Free Guide to Choosing Office Seating

Posted In Weaver Bomfords Blog   |   30th June 2017

What to consider

The seat needs to adjust in height to meet the needs of a range of users. The size of the seat needs to be wide enough to seat big people comfortably and deep enough to support the legs of tall people, but not so deep that shorter workers cannot use the backrest. The surface of the seat should not be hollowed or deeply shaped, as this makes it harder to get up or change position. The front edge of the seat needs to be rounded-over and well-padded to prevent it digging into the thighs.

The backrest needs to give firm support to the lower and the middle part of the back. Height adjustment is recommended unless the backrest is high and provides complete support for the back. There should be adequate space for the buttocks; this is usually achieved by leaving a gap between the seat and the backrest. Backrests which tilt with the worker, or whose angle can be adjusted, can improve comfort by providing support for the back in a range of working positions.

For most jobs armrests are not essential although they can improve personal comfort. They should be set back from the front edge of the seat, or ideally, be adjustable to allow the chair to be drawn up close to the work surface.


Safety and Maintenance

Seating at work needs to be strong and stable since it is used for long periods. It is recommended that chairs pass the tests laid down in BS5459 or an equivalent standard. To ensure that seating is safe and has a good service life, it must be treated properly.

It is bad practice to put undue pressure on the armrests by sitting on them, or leaning too heavily over them. Rocking backwards and forwards may cause damage or cause the seat to become unsafe, as may standing on it to move furniture or equipment. Employers need to ensure that seating remains in a clean, safe condition. It is good practice to check seating regularly for signs of damage or excessive wear. Particular attention should be paid to the adjustment mechanisms, which should be serviced or repaired as necessary. Unsafe seating should be removed or made safe.

Seating with castors provides flexibility when the worker needs to conduct a variety of tasks and move from one location to another. Such chairs should not slide away too easily when the user gets up or sits down. This a common problem when they are used on hard floors, or with chairs with a high or tilting seat. Different types of castors are available for different floor types, such as hard floors and carpeted floors. In certain situations glides are safer to use than castors. Ensure that the correct ones are chosen to meet workplace needs.

Gas lift chairs
Most workstation chairs have compressed gas in a cylinder under the seat to enable seat height adjustment. Care should be taken with these chairs. There have been incidents where the cylinder has failed through metal fatigue, causing parts to be forcefully expelled. Nobody weighing more than 100 kg (16 stone) should use a gas lift chair unless it has been specially designed to accommodate heavier people safely. The chair must not be misused, and it should be well-maintained. If the seat wobbles suddenly, or tips, do not examine it or try to fix it.

In choosing a reputable supplier in Weaver Bomfords, we are able to provide expert attention in the event of a problem. Our seating ranges are all accredited to the appropriate standard and come with a minimum two year guarantee.


Should people sit or stand?

Public Health England recently recommended that people should stand for at least two hours during their working day and aim to break up long sedentary periods. Standing or sitting for long periods can lead to discomfort and may result in long-term health problems, so it is important that workers have the opportunity to change position, stand up and move around. If possible the workstation and seating design should allow for free movement. If this is not possible, employers can provide opportunities for movement by giving employees a variety of tasks or by ensuring that employees take adequate rest breaks away from the workstation.

Recent recommendations not withstanding, people generally find it more comfortable to sit rather than stand whilst working. Employers therefore need to ensure that work is organised to allow people to be seated for some of their time wherever possible. In circumstances where work has to be done over a large area for example, or where constant handling of heavy objects cannot be avoided, standing may be preferable. In this case, employers need to ensure that workers take adequate rest breaks and that suitable comfortable seating is provided during those breaks.

At Weaver Bomfords, we can help with the design and specification of sit-stand workstations, with seating to meet specialist requirements and with workplace and workstation assessment.


Your obligations

‘The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992: regulation 11 requires a suitable seat to be provided for each person in the workplace whose work includes operations of a kind that the work (or a substantial part of it) can or must be done sitting. The seat should be suitable to meet the needs of the individual and the task at hand.’

Employers have a duty of care to provide seating that is suitable for the individual and for the task they perform. Employers need to be able to spot the signs that suggest seating is uncomfortable. For example, people may use cushions of their own or makeshift footrests. It is better for employers to take the initiative in providing suitable seating, and not wait until complaints are received or until workers take time off with back pain. In all instances, it should be possible to place the feet flat and comfortably on the floor, otherwise a footrest should be provided.

When choosing new seating, the HSE recommend that where possible, employees of different shapes and sizes should try out a sample seat for a period. This is especially important where seating is being supplied to resolve a particular health issue or working requirement.

At Weaver Bomfords we encourage this and are happy to supply samples for this purpose.


If you are interested in Office Seating or would like some more information, please get in touch.

Tel: 03456 123858

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