened to cut all my hours and told me pregnancy isn't an illness which 9I have never stated that it is. I tried to explain that I only sit down when all of the other chefs go for a cigarette break so not to annoy anyone and she has completely blown up and made me feel like my job is at risk. What should Ido ?
Emma - 1-Feb-19 @ 11:00 PM
Hello, my wife works as a hotel receptionistand she has dine for the past 12 years. There has been a change in management and there new manager is taking away all seats in the reception area where the computer's are and she and the other receptionist have to stand up for a good 8 to sometimes 10 hours with out sitting down. Please can someone tell me if this is legal in anyway, plus my wife has sciatica there is only so long she can stand up for with put her back hurting.
Phil - 16-Nov-18 @ 12:46 PM
I stand for 7 hrs a day st a press as I work in a dry cleaners, sometimes I barely leave etc to use the toilet, I am in constant pain in my feet legs back and wrists, I stand on a hard floor and I’m so fatigued at the end of the day that I end up in tears I’m 62yrs old and I’ve got 4more years before I can retire how can I get more help
Foghornleghorn - 10-Nov-18 @ 9:27 PM
Thankyou for all this info need it for my sister
Pinky - 10-Nov-18 @ 10:56 AM
Could you tell me i am wearing an immobilizer knee brace having to work i stand 8 hr shifts is there a law against that
Punkinpuss - 8-Nov-18 @ 1:08 PM
Hi I work for a busy café, the last year we have had some major redevelopment in the way we work. Just recently I found myself doing 8 hour shifts standing within a meter square area, I have no support from the other team members and i also have a short break towards the 7 hour mark. I'm in constant pain in my back legsand groin and im looking for advice how to approach the matter as the team leader has made out I'm exaggerating the matter.
Slave 73 - 8-Sep-18 @ 7:31 PM
I am a receptionist for a hotel where standing is a must. They have provided a stool with no back support to rest on between guests to aid, however I have a disability that they are aware of which cause chronic fatigue, joint pain and inflammation and can lead to heart failure and heart cancer in the future. As I said they are well aware of this and are threatening to remove the stool because I rely too heavily on it and are constantly reprimanding me for sitting out of view of the guests in a normal desk chair to relieve my back pain caused by sitting on the stool. I don't know how I can get across to them that I physically am unable to do my job properly because of this.
Chlo - 3-Sep-18 @ 12:59 PM
Working in production on a cold ground and on your feet eight hours packing place is cold I’ve severe pain in my legs is there anything I can do I can barley walk the next day and boss just laughs ??
Molloy - 23-Aug-18 @ 12:07 PM
Dubari - Your Question:
I'm working in garments for 8 hours without sitting so it will appen to me something to my health

Our Response:
Please see the sections entitled "The Health Problems" and the "The Law" in the above article for your answer.
SafeWorkers - 25-Jul-18 @ 2:11 PM
I'm working in garments for 8 hours without sitting so it will appen to me something to my health
Dubari - 24-Jul-18 @ 2:13 PM
I work in a fish and chip shop can I wear a sleeveless top or Must I have my arms covered
None - 21-Jul-18 @ 9:56 AM
I work in a food factory and work 12 hour shifts for 10.5 hours of the shift I'm standing on a metal floor which is 5 ft hight on a machinecan there be anything done to make it more easy on joints and back
Mp - 29-Jun-18 @ 12:51 PM
Wdf - Your Question:
I work at the airport 9 hours shift. I have 2 hours work and 30 mins break, 3.5 hours work and 1 hour break and last 2 hours work. Except that 1,30 break I am not allowed to sit. I am not allowed to keep water around me. It is busy environment and noise sometimes is unbreable. Lighting is too much, and I have to look at the screen while I am on duty. I just want to know if there is regulations about the distance to water supply, or lightings?

Our Response:
The advice regarding standing/sitting is described in the above article. The law requires employers to provide drinking water and ensure that:
It is free from contamination and is preferably from the public water supply (bottled water dispensers are acceptable as a secondary supply)
It is easily accessible by all employees
There are adequate supplies taking into consideration the temperature of the working environment and types of work activity
Cups or a drinking fountain are provided.
SafeWorkers - 29-May-18 @ 3:16 PM
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