Standing still: why North American workers are not insisting on seats despite known health benefits

Int J Health Serv. 2005;35(4):745-63. doi: 10.2190/BNFW-LRKF-NLVB-K5V5.


Prolonged standing is associated with health problems. Despite regulations providing for access to seats, most Québec (Canada) workers usually stand. Only one in six can sit at will. Standing service workers such as cashiers and sales personnel are often confined to a small area where sitting is theoretically feasible. In many other countries, such workers have access to seats. This study asks why North American workers do not press for seats. In a qualitative, exploratory approach, 30 young workers who usually work standing were interviewed about their perceptions and experiences of prolonged standing at work. All but one experienced discomfort associated with this posture, and two-thirds reported that they had changed their lifestyle in some way as a result of their symptoms. However, their accounts of relationships with employers, health care personnel, and the health and safety system suggest that many environmental factors as well as attitudes toward work, employers, health, and the body contribute to maintaining the status quo. Workers describe problems with the image of a seated worker and thought that asking for a seat would threaten their relationship with the employer. Personal comfort was considered an insufficient reason to challenge worksite design, attitudes, and organization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Data Collection
  • Employment*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Negotiating*
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Quebec