Many workers now spend much of their days sitting at desks staring at computer screens. On the face of it, this might not seem like a particularly hazardous activity. However, dangers can lurk even in the most seemingly benign environments. One potential problem for office workers is poor-quality seating. Chairs that don’t meet the required standards can cause their users to adopt awkward postures. In turn, this can lead to back pain and a variety of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). According to figures provided by the Health and Safety Executive, 526,000 cases of work-related MSDs were reported in 2013-14.
Providing your employees with well designed and made office furniture products could help reduce the risk that they will develop potentially debilitating MSDs. With stockists such as Furniture at Work™ offering a wide range of ergonomic and affordable desks and chairs, there really is no excuse for not making your staff comfortable.
This brief guide draws attention to the importance of comfortable workplace furniture. It also highlights the most important features of good quality products.
Your legal responsibilities
There is a sound business case for providing your personnel with effective furniture, and we’ll come to that shortly. However, first and foremost you must consider your legal responsibilities. As an employer, you have a duty to ensure that you provide appropriate furniture. A number of pieces of legislation relate to this aspect of workplace management, including the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
Broadly speaking, these laws require you to provide furniture that is suitable and safe. It must also meet the needs of the individuals who use it and the requirements of the tasks they perform.
If you don’t meet these responsibilities, you may find yourself in big trouble. The costs of any legal claims made against you could quickly mount up and put a serious dent in your finances. Also, your firm’s reputation may be tarnished if you end up in the courts.
A sound business decision
It’s not all stick when it comes to providing suitable furniture; there is plenty of carrot too. By making sure your workers are comfortable, you stand to boost productivity, which is good news for your bottom line. You could also reduce sickness absence caused by bad backs and other MSDs.
In addition, by providing your personnel with good quality furniture, and a pleasant working environment more generally, you stand to further your recruitment and retention efforts.
What to look for in your seating and workstations
Chairs are arguably the most important element of workplace furniture. When you’re searching for new seating, make sure it is height adjustable. Chairs should also be wide enough to seat users comfortably. The front of these products should be rounded and well-padded to ensure it doesn’t dig into people’s thighs. In addition, the backrest must give firm support to the lower and middle part of the back.
Armrests aren’t essential for most jobs. However, if you opt for products with this feature, make sure the arms are either adjustable or set back from the front edge of the seat. This will ensure that users can draw their chairs up close to their work surfaces. Meanwhile, if workers can’t place their feet flat on the ground easily, you will need to provide them with footrests.
Workstations are another essential component of office furniture. When you’re choosing desks or tables, try to opt for versions with a maximum thickness of 30mm. If surfaces are thicker than this, there is a risk that they won’t provide enough clearance for people’s thighs.
These products should also be big enough to allow all the relevant work equipment to be used safely. For example, they should be able to accommodate computers at the appropriate distance from users.
As long as you appreciate the importance of comfortable office furniture and make sure you source suitable products, you should be able to steer clear of any problems.