How can you tell if your office chair is actually safe and well-made? There’s more to an office chair than how good it looks and how comfortable you feel. We’ve compiled the relevant legislation and British Standards that work seating should meet.
What is the UK legislation on workplace seating?
There are a number of regulations and acts workplace seating should abide by, including:
- Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974: Because employers have a duty to ensure a safe and healthy working environment for their employees, seating at work should not be hazardous or endanger the health and safety of staff. Workers should know how to use them correctly with clear instructions; this means seating suppliers and manufacturers should make safe products that follow the British Standards
- Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992: It is required under Regulation 11 that each worker has a suitable seat for work that must be done sitting – whether all of the work is done sitting or a substantial part of it
- Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992: Seating is referenced when talking about the health and safety of DSE and VDUs (visual display units) with stress on how work seating should not be poor and should support eye levels, good posture and positioning
- Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992: This also gives guidance on handling and moving goods whilst seated
- Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996: This legislations requires employers to consult their staff, or elected representatives, on issues affecting their health and safety
- Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998: Employers have a duty to provide working equipment that is maintained in an efficient and safe state with seating regarded as work equipment under these regulations
- Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999: Under this legislation, employers and those self-employed both have a duty to assess risks to health and safety, including risks associated with seating. The duty holder must identify the measures that are needed to be implemented to comply with health and safety needs
What about working from home?
We’ve seen a drastic rise in the number of homeworkers recently, but what obligations do employers have for their work-from-home staff? Well, they have the same health and safety responsibilities for homeworkers as they do for any other workers. That means checking in on them often, making sure their home working environments are safe and that they will not come to harm or injury from work-related tasks.
The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) has guidance for employers on how to protect homeworkers and those who do lone working. They stress the importance of keeping in touch and supervising staff and to be constantly evaluating their risks. Training, supervising and monitoring should not be compromised, and as an employer, you still have to follow the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations to manage the risk to lone workers.
When it comes to seating, task chairs need to be durable, safe and supportive of lumbar and posture. Just like office chairs, they should follow British Standards to ensure they are safe to work on.
The British Standards related to seating at work
So, what British Standards should work seating meet? HSE’s seating at work guidance has in its appendix the relevant British Standards to seating at work:
- BS 2543: 1995: Woven and knitted fabrics for upholstery
- BS 3044: 1990: Ergonomics principles in the design and selection of office furniture
- BS 3379: 1991 (amend 2): Flexible polyurethane cellular materials for load-bearing applications
- BS 4875: 2001: Strength and stability of furniture: Requirements for the strength and durability of the structure of domestic and contract seating
- BS 5459: 2000 (amend 2): Performance requirements and tests for office furniture: Office pedestal seating for use by persons weighing up to 150 kg and for use up to 24 hours a day, including type – approval tests for individual components
- BS 5852: 1990 (amend 2): Methods of test for assessment of the ignitability of upholstered seating by smouldering and flaming ignition sources
- BS 5940: 1990: Office furniture: Specification for design and dimensions of office workstations, desks, tables and chairs
- BS EN ISO 9241: 1999: Ergonomic requirements for office work with visual display terminals (VDTs). Part 5: Workstation layout and postural requirements
- BS EN 1335-2: 2018: Specifies safety, strength and durability requirements for office work chairs based on use of eight hours a day by persons weighing up to 110kg, assessing strength of materials, stability and mechanics
- BS EN 1335-1: 2020: Specifies dimensions of three types of office chairs along with test methods for their determination
How to tell if your office chair is certified
Upholstery and fabrics on task chairs should come with an ignitability sign (normally a cigarette symbol) to show their safety and testing. Look for product details and specifications and if information isn’t explicit on their testing against British Standards, don’t hesitate to enquire. Many brands don’t list them, as it’s a general requirement for the products to be on the market. However, not all products have been tested and up to date, so do check.
Fortunately, here at DBI Furniture Solutions, we are professionals and supply only the best and certified products for the most healthy and safe working environments, particularly when it comes to work seating.
Good office chairs should be ergonomic, meaning they need to be height adjustable, support lower back regions and alleviate pressure to encourage good blood circulation and posture.
Also check out our piece on the different types of office seating and their benefits for more details.
Up and down the country, we have been preparing for schools reopening for a while, and now that they have reopened their doors – in accordance with the coronavirus roadmap – it’s important to keep a checklist to not get complacent. So, to that end, how can we keep our schools safe during COVID-19, as the world tries to get back to some semblance of normality?
1. Maintain good hygiene and cleaning
It’s imperative that toilets are fully stocked and that schools are enforcing frequent hand washing across the board. Sticking up posters reinforcing the recommended time for washing hands and diagrams is advised. Hand sanitiser stations are also highly recommended to provide better access to good hand hygiene, but you should be encouraging pupils to bring in their own hand gels, too.
Cleaning should be rigorous with daily disinfection of surfaces. Sanitation, water and waste management should be managed meticulously, with those in charge following the appropriate procedures always.
2. Good ventilation
Ventilation is everything, whether it’s confined spaces or larger buildings. Many schools also have portacabins set up for more classroom space. Luckily, summer is on its way and we’re out of winter, so we can open up windows and doors to increase air flow.
3. Outdoor learning and activities
Many schools already use outdoor learning for their curriculum, but it’s even more of a great idea in the current climate. Virtually any lesson can be taken outdoors. As long as you cover the lesson objectives and curriculum points, there’s certainly no reason why you can’t teach outside! Taking learning outdoors can engage pupils and inject some energy into a topic; it’s a brand new learning space for them, after all. And right now, it can help with social distancing and air flow.
4. Physical and social distancing
Whilst this is difficult to always maintain in a school, you should have social distancing policies in place, and it does depend on space. If it means lines of pupils need to extend or be split, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Update your staff and pupils on any procedures that need to follow social distancing wherever possible, such as fire drills. Ways to help with social distancing in schools are:
- Rearranging the classrooms to give more space between pupils
- Clearing clutter
- Using the outdoors for lines and queuing
- Going outside and using the playground for activities or lessons
- Having classroom assemblies as opposed to whole school ones, where the headteacher passes on information to class teachers
- Reorganising the school day by assigning different break times for different Year Groups
- Having social distancing protective screens
- Reorganising lockers in corridors to break up congestion
- Having a one-way system in place for corridors
5. Face coverings
The World Health Organisation advised that “children aged 12 and over should wear a face covering under the same conditions as adults, in particular when they cannot guarantee at least a 1-metre distance from others and there is widespread transmission in the area.” The UK government also advises that where pupils in Year 7 and above are educated, face coverings should be worn by both pupils and staff “when moving around the premises, outside of classrooms, such as in corridors and communal areas where social distancing cannot easily be maintained. Face coverings do not need to be worn by pupils and students when outdoors on the premises.”
6. Posters and signage
Signage is highly recommended with floor stamps and posters around to remind people to keep their distance. Signs should be clear and easy to read with as much instruction as possible, especially in a school setting. Toilets should have informative, visual posters on how to wash hands and how long for. Signs in classrooms should encourage pupils to regularly use hand sanitisers, wash hands, keep their distance, and if needed – to wear face coverings.
Children should be able to feel safe at school, and now that we’re living through a pandemic, it’s even more vital to keep pupils safe and protected. Make sure standards don’t slip, that the importance of basic hygiene and physical distancing is non-negotiable, and that both staff and students are doing their part in helping to stop the spread of germs. One thing that can help so much with all of this is the right equipment, as mentioned above.
For any queries about what furniture and equipment you can add to your school, speak to our friendly, experienced team today.