Sit-stand desks have been a huge topic in office ergonomics for years, but it seems there has been much less talk of introducing them to the industrial workplace. Research into the risks of sitting in front of a computer all day was the catalyst for a change in office environments, but it can be argued that the type of work completed by manufacturing workers demands a greater need for an adjustable workstation.

Risks of a sedentary job

Whether working in an office or on an assembly line, any primarily sedentary job puts an employee at risk of a number of health issues. Studies link sedentary lifestyles with an increase in cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers. In fact, 3.2 million deaths a year are related to physical inactivity, making it the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality. The term ‘sitting disease’ has even been coined by the scientific community, commonly being used when referring to metabolic syndrome.

A study published by the American College of Sports Medicine (2009) found that those who sat the most had a 50% increased risk of early death, regardless of fitness levels. It is a common misconception that exercise can compensate for too much sitting. Low intensity activities such as standing and walking are much more important than most people realise. These low-level activities play a crucial metabolic role and account for more of our daily energy expenditure than moderate-to-high intensity activities.

Benefits of a sit-stand workstation in an industrial workplace

To help eliminate the risks of a sedentary working lifestyle it is recommended that employees initially aim for 2 hours of standing a day, eventually progressing to 4 hours. This can take time to get used to and prolonged static standing postures should be avoided; no more than 45 minutes at a time is recommended. General benefits of less sedentary lifestyles include: an extra 0.5-2 kcal burned per minute, a reduction in muscular-skeletal discomfort (e.g. lower back pain), the reduced risk of cardio-metabolic diseases and premature mortality, a reduction in the risk of fat deposited around vital organs, and an increase in energy levels.

In an industrial environment, it may not be possible to complete certain types of work when standing, however an adjustable workstation can still provide many benefits. Compared to office work, manufacturing work can put a greater stress on the body for a number of reasons such as the level of force exerted, a repetition of tasks and vibration from tools. This type of work may also require awkward postures and finer movements in order to complete a task effectively. These factors mean that in order to live a healthy working lifestyle, a comfortable workstation is imperative. The amount of workplace injuries in manufacturing is statistically significantly higher in comparison to most other industries. The only industries with a higher workplace industry rate all involve outdoors or off-site work (e.g. agriculture, transport and construction).

An adjustable workstation can alleviate a number of risks leading to these injuries. The workstation can be set to suit the type of work being completed. For example, it is recommended that the surface is set above elbow height for fine visual work and below elbow height for tasks requiring downward force or heavy physical effort. Roles that involve shift work with multiple workers using the same workstations will greatly benefit from the ability to adjust the height to suit their needs and preferences.

An ergonomic workstation not only benefits the individual but will also result in an increase in productivity and an improvement in quality of work. Healthier employees mean a decrease in absenteeism and an increase in morale. Plus, a company that proves they are committed to the health of their employees will show that health and safety is a core value and can attract a higher calibre of worker.

How we can help

At Human Workspace, we pride ourselves on our expertise in workplace ergonomics. We provide ergonomic assessments of workplaces, which may sound clinical, but it is essential to get to know the individuals in a workplace in order to understand what they do and how we can benefit them personally. Whether it’s a shop floor, assembly line, tool workstation or an office, we are confident we can provide the right equipment and advice to provide long-term benefits which will maximise comfort and efficiency. Our range of sit-stand workstations can be tailor-made to suit your needs.

Want to know more?

Watch how an adjustable workstation improved the working lives of Daisy and Gintare from our admin team. Or give us a call on 01273 704520 to chat about your needs.