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June 2016

13

Current guidelines for standing and sitting exposures are under

constant review as emerging research provides greater precision.

A recent study suggests that workers should initially aim to

accumulate two hours a day of standing and light activity (light

walking) during working hours, before eventually progressing to

a total accumulation of four hours per day.

Not all workers that sit all day are computer operators. Health

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for workers in laboratories and manufacturing environments.

Having the option to stand for activities that require manual force,

repetitive reach or handling that are more awkward when in a sitting

position can potentially reduce the manual task risk of their work.

Workers who need to rotate workstations (or hot desk) can also be

accommodated for (based on their different statures or conditions).

Sit–stand desks are being used to assist workers in managing

acute or chronic spinal conditions, and hip and lower limb

conditions that affect sitting tolerances. They have also opened

up opportunities for those workers who are at risk of losing

their employment due to their reduced functional capacity from

deteriorating medical conditions or chronic diseases. Workers are

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options, which consequently may improve absenteeism and,

in some cases, increase employees’ hours of work.

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that comes with chronic disease.

Sit–stand desks should not replace good ergonomics and the

physiotherapist’s understanding of the musculoskeletal condition

at hand. Understanding the interaction between the worker and the

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Other strategies to promote movement may be more appropriate

than just a sit–stand desk and assessing the individual’s attitude

towards sitting or standing will ensure compliance with recommended

equipment. There are plenty of examples around the country where

sit–stand desks have been installed but are not utilised as they are

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adjustment of the desk is contributing to musculoskeletal conditions.

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professionals, it is our responsibility to ensure people understand

that movement is good for health at work. Following on from this,

we may then have a chance for workers to move outside of work.

If sit–stand desks can be a tool for occupational health

professionals to assist workers to continue safe and durable work,

then we need to support research to develop evidence-based

standards to support our recommendations to employers and

government-funding bodies. Height-adjustable workstations in the

workplace have only been researched since 2009 and now sit–

stand desks are common in many workplaces. There is still much

work to be done on this subject. At least one thing we do know is

that our next posture is our best posture. Keep moving!

Marina Vitale is a senior rehabilitation consultant in

occupational health, the Queensland chair of the APA

Occupational Health group and an advocate and signatory

with the Australasian Faculty of Occupational and

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Work initiative. Marina recently presented this topic to the

Musculoskeletal group as a PD event in Brisbane.