Assembly-line workers, millwrights, machinists, warehouse staff, and anyone standing for a living all have one thing in common:
They are standing on their feet for extended periods of time. If you have ever stood for a long time, you can relate to the discomfort of sore and swollen feet, stiff legs, and lower back pain.
“Prolonged standing puts an excessive amount of strain on the joints in your feet because they are bearing the weight of the entire body.”
This is a serious occupational hazard for most workers that are in the industrial manufacturing and service industries and one that can lead to many adverse health problems.
How Does Prolonged Standing Negatively Affect the Body
If your body is kept in one position for long periods, the muscles and joints that support this posture will eventually fatigue. Not only are these muscles working hard nonstop to prevent a person from falling over but they are also receiving less circulation to properly nourish these vital issues. Exhaustion and pain are the outcomes.
Compression of Joints
Prolonged standing puts an excessive amount of strain on the joints in your feet because they are bearing the weight of the entire body. Imagine 200 pounds of pressure pushing down on your feet.
With this enormous weight, the fluids are squeezed out of the space within your joints and can lead to compromised joints and circulation.
Poor Circulation in the Legs
With extended standing, blood begins to pool in your legs because of gravity. Normally, the contraction of your leg muscles with ordinary movement propels this blood back up to the heart for efficient circulation.
But when the same muscles are contracted for excessive periods of time to keep a person standing then this blood is unable to be pumped back up the body and remains in your lower body putting extra pressure on your veins.
What are Some Long-Term Health Consequences
Workers that spend most of their work days on their feet are at greater risk of the following adverse health effects…
- Sore and painful feet
- Swelling or edema in the lower legs and feet
- Varicose veins
- Muscular strain and stiffness in the legs, back, and neck
- Rheumatoid diseases such as arthritis in the knees and hips
- Feet problems such as plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, flat feet
- Immobilized or locking of joints
- Circulatory and heart problems
- High blood pressure
- Problems in pregnancies and possible birth defects
What Can Be Done to Keep Your Workers Safe on the Job
Working closely with your company OHS representative to help create a work environment that promotes the safety and well-being of your staff can go a long way in helping prevent and reduce workplace injuries that are due to prolonged standing.
Keep in mind that one of the most important elements of this work environment is the ability for staff to move around freely and to change body positions when necessary.
Consider the following elements to alleviate the hazards of standing…
- Adjustable height work surfaces
- Extra room to allow workers to shift and change body positions when needed
- Foot rail or foot rest
- Elbow supports or knee pads for specific tasks such as precision work
- Sitting or standing options
- Rest stool if prolonged standing is unavoidable
- Training on safe work practices and the importance of rest breaks;
- Rotation of jobs among workers;
- Expanded job roles to increase variation of job tasks;
- Avoidance of extreme body postures;
- Appropriate work pace;
- Wood, cork, rubber, or carpeted flooring provide the best support and flexibility for workers’ feet;
- Cover concrete and metal floors with mats to help cushion impact;
- Avoid thick foam-rubber mats due to the risk of fatigue and tripping;
These specialized mats help ease and reduce joint and circulatory problems in the lower legs and feet because they encourage small muscle movements in the lower extremities that in turn promotes proper circulation
They are especially helpful in reducing foot discomfort and fatigue
- Appropriate and proper footwear cannot be overemphasized;
- Improper footwear can cause problems not only with your feet but also with your legs, hips, and back;
- Seek out footwear that promotes the natural alignment of your feet, has enough space to move the toes, and has shock-absorbing cushioned insoles;
- Avoid shoes with heels higher 5 cm
Due to the standing nature of some industrial-type jobs, prolonged standing may not always be avoidable. However, proactive and health-promoting action steps can be taken to help minimize these risks to your workers.