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CA Ergonomics Update . . . Sit or Stand?

Recently the California Supreme Court ruled on a class-action lawsuit brought by workers against a pharmacy chain and a bank. The Court determined that employers can’t refuse employees the opportunity to sit just because the employer prefers that employees stand while working. The court ruled that the decision to sit or stand depends on “the totality of the circumstances”. For instance, it depends on whether the job can be performed sitting, whether sitting would interfere with job performance, and whether the layout of the work area is conducive to sitting. Some experts believe this CA court decision places the burden of proof on the employer to determine why sitting would be unreasonable. In other words, if you require an employee to stand on the job, you need to be able to explain WHY.

This ruling comes amidst much discussion over recent years as to whether it is healthier to stand or to alternate between sitting and standing, rather than sitting the entire workday. There has been much activity by academic researchers, and a variety of products brought to market by workstation manufacturers (an array of height-adjustable stations, sit/stand desks, etc.). This sitting vs. standing discussion has been a relatively hot topic in the ergonomics community for some time.

So in light of this California court decision, how do you determine if a job should be performed sitting or standing? There is no iron clad formula, but there are certain criteria which help us make this type of decision.

Sitting is typically best for the following activities.

  • Precision work

  • Visually demanding work

  • Stability of the hands is required

  • Long work duration

  • Highly repetitive work

While standing is typically the best choice for the following.

  • High forces

  • Large work pieces

  • Perform tasks in multiple areas or multiple stations

  • Materials handling tasks

  • Insufficient legroom to sit

FREE Sit-Stand Calculator & upcoming eNEWS update

To receive upcoming Saturn eNews update on this sit-stand topic, and get a FREE Sit-Stand Calculator (for iPad) to help you determine if employees should sit or stand, simply register for a FREE clubSATURN™ Membership. Then go to clubSATURN™ in main menu and download the Sit-Stand Calculator. Note that this tool is designed for iPad, but there will soon be an iPhone version as well. If there is sufficient interest, I may develop a MS Windows (Excel) compatible version.

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