Call me back

If You’re Not Sitting Comfortably Then The Injury Claims Story Will Begin!

17th December 2013
Between 2010 and 2011, the NHS estimates that more than 7 million working days were lost due to musculoskeletal disorders or back pain caused by “activities” within the workplace. From 2011 to 2012, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reports that there were over 141,000 new cases and nearly 300,000 pre-existing cases of work-related musculoskeletal disorders.

While most injury claims for back problems tend to arise because of failed attempts to manual lift excessively heavy or awkward loads, recovery is usually around six weeks. Chronic back pain or more severe incidents, which may involve significant accident compensation for lost earnings and medical treatment costs, often require a longer recovery period stretching to several months or up to a year or more.

However, it has become increasingly recognised that one of the biggest sources of back pain in the workplace, which develops over a lengthy period of time, is the simple activity of sitting at the office desk, workstation or workshop bench. Discomfort, pain or musculoskeletal disorders are also to more likely be caused by using an unsuitable, faulty or broken chair.

Sustained periods of awkward posture are often adopted because a work chair can no longer be adjusted to the correct height. In some instances, arms or legs are also broken or missing, or the chair back is loose and unable to provide adequate support without additional padding or cushions taped or strapped to itself.

For numerous men or women employed in manufacturing units or office environments who silently put up with inadequate seating, the potential for long term back complications is a ticking time bomb that can suddenly be ignited by one awkward sitting down or ‘leaning across’ movement.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 states that employers must assess any risks to the wellbeing of their employees and put in place appropriate measures to prevent accidents or personal injury.

There are, for example, very particular guidelines for correct seat height levels and posture when working at computer workstations, which is now central to most daily office-based business activities.

While it may be thought that a chair is suitable, and in some instances, employers may simply view the replacement of slightly faulty chairs as an unnecessary cost, each employee has different needs and may require their own specific level of support.

The HSE regards an unsuitable office chair as "hazardous to a person's wellbeing" and recommends duty-holders ensure seats:

• Are comfortable and suitable for their intended purpose.
• Adequately support the user's lower back.
• Have sufficient support and padding.
• Can be adjusted to provide the user with sufficient movement.

In addition, the HSE also recommend that employees are encouraged to “take regular rest breaks and maintain a good posture.” Workers should also be consulted to determine if they require any ‘special measures’, such as a footrest, for example, to assist in more comfortably carrying out specific work assignments.