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Where do I Stand in regards to Workplace Law?

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 29 Sep 2018 | 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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I was supplied with a chair via occupational health at my work for my sciatica it was specifically brought in for me but now the health and safety rep has told everyone else within the office it is a company chair and anyone can use it so I no longer have the back support I need. my union reps both tell me contradicting stories so I don't know where I stand with where I can go. Is it right that even though the chair was technically ordered in for me that everyone can just use it and readjust it all the time? I cant seem to get any answers.
Harley85 - 29-Sep-18 @ 1:55 AM
I work on a till standing for 8 hours a day, I get 20 mins break and 1 hour dinner is this legal, they used to have chairs there before I started but I was told they took them away as it made us lazy and we didn't come out of our tills to check the trolleys .is this fair
Winky - 24-Sep-18 @ 8:35 PM
Hi, I work in a local council gym on shifts.We currently have use of an office with a chair on the gym floor, however we have been told that soon we will no longer have no access to this office which means we will have nowhere to sit whilst on shift - we willhave to stand on the gym floor for the duration of our shift (up to 10hrs).Some of the other gyms in the organisation have a desk and chair on the gym floor which employees are allowed to use and sit at for a rest but we do not - only the office which will be shut.Can we do anything about this please?Thank you.
Susan - 20-Aug-18 @ 6:02 PM
Hi , I’m a care worker and do 12 hour night shifts in someone’s home . Recently the comfortable padded large chair had been taken away and replaced with a solid small dining chair with minimal padding and no back support . We spend most of the night in this chair about 9 hours as there’s not much else to do other then monitor the patient . As care workers most people already have a lot of back problems and it’s painful after a few hours in it let alone the whole night ! Is there anything I can say or do ? Does my employer have to do anything at all ? Thanks
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
Recently had workstation assessment at work which amongst recommendations for larger monitors, recommended my current habitual choice of desk being made a static desk. Line management are trying to alter my seating as although we are hot desking, they rigidly sit ten yards down the room. To this end they went to Health and Safety behind my back questioning this recommendation. Health and Safety emailed me separately, suggesting I might show them the report or an extract.I feel like they are questioningthe validity of the situation. Before I do anything else, appreciate advice, as I fear the monitors will be delivered on a day I'm working from home, and will not be delivered to my desk as agreed. Thank you.
AMB - 2-Apr-18 @ 11:36 AM
Kelly - Your Question:
I have a prolapsed disc at my L5-S1 nerve root and a bulging disc at my L4-L5 along with bulging disc at C5-C6 as well as low cerebellar tonsils with chiari type 1 malformation. I also have sciatica from my prolapsed disc on my S1 nerve. I am currently a waiting facet joint injections. I am due back at work on 27th March. My question is can I request a proper orthopaedic chair for my workstation and can I request to work in a downstairs office where I have extreme difficulty managing stairs. There is no lifts in my building and to get into my office I have to go up 2 and a half flights of stairs. I cannot afford to be off work and really want to be there. What realistically can I ask from my company to help aid my pain to enable me to work.

Our Response:
Ask to see an occupational therapist... your work may offer to pay for this. They can make recommendations to your employer.
SafeWorkers - 20-Mar-18 @ 11:47 AM
I have a prolapsed disc at my L5-S1 nerve root and a bulging disc at my L4-L5 along with bulging disc at C5-C6 as well as low cerebellar tonsils with chiari type 1 malformation. I also have sciatica from my prolapsed disc on my S1 nerve. I am currently a waiting facet joint injections. I am due back at work on 27th March. My question is can I request a proper orthopaedic chair for my workstation and can I request to work in a downstairs office where I have extreme difficulty managing stairs. There is no lifts in my building and to get into my office I have to go up 2 and a half flights of stairs. I cannot afford to be off work and really want to be there. What realistically can I ask from my company to help aid my pain to enable me to work.
Kelly - 18-Mar-18 @ 12:59 PM
Michelle- Your Question:
I work as a receptionist and I am currently sat in a high bar stool with absolutely no support especially to my back. I do long shifts and it has started taking its toll on my back and hurting it a lot. Could anyone help me with what my rights are as this seat has no suspension, no padding or anything. It is literally just a bar stool.I have said to my boss but she is taking it no further.Plz help :(

Our Response:
Are you allowed to alternate between sitting and standing?If so, a bar stool might be have been chosen for this reasons; by having no back, it's possibly making your back do some work and helping it to stay strong. A stool at standing height enables you to alternate work standing up or sitting down which is the best option for staying healthy. If you're not allowed to stand, then raise a formal complaint if it's feasible that you can do your job standing as well as sitting.
SafeWorkers - 16-Mar-18 @ 11:59 AM
I work as a receptionist and I am currently sat in a high bar stool with absolutely no support especially to my back. I do long shifts and it has started taking its toll on my back and hurting it a lot. Could anyone help me with what my rights are as this seat has no suspension, no padding or anything. It is literally just a bar stool. I have said to my boss but she is taking it no further. Plz help :(
Michelle - 15-Mar-18 @ 8:29 AM
Hi I work as a Reception security officer nights alongside two other officers for a client. The building is a office place with a number of floors. The problem we are having is the chair they have provided us is very unsuitable and broken. When the building manager arrives in morning to relieve the guard off duty their is a side boardroom in reception where they have brand new chairs to sit on which they lock up after their shift is finished and take the key away. I have raised this issue with my employer so they can get hold of the client to provide a decent chair to sit in but upto this date has not replied back i have also asked the building manager to replace the chair which he refuses to. The chair is a health hazard also they will not provide a xtra heater as their is no heating in the reception. Please help
M - 11-Mar-18 @ 7:57 AM
Aaron - Your Question:
I am a employed bedroom fitted and I would like to know my right for refusing to drive company vehicle in bad weather (snow & ice).

Our Response:
There are no "rights" documented in employment law that cover this specific instance. Your employer has a duty of care towards you and must make sure any equipment you use is safe/suitable for purpose etc. If the employer deems it is safe to drive, and other van drivers are out and about, it will be difficult for you to refuse.
SafeWorkers - 6-Mar-18 @ 12:05 PM
I am a employed bedroom fitted and I would like to know my right for refusing to drive company vehicle in bad weather (snow & ice).
Aaron - 3-Mar-18 @ 9:17 PM
JO - Your Question:
I fell off a low chair from height having to stand on it to reach a shelf that was to high for me to reach there was no steps at all on the premises this caused me to break my radius bone in my wrist and I may have to have a plate put in as it's not healing. Would I have a claim or would it be my own fault for standing on a chair although there is nothing else provided to stand on.

Our Response:
You would need to seek professional legal advice on this...we can't answer individual questions about claims etc.
SafeWorkers - 13-Feb-18 @ 2:42 PM
I fell off a low chair from height having to stand on it to reach a shelf that was to high for me to reach there was no steps at all on the premises this caused me to break my radius bone in my wrist and I may have to have a plate put in as it's not healing. Would I have a claim or would it be my own fault for standing on a chair although there is nothing else provided to stand on.
JO - 12-Feb-18 @ 2:09 AM
J - Your Question:
I work nights as security and my manager has sent a email out saying not to change the seating position of there chairs?

Our Response:
Sorry?
SafeWorkers - 9-Feb-18 @ 3:13 PM
I work nights as security and my manager has sent a email out saying not to change the seating position of there chairs?
J - 9-Feb-18 @ 1:16 AM
Dave - Your Question:
I work in a CNC machining shop and our management team have told us that they are going to remove all our chairs so we have to stand all day I suffer with osteoarthritis in my knees feet back neck and hands I am also diabetic and keep having trouble controlling my sugars so I keep having hot sweats where I need a sit down and a thick sugar fix Have they the right to remove the chairs I am not the only one with problems There is a gent with a slipped disk and need a chair for obvious reasons and a few others with like ailments

Our Response:
Ask for risk assessment. Standing is sometimes better for you than being sedentary all day, but ideally you should have a mixture of each.
SafeWorkers - 17-Jan-18 @ 2:18 PM
I work in a CNC machining shop and our management team have told us that they are going to remove all our chairs so we have to stand all day I suffer with osteoarthritis in my knees feet back neck and hands I am also diabetic and keep having trouble controlling my sugars so I keep having hot sweats where I need a sit down and a thick sugar fix Have they the right to remove the chairs I am not the only one with problems There is a gent with a slipped disk and need a chair for obvious reasons and a few others with like ailments
Dave - 15-Jan-18 @ 9:42 AM
My bosses took away our office chairs. They remodeled the office yo standing offices. I work 50 plus hrs and I Never, never get a break. And I don't ever get a chance to sit
Morales - 4-Jan-18 @ 3:27 AM
Hi, My query is slightly different: I feel I'm sat down for too long during my working day. I believe sitting down all day is terrible for posture and wellbeing. At the moment my chair is a standard/typical office chair design and the desk is fixed at standard height. I think an improvement would be to change between sitting, leaning and standing throughout the day. Some of my colleagues feel the same way. And think that an adjustable desk and chair that can meet these 3 heights would be beneficial to our long term health. Is there any legislation that can support us? Or any other points that can assist? I look forward to your response.
Ricjh - 14-Dec-17 @ 10:35 AM
Hi, My query is different: I feel I do too much sitting at work in my office job and would like a standing desk and chair; one that i am able to alternate between sitting, leaning and standing on to promote varying movements. I believe thay sitting all day is terrible for posture and overall wellbeing. There are people who feel the same as me and they would prefer to choose whether they sit or stand throughout the day. Is there anything legal to support me in trying to make this change? I look forward to your response.
Rich - 14-Dec-17 @ 10:28 AM
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