How Chair Aware is Your Ergonomics Program?

Posted by Alison Heller-Ono on April 15, 2019

How Chair Aware is Your Ergonomics Program?

Chairs matter a lot. A bad chair matters more. But a good ergonomic chair matters the most!

Why do I say this? Because as a professional ergonomist, I’ve come to realize chairs are foundational to seated work. If the chair isn’t right, then the ergonomics will never be right, and your employees will never truly be comfortable!

So often I see companies with no specific plan for buying chairs for their employees. Typically, they are old, worn, outdated, poorly assigned, non-specific to task or employee stature, don’t work and employees have no idea how to adjust what they have been provided. Chairs are undervalued and underappreciated in the workplace! They are a forgotten asset!

Which brings me to ask you, “Are you chair aware?” Chair awareness is complex. The best way to explain it is to see if you can answer these ten questions.

  1. Do you know how chairs are purchased in your organization? Is there a process or procedure or its just some random selection based on price from a big box catalog or website or based on color and fabric to match the decor?
  2. Who picks the chairs? Are you an employer that lets employees pick chairs… without any ergonomics training or knowledge of what and how to pick? Or your facilities/purchasing team picks them, but they have no specific criteria or training on chairs to base the selection other than price? Or perhaps your vendor included your chairs in the purchase of workstations?
  3. Do you know who will be using the chairs you are buying? What are their tasks? What kind of workstation will the chair be used?
  4. Have you experienced chair failure in the workplace leading to an injury?
  5. Do your employees use conference room chairs at their workstations because they don’t like the chairs you provided them?
  6. Have you gotten calls from employees, “Help, can you come to fix my chair?” because they have no idea how to adjust it or they pulled the wrong lever and can’t get the chair out of the position it's in?
  7. Do you know what feature is the most obvious for people to adjust?
  8. Do you know what your organization spends on chairs every year? Or just the average cost of the chairs in your organization?
  9. Are you spending more on sit to stand solutions but not investing in chairs? Maybe your chairs are the reason employees are asking to stand up!
  10. Are your employees sitting in chairs that are oversized, undersized or failing right under them?

I have many more questions, but I’ll leave it at ten (there are a few more thrown in for detail). So, how many of these questions do you know the answer to off the top of your head? Or at least do you know who to ask?

If you can’t answer these questions or you don’t even know who to ask in your organization, then you are not chair aware! And if you are not chair aware, then you are not ergonomically aware either. And this is a problem.

Ergonomics is so important in today’s workplace to keep your employees healthy and productive. It is no longer acceptable not to have a solid ergonomics program with a good foundation of ergonomic analysis, ergonomics training and implementation of ergonomic solutions to remedy the ergonomic risk factors spearheaded by a qualified professional or at least a contracted one. Not being chair aware is an ergonomic risk factor for your employees and your organization. One that indeed leads to seated work injuries!


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