More requests for ‘sit-stand’ workstations? Try something else…
Since the 60-Minutes story ‘Stand Up Australia – Is sitting down killing us?’ aired in September 2014 the following question has been on every manager’s mind “Do I now have to provide ‘sit-stand’ workstations to my workers?“.
To us, the sit-stand workstation phenomena is an example of safety and OHS being used irresponsibly. The misconception that managers must purchase sit-stand workstations to provide a safe working environment is simply NOT true. Yes, managers absolutely do have a duty to provide a safe workplace. But no, this does not mean they need to purchase a bunch of sit-stand workstations.
Think back ten years, can you recall the saddle seat? Do you recall fit-balls replacing office chairs? If you can’t, consider taking a look in your storeroom. You may find them in there. Perhaps the sit-stand desk will end up in there with them one day. Who knows?
We are not saying that there are not benefits to standing throughout the working day. We would be crazy to. The well-reported health hazards associated with prolonged sitting include (but, of course, are not limited to):
- increased pressure on the spine,
- increased strain on muscles and ligaments,
- possible risks for some cancers, cardiovascular disease, diabetes,
- decreased calorie-burning rate (to just 1 cal/min),
- decreased enzymes that help break fat down (dropping by 90%).
A 38-hour working week means that work roughly contributes to 23% of a full week. If this is so, why has the focus only been on seated posture at work, not the other times we sit? Consider the amount we sit outside of work – in the car, on the bus, using the computer at home, watching TV, eating dinner, lunch, breakfast… the list could go on!
It is highly unlikely that a workplace would “force” their workers to stay seated all day. Why is this important? Because it means that sit-stand workstations are not your only reasonable method of control.
So, if sit-stand workstations have been under consideration in your workplace – try investigating some of the other methods that may be used to manage the hazard itself – static posture or prolonged sitting.
Many of the risks mentioned above can be minimised by simply moving out of a seated posture for two (2) minutes every hour. So, in consultation with your workers (including HSRs and Health and Safety Committee if they are in place), have a think about these ideas:
- Remove chairs from some meeting rooms
- Provide benches at a raised height that workers can stand around
- Map out a 1.5 to 2 km circuit for a 30-minute meeting
- Map out a 3 to 4 km circuit for a 60-minute meeting
Run an internal campaign to encourage a standing and moving culture. Fun ideas are:
- Stand every time you answer a phone call
- Stand every time you review or read documents
- Stand when a colleague comes to your desk or office
- Use to a kitchen, printer or amenity that is not the closest
- Use telephones, speakers or calendars to set a ‘change’ posture reminder
- Use the stairs instead of the lift
All of these options will support workers to move out of a static posture across the work day. They all support proactive management of the hazard, just like the sit-stand workstation. But what’s also great about these options are that they could all double as fantastic energising and team-building methods, ultimately leading to increased happiness and productivity in your workplace!
Why not give them a try?
Want to know more about what is actually involved for you to provide a safe workplace for your employees? Read our Safety Management Systems; A Comprehensive Overview post that covers the legislative requirements – you won’t see a sit-stand desk mentioned once.