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Where do I Stand in regards to Workplace Law?

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 25 Sep 2019 | comments*Discuss
 
Health Safety Work Computers Workplace

Q.

My work has taken the chairs away from the computer area so we have to stand while working on the touch screens all day.

They are saying the chairs are luxuries, is there anything I can do?

(Miss Kat Hastings, 8 October 2008)

A.

Based solely upon the information you have given here, this would appear to be a case of your employer contravening the health and safety regulations as laid out in the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 which state the following:

“A suitable seat shall be provided for each person at work 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.”

The key issue in this regard is the phrase ‘can be done sitting’ which is obviously the case as your query has indicated that this is how the work was done previously before the chairs were taken away. Therefore, it’s highly likely that your employer is breaking the law. Chairs certainly aren’t a ‘luxury’ as your employer refers to it.

Basically, any kind of workstation should be suitable for not only the work which is being carried out but also for the individual using that particular workspace which is why all workers who work sitting down in front of computers or similar equipment all day not only should be provided with a chair but one which is adjustable and which has been adjusted to suit the particular individual sitting at it at any given time. For example, it needs to support the lower back and footrests should also be provided if you’re unable to place your feet flat on the floor when you’re sitting down.

The first course of action would probably be to speak to your Health and Safety Officer or representative about this matter. However, if they refuse to get involved, you could then tell them that this is a contravention of the health and safety regulations and that you’ll be looking to take further action. This might include speaking to your trade union representative if you have one.

If the matter stays unresolved, you have a legal right as an employee to stop work and leave your workstation if you feel you have reasonable concerns for your health and safety and you can do this without your employer being able to take disciplinary action against you.

The next thing would be to take up the matter with the Health & Safety Executive and they have an information line you can call where you’ll be able to get specific advice. The number is 08453 450 055

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My employees have a private office for six persons in a co-working space. The company employs 15 people, of which those that dont get a chair/desk are required to sit outside the private office in an open plan co-working space. The workstations are hard rigid plastic seats with no height, or back adjustments - some being floor fixed also. They resemble those that you would find in a cafe or fast casual restaurant. There are some hard rigid upholstered chairs on wheels. In addition there are 'bar stools' with no backs and therefore offer no support to sit and work for long periods of the day. By the end of the day my back is telling me this is not right. As a small company there is no H&S rep and the owner does not really care. What can I do. Any help or advice appreciated
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Stefania - 31-Jul-19 @ 7:27 AM
You say "If the matter stays unresolved, you have a legal right as an employee to stop work and leave your workstation if you feel you have reasonable concerns for your health and safety and you can do this without your employer being able to take disciplinary action against you." Which law cover this?
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Matt - 14-Mar-19 @ 10:09 AM
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Hi I work in a petrol station with 12 pumps ,how many hours a day am I allowed to work on my own .
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Winky - 24-Sep-18 @ 8:35 PM
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B - 16-Aug-18 @ 1:49 AM
Biggins1 - Your Question:
I work in the Security industry, I work 12 hour shifts 6 days in a row with 3 days off in between. My job is to sit infront of computer and CCTV screens. Myself and a few other colleagues are heavy set guys and require a chair that can support our weight. We keep getting giving second hand weak chairs that break easily. The chairs we are given are used 24/7 365 days a year between 6 people, 3 people share one chair which is perfectly suited with arm rests and a head rest. The other 3 people have the choice between a chair with a broken arm and a chair with one arm as the other broke off. Both chair have no head rest and the CCTV screens are 4-8 feet above eye level so we are constantly looking up. I am starting tp get a stiff neck and a bad back. I have spoke to my manager who provided us with the chair with one arm (came to us with 2 arms but one was already broke and fell off) and he is refusing to do anything about it. Just wondering where we stand. Thanks

Our Response:
Are you in a trade union? If so your union rep should be able to help. If not, raise a formal complaint to your employer with some requests for "specific" (make this clear) chairs and sufficient chairs for everyone. If your complaint is ignored, try contacting the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
SafeWorkers - 22-Jun-18 @ 11:32 AM
I work in the Security industry, I work 12 hour shifts 6 days in a row with 3 days off in between. Myjob is to sit infront of computer and CCTV screens. Myself and a few other colleagues are heavy set guys and require a chair that can support our weight. We keep getting giving second hand weak chairs that break easily. The chairs we are given are used 24/7 365 days a year between 6 people, 3 people share one chair which is perfectly suited with arm rests and a head rest. The other 3 people have the choice between a chair with a broken arm and a chair with one arm as the other broke off. Both chair have no head rest and the CCTV screens are 4-8 feet above eye level so we are constantly looking up. I am starting tp get a stiff neck and a bad back. I have spoke to my manager who provided us with the chair with one arm (came to us with 2 arms but one was already broke and fell off) and he is refusing to do anything about it. Just wondering where we stand. Thanks
Biggins1 - 21-Jun-18 @ 1:28 AM
SteveB - Your Question:
Hi, i’m a computer programmer and sit at my desk basically 8 hours a day. Last year due to previous back surgery and carpall tunnel I was assessed by a third party accessor whom recommended a special chair setup for my needs, footstool and monitors arranged at a specific height and distance for my needs.This year my employer has introduced a “no one has a dedicated desk” policy (except the managers) and all personal items need to be removed from the desk each day before 6pm (clear desk policy) otherwise they will be trashed.So today I arrive in go to the normal desk that I work at and the foot stool is removed, monitors are reset to a general position. When I challenged this I was told no one has a dedicated desk and that I would have to retrieve the footstool each morning as its presence below the desk would put other people off using that desk.So interested in people thoughts around if there are any laws governing these items. obviously my desk was tailored a year ago but since the implementation of this new policy H&S seems to be thrown out the window.I don’t wish to setup my desk each morning and reposition monitors, seat height, etc. is there anything I can do? Thanks

Our Response:
Hot desking is a becoming a more popular way of working. If all monitors are easily adjustable and your footstool is still available, there isn't much you can do. If the foot stool is heavy and your carrying it around will excerbate any back problems of course, you could raise it again with your employer.
SafeWorkers - 22-May-18 @ 11:51 AM
Hi, i’m a computer programmer and sit at my desk basically 8 hours a day. Last year due to previous back surgery and carpall tunnel i was assessed by a third party accessor whom recommended a special chair setup for my needs, footstooland monitors arranged at a specific height and distance for my needs. This year my employer has introduced a “no one has a dedicated desk” policy (except the managers) and all personal items need to be removed from the desk each day before 6pm (clear desk policy) otherwise they will be trashed. So today i arrive in go to the normal desk that i work at and the foot stool is removed, monitors are reset to a general position. When i challenged this i was told no one has a dedicated desk and that i would have to retrieve the footstool each morning as its presence below the desk would put other people off using that desk. So interested in people thoughts around if there are any laws governing these items... obviously my desk was tailored a year ago but since the implementation of this new policy H&S seems to be thrown out the window. Idon’t wish to setup my desk each morning and reposition monitors, seat height, etc .. is there anything i can do?Thanks
SteveB - 15-May-18 @ 9:31 PM
I work 12 hour shifts as a security officer, for a big security company, i am wondering what laws there is as they want us to stand for 12 hours, feet are red roar when i get home and its hard to stand for that period of time
Sully - 28-Apr-18 @ 6:52 PM
K - Your Question:
Hi for the last 6 years I have worked with the same company as a pharmacy dispenser for an online pharmacy. Due to the nature of patients we provide medication for majority of my job role is dispensing on a computer. On a daily basis I spend at least 6 hours in front of a computer and maybe around 1 hour physically dispensing if my colleagues are busy. For the last 6 years I have always had a chair until today when a new manager enforced a ‘no chair policy’ my desk station is quite low and today I felt the effect of having to lean down to complete my work. Is this the correct procedure my employer enforced? Please help.

Our Response:
It's unfair of your employer to take away a chair if they have not raised your workstation to standing level. Talk to them about the issues with bending forward and back problems. HSE may be able to advise.
SafeWorkers - 17-Apr-18 @ 2:37 PM
Hi for the last 6 years I have worked with the same company as a pharmacy dispenser for an online pharmacy. Due to the nature of patients we provide medication for majority of my job role is dispensing on a computer. On a daily basis I spend at least 6 hours in front of a computer and maybe around 1 hour physically dispensing if my colleagues are busy. For the last 6 years I have always had a chair until today when a new manager enforced a ‘no chair policy’ my desk station is quite low and today I felt the effect of having to lean down to complete my work. Is this the correct procedure my employer enforced? Please help.
K - 16-Apr-18 @ 11:49 PM
Ohs recommended sit/stand desk for me.Due to changes in work I have had to sit most days.Yesterday I gmhad to stand all of my shift as the desk I was told to move to was too high for me.I was in alot of pain last night.Can I refuse to do so in future until I get a sit/stand desk again?
Meant - 11-Apr-18 @ 8:41 AM
Hi I’m currently working in Wilko, at the checkout. Recently a new store manager came there and within few days she removed the chairs from all the checkout tills. When we asked about this she told that when using chairs in tills, staff serving customers very slowly and she need to increase the speed of serving customers. But we have 2 shifts(3 hours & 4 hours) every days. There is 30 mins unpaid breaks and 15 mins paid breaks. So when I do 7 hours a day, I have to stand 6 hours & 45 mins. Because of this last few weeks I’m struggling with back pain. Can you explain me is the manager have the right to remove the chair from the checkouts(even health and safety reasons)? We do not have a union in our shop.
Ash - 4-Apr-18 @ 8:30 PM
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