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Sitting versus Standing Work

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No one will stand all day when they have the opportunity to sit. This is because the body works harder when standing than when sitting. However, work production studies indicate that workers are more efficient when they stand to work. So how do you decide between the two? Consider these general guidelines.


 When Standing is preferred:

  • the task cannot be performed with arms kept comfortably by your sides.
  • assembling, testing, or repairing larger products (i.e., greater than 6 inches high)
  • the work area is too large to be comfortably reached when seated. Stand when you must reach more than 15” past the front edge of the workstation.  The maximum reach envelope when standing is significantly larger than the corresponding reach envelope when sitting for both men and women (Sengupta & Das, 2000).
  • you work in more than one workspace to perform job duties and must move around frequently.
  • the work task lasts less than 5 minutes.
  • dealing with heavy objects weighting more than 10 pounds. In general, more strength can be exerted while standing (Mital & Faard, 1990) Stand when you need to maximize grip forces (Catovic, Catovic, Kraljevic & Muftic, 1991) or complete static or dynamic lifts (Yates, & Karwowksi, 1992).the work surface does not allow the worker to comfortably position legs under the surface because of an obstruction (i.e. working on a conveyor or a progressive assembly line, working in a kitchen, using a workstation with a drawer located underneath the work surface or a wide front beam, working at a retail counter, or using specialized equipment)
  • tasks require frequent application of downward pressures (loading bags, inserting screws)

Jobs that are most appropriately done standing include construction workers, highway flaggers, medical personnel, painters, electricians, plumbers, loggers, firefighters, plant inspectors, and maintenance personnel.


When Sitting is preferred: 

  • Better when visually intensive or precise work is required, the activity is of a repetitive nature; longer tasks are completed (greater than 5 minutes), and when everything can be placed within easy reach. Sitting is not appropriate when heavy objects must be handled or long reaches are required.

However, prolonged sitting has been associated with a high incidence of back complaints (Mandal, 1981), increased spinal muscular activity and intradiscal pressure (Grandjean and Hunting, 1977; Lindh, 1989). Other problems reported include discomfort in the lower extremities (Westgaard and Winkel, 1996) and increased muscle loading of the neck and shoulder muscles when sitting with the forearms unsupported as compared to standing with the forearms unsupported (Aaras et al., 1997; Lannersten and Harms-Ringdahl, 1990).

To summarize the literature, neither static standing nor sitting is recommended. Each position has its advantages and disadvantages. Research indicates that constrained sitting or constrained standing are risk factors and that alternating work postures may be preferable. Alternation between two postures allows for increased rest intervals of specific body parts, and reduced potential for risk factors commonly associated with MSD development. 

Ideally, provide workers with a workstation and job tasks that allow frequent changes of working posture, including sitting, standing, and walking. If either sitting or standing is feasible but only one possible, sitting in a properly designed chair is preferable. 


Back Safety

The back is a wonderfully designed system for flexibility, weight bearing, and mobility. Unfortunately, because it usually works so well, we tend to neglect its needs. Proper posture and correct body mechanics are important to preserve the health of our back. Lifting Safely "Lift with the legs." We've all heard this before, but proper body mechanics is more than a catch phrase. These steps will help you lift safely and efficiently. How to Save Your Back Here are suggestions you can use every day to maintain the health of your back. Why Back Pain Happens More than 7 out of every 10 adults have experienced significant back pain in their lives. Find out how your weight, fitness level, and posture can make you a back pain statistic. Sleeping Posture We spend almost 1/3 of our lives sleeping, but pay little attention to our sleeping position and bed. Here are some things you should consider before snuggling up. Back Belts You see them everywhere, but do they really help? The answer is not as clear as you might think. Back Packs Are you carrying more than 20% of your body weight in your backpack? Here are some reasons to re-consider what you are doing.

How To Save Your Back

Always try to maintain the natural curves in your back. These curves provide strength and support for your back. This is especially important when lifting or when sitting for long periods.

Read more: How to Save Your Back

Selecting and Using Backpacks

Backpacks can cause neck, shoulder, and back discomfort if not selected and worn properly. Here are some tips to follow to avoid problems:

Read more: Selecting and Using Backpacks

Sleeping Posture

Since the average person spends about a third of his/her life sleeping, bed posture is as important as standing or sitting posture. Your sleeping position, bed, and use of pillows, all determine your bed posture.

Read more: Sleeping Posture

Back Belts

Many experts have questioned the effectiveness of back belts in preventing back injuries. There is little scientific proof providing undisputed evidence that back belts reduce the possibility of injury during lifting.

Read more: Back Belts

Why Back Pain Happens

Using improper lifting techniques can lead to back injuries, but other factors can contribute to this age-old problem.

Read more: Why Back Pain Happens

Basics of Good Lifting

Today, forklifts, hoists, dollies and other types of lifting equipment are used to lift heavy objects. However, sometimes it is necessary to load or unload moderate to heavy objects by hand. When that is the case, knowing the proper ways to lift can save you a great deal of pain and misery from a sprained back.

Read more: The Basics Of Good Lifting