27/03/2006

A Stand-Up Job

There is no single, ideal body position for working. The best position is a
variety of positions, where the worker equally distributes loads on different
parts of the body but causes no physical strain. The reality in many
workplaces, however, is that workers often sit or stand for long periods of
time. Any prolonged position can hurt your body, and standing is no exception.

Anyone whose job requires them to be planted on their feet for hours on end
(salesperson, machine operator, assembly-line worker) can attest to the
physical discomforts they may experience. These may include: sore feet,
swelling of the legs, general muscular fatigue, low back pain, and stiffness in
the neck and shoulders.

There are a variety of health problems that may be caused by prolonged and
frequent standing. Without some relief by walking, blood may pool in the legs
and feet. This can cause inflammation of the veins that may progress over time
to painful varicose veins. Excessive standing also causes the joints in the
spine, hips, knees and feet to become temporarily immobilized or locked. This
immobility can later lead to rheumatic diseases due to degenerative damage to
the tendons and ligaments.

If you are on your feet for a good part of the workday, you can reduce the ill
effects on your posture. Ask yourself these questions:

Where do I stand?

Any stand-up workstation should be adjusted according to the worker's height,
using elbow height as the guide. For example, precision work, such as writing
or electronic assembly, requires a work surface that's 5 cm above elbow height;
the worker's elbows should be supported. Light work, such as assembly-line or
mechanical jobs, require a work surface that is 5 to 10 cm below elbow height.
Heavy work, demanding downward forces, requires a surface that is 20 to 40 cm
below elbow height.

How do I stand?

If you work in a standing position, always face what you're working on, keeping
your body close to the work. Adjust the workspace so that you have enough space
to change working position. Use a foot rail or portable footrest to shift your
body weight from both legs to one or the other leg. Use a seat whenever
possible while working, or at least during rest breaks. Avoid over-reaching
behind or above the shoulder line, or beyond the point of what is comfortable.
Instead of reaching, shift your feet to face the object.

If you must stand to work, take frequent rest breaks. Find ways to change
position as much as possible while you work.

What am I standing on?

If your feet are not comfortable, nor are your legs, hips and back. The comfort
of your feet depends largely on your footwear. Choose CSA-approved footwear
with the proper ratings for the hazards in your workplace.

Your shoes should be as wide as your feet, leaving room to move your toes. They
should have arch supports to prevent flattening of the feet, and a heel with a
firm grip to prevent slipping. Lace-up shoes are best, because they allow you
to tighten the instep of your footwear, keeping your foot from slipping inside
the shoe or boot. The footwear should have heels that are not flat, but are no
higher than 5 cm (2 inches). Wear padding under the tongue if you suffer from
tenderness over the bones at the top of the foot. And if you work on a metal or
cement floor, cushion your foot with a shock-absorbing insole.

The floor you stand on also greatly affects your level of comfort. Wooden, cork
or rubber-covered floors are far preferable to concrete or metal, but if you
must stand on hard floors, stand on mats. Floor mats should have slanted edges
to help prevent tripping. They must be dense enough to cushion the feet, but
not too thick. Too much cushioning, from thick foam-rubber mats, for example,
can cause fatigue and increase the hazard of tripping.

Remember that the ideal position is one that changes frequently. You can reduce
the risk of injury by being aware of hazards and following the above
recommendations.

More info


AplusA-online.de - Source: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety