Sitting and standing

Sitting for long periods of time is common in Australian workplaces. 

Too much sitting or standing is bad for your health. Prolonged standing can increase risk of fatigue and illness. 

Workers should not stay in a seated, standing or static posture for long periods.  

Persons conducting a business or undertaking have a duty to keep workers safe from the risks of excessive sitting and standing. 

WHS duties  

Everyone in the workplace has WHS duties under the model WHS Act.  

You have specific duties if you are: 

  • a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) 

  • a principal contractor 

  • a designer, manufacturer, importer, supplier and installer of plant, substances or structures 

  • an officer.

The model WHS Regulations have duties that apply to managing the risks of sitting and standing. This includes managing the risks of work areas, work procedures, tools and equipment.  

As a PCBU, you must, so far as is reasonably practicable:  

  • ensure the health and safety of workers and others at your workplace  

  • consult with workers who carry out work for the business or undertaking and who are (or are likely to be) directly affected by a health and safety matter, and 

  • consult cooperate and coordinate activities with all other relevant duty holders. 

Managing risks  

You must, so far as is reasonably practicable, eliminate or minimise risks associated with sitting and standing. This involves: 

  • identifying hazards—find out what could go wrong and what could cause harm. 

  • assessing risks if necessary—understand the harm each hazard could cause, how serious the harm could be and the likelihood of it happening. 

  • controlling risks—implement the most effective control measures that are reasonably practicable in the circumstances. 

  • reviewing control measures to ensure they are working as planned. 

Sitting for a long time can cause health problems including:  

These health problems are from: 

  • lack of movement and muscle activity 

  • low energy use  

  • not moving enough 

  • not changing posture enough. 

To avoid health problems, you should do at least 2.5 to 5 hours of activity a week. The activity should raise your heart rate. 

You can meet these guidelines and still spend much of your time being sedentary. 

Minimise sedentary behaviour 

Sedentary behaviour is anything you do while you are sitting or reclining. This includes computer work, truck driving or operating a crane.  

Health problems from sitting for long periods of time remain even if you exercise every day. 

Sitting is likely to be bad for your health when you sit: 

  • for longer than 30 minutes without a break  

  • all day at work. 

Over 7 hours a day of sedentary behaviour is too much. 

Making workplaces safe for sitting and standing 

Good work design should happen in the early planning stages.  

Design workstations so seated and standing workers can vary postures and movements.  

You can reduce the amount of time workers spend sitting down by supporting them to: 

  • stand when working on a computer 

  • stand to read a document 

  • stand or walk during meetings 

  • stand while talking on the phone 

  • walk to deliver a message to a work colleague rather than emailing. 

Provide workers doing standing tasks with:  

  • a chair, stool or support, so they can alternate between sitting and standing  

  • a footrest large enough for the whole foot, so they can stand with either foot raised  

  • where possible, suitable cushioning on concrete and other hard floors. 

A standing work position is best when you need to: 

  • handle large, heavy or bulky loads  

  • do forceful movements 

  • reach  

  • move away from the working position frequently 

A standing work position is also best when there is no knee room or limited space. 

BeUpstanding program 

We partner with BeUpstanding – a free workplace health behaviour change program.  

The program looks at the work health and safety issues and costs linked to sitting for long periods. 

Supporting information