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Prolonged Static Sitting at Work

26 May 2023

Prolonged static sitting at work has become a norm in the modern economy and the way many jobs are performed. The rise in home-working due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic has probably exacerbated the situation as many employees are not commuting to work anymore. Whilst commuting to work is generally considered a ‘lost time’, this is not the case if the commuting was done through walking, cycling or any other physical activity. In this case, the time spent on commuting counts towards personal physical activity which has numerous positive health effects.

Prolonged static sitting at work, however, brings numerous negative health effects.


What is Prolonged Static Sitting at Work

Prolonged sitting can be defined as being sedentary for 2 hours or longer at a time. This has three main characteristics:

  • low energy expenditure;
  • a seated body posture;
  • static loading (physical exertion to maintain the same position).

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work published an insightful report Prolonged static sitting at work: health effects and good practice advice which delves into the issues associated with prolonged sitting at/for work.


Tips for Mitigating Prolonged Sitting Risks

To ensure a good sitting position at work, a number of factors must be looked at. These factors according to the Canadian centre for Occupational Health and Safety are:

  • workplace design (including tasks, workstation, and chair design),
  • job design,
  • education and training.

None of these factors are more important than the other. To ensure a best possible sitting at work arrangement, all these factors must be looked into. The eLearn Safety VDU/DSE course provides invaluable employee training that explores issues arising from tasks related to sitting; and it looks into workstation arrangement and chair adjustment.

Some of the tips to prevent adverse effects associated with sitting at work are:

  • Stand up and walk every hour for a few minutes.
  • If there are sit-stand desks, alternate posture regularly between the two. A typical example is to sit for 30 minutes, stand for 25 minutes and walk for 5 minutes every hour.
  • Try to change position frequently between sitting, standing and moving around.
  • When sitting, change position frequently – so called ‘dynamic sitting’.
  • Take your lunch away from your work desk.
  • Provide high tables in meeting spaces and so people can stand for meetings or breaks.
  • Create a climate and culture in the organisation that promotes more active working.
  • Drivers should take plenty of short breaks.
  • Drivers should step out of the cab or vehicle whenever possible, take a short walk during stops and do some stretches.
  • Drivers, pilots and office workers should move their feet from heel to toe when sat down to encourage blood circulation.


The Law

The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work, (General Application) Regulations 2007, Chapter 5 of Part 2 outline the requirements that must be adhered to in relation to Display Screen Equipment and Workstation. According to the Regulations 2007, the workstation is defined as

an assembly comprising display screen equipment, which may be provided with a keyboard or input device or software, or a combination of the foregoing, determining the operator and machine interface, and includes—

(a) a work chair and work desk or work surface,

(b) any optional accessories and peripherals, and

(c) the immediate work environment of the display screen equipment.

The employer must carry out a Risk Assessment of employee workstations and implement relevant measures to mitigate risks. This information must be collated to employees. The Risk Assessment is an ongoing activity, and all workstations should be regularly assessed to reflect any change of equipment and/or emergence of new technologies and practices that might mitigate some of the risks associated with the use of workstations. In addition, the employer must provide relevant VDU/DSE training in the use of to them applicable workstations. This training must take place before the work commences and/or whenever there is a modification of the workstation.


Preventing Adverse Effects of prolonged Sitting

Risks associated with prolonged sitting are numerous. There is ample evidence that suggests that this can be prevented by light regular physical exercise. At least 30 minutes of daily exercise is recommended. This can be any activity, such as walking, jogging, cycling, or exercising at home or at the gym.

Regular exercise can keep people fit and it burns calories. The majority of people with daily exercise routines also report improved sleep and feel more rested after waking up. In addition, regular exercise promotes a healthy heart and keeps weight down. This in turn reduces risk of a number of poor health conditions, such as various musculo-skeletal disorders (low back pain; neck and shoulder complaints, etc.), cardio-vascular diseases, diabetes, high cholesterol and even cancer.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) published useful Physical Activity Guidelines to consider for getting healthy and staying healthy.


Online Health and Safety Training

Proactive Health and Safety training is critical to ensure a safe workplace. An effective training program can reduce the number of worker injuries and deaths. It can also reduce instances of property damage, legal liability, illnesses, and missed time from work.

Health and Safety training helps establish a culture in which employees themselves help promote proper safety procedures while on the job. It is important that new employees be properly trained and embrace the importance of workplace safety. The role of training in developing and maintaining effective hazard control activities is a proven and successful method of intervention.

This is why we have established Myelearsafety school. We pride ourselves in how we guide, support and mentor our students. They receive support throughout their learning experience and into their working lives. Our staff have extensive training experience and also have many years industry experience. We understand the challenges that exist within Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety. Our priority is to ensure that all learners are fully prepared to differentiate themselves in the workplace after completing our Health and Safety courses.

Myelearnsafety offers fully online Health and Safety courses.

To find out more, please check our Courses page.

Alternatively, should you need any additional information, please do not hesitate to let us know via email