This is a guest post by Lior Zitzman.
As a safety manager, you most likely have heard the news stories about how sitting for long periods each day can have a deadly impact on your health. However, standing all day also has its drawbacks. Approximately three-quarters of the world’s workforce spends the workday on their feet. This includes people in all industries such as farmers, teachers, waitresses, nurses, and construction workers, to name a few.
Standing employees must be mindful of their body’s needs in order to prevent pain and injury. Keeping the body upright requires considerable effort from one’s muscles. Leg cramps and back pain are common afflictions that standing workers can develop, even after being on their feet for only a short period of time.
Standing for extended periods at work is associated not only with leg cramping and backaches, but also with a plethora of additional issues such as fatigue, bunions, swelling of the limbs, and too much pressure on the joints. These health issues can cause significant discomfort and affect employee performance and mental capacity. Over time, the effects of standing jobs and related muscle fatigue can lead to poor health conditions like heart disease.
Fortunately, there are many practical steps managers can take to ensure the safety of their standing employees. Those involved in the management of employees who spend the day standing should familiarize themselves with some helpful safety tips in order to ensure the comfort and health of their workers.
Be mindful of posture
The position in which someone holds their body while sitting or standing can have a dramatic impact on their health. Good posture is essential because it ensures that the bones and joints are in proper alignment. Having poor posture can lead to muscle fatigue and pain.
To improve posture, employers must provide a well-designed workplace. Working tables and benches should be adjustable so that employees can match their workstation to their individual ergonomic needs as well as to the type of work being done.
Encourage stretch breaks
Employees who perform simple standing stretches for just a few minutes each day can reduce the muscle stiffness that results from being on their feet all day. Simply stretching one’s back and shoulders for 1-2 minutes each day—for example, during a break in one’s duties—can go a long way to relax muscles and prevent pain and soreness. Managers can encourage this in their organization by scheduling daily stretch breaks and making sure employees see breaks as an important element of their work.
Lift objects correctly
We’ve all heard the phrase, “lift with the legs, not with the feet.” Train your employees on the proper way to lift heavy and large items while working on their feet. Employees will want to keep the chest forward, making sure to use their leg muscles and to bend at the waist when lifting.
As they’re carrying the object, employees should keep it close to their bodies and lead with the hips. This will help maintain their balance and keep their field of view clear. Planning their movement ahead of time will help prevent back pain and serious injury when carrying objects.
Mix up the work day
Remind employees that they should not be standing or sitting for extended periods of time. For optimal health, employees should alternate between standing, sitting, and walking throughout the workday — ideally every 30 minutes — to create better circulation and distribute loads throughout the body. Additionally, the total standing performed in a workday should not exceed more than half of the workday.
One way an employer can encourage this is to provide adjustable standing desks in office settings and other locations where appropriate, which will allow employees to switch between standing and sitting at regular intervals throughout the day.
Provide relief tools
In addition to enforcing more breaks and providing more training for employees, safety managers can also provide employees with tools and items to ease the stress of prolonged standing.
Employees can roll a tennis ball under their feet in order to improve blood circulation. Cushioned shoes, shoe inserts, compression socks can go a long way in providing additional relief. If your workplace has standing desks, provide employees with anti-fatigue mats to reduce the foot pain that often results from working on their feet all day.
To provide safety professionals with the knowledge to encourage safe standing at work, BigRentz created an infographic with steps to correct posture, standing stretches to reduce pain, correct lifting techniques for safety, and other tips to prevent workplace fatigue and maintain good health on the job. Education, training, providing tools, and supervision from safety professionals will ensure employees have a healthy standing work environment.
Infographic courtesy of BigRentz.
Lior Zitzman is the Director of Digital Audience at BigRentz, a construction equipment rentals marketplace with a network of over 1,500 rental partners. He has more than 15 years of experience in enterprise-level SEO at automotive publishing and equipment companies.