Where do I Stand in regards to Workplace Law?

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

Last Updated on 25 May 2021

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