Ergonomics done right.®
October 13th, 2014

Sitting vs. Standing in the Industrial Environment

True or False: Seated workstations present fewer ergonomic risks than standing workstations?

Although most industrial operators would prefer to sit throughout the workday, standing workstations are preferred to seated workstations because of the known mechanical changes in the lower back while seated. These include:

  • Back slouching postures (kyphosis), which increase compressive and shear forces on the discs in the spine
  • Intradiscal pressure
  • Posterior annulus strain
  • Creep in posterior passive tissues, which reduce anterior/posterior stiffness and increase shearing movement
  • Posterior migration of mechanical movement/lifting fulcrum, which reduces mechanical advantage of extensor muscles

The appropriate workstation design, seated or standing, is determined based on the nature of the job tasks. Standing workstations are preferred if the job demands include:

  • Heavy lifting (≥ 10 lb or 4.5 kg)
  • High force exertions (≥ 10 lb or 4.5 kg)
  • Long horizontal reach distances (≥ 16″ or 406 mm)
  • Overhead reach distances (≥ 62″ or 1.58 m above standing surface)
  • Frequent walking (e.g., walking to storage bins)

Seated workstations are preferred if the job demands include:

  • Precision or visually demanding tasks
  • Continuous foot pedal activation

If a seated workstation is chosen, limit sitting to 55 minutes, followed by a change in posture to standing and/or walking.