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Standing for Long Periods

By: Kevin Watson MSc - Updated: 3 May 2019 | 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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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
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?
Wdf - 28-May-18 @ 7:33 PM
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
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