Workplace equipment standards have changed very much over the years and keep evolving, starting with the times of counters, through typewriters, and ending up with computers and laptops. However, as we are spending more and more time at our desks, legislators are trying to prevent the risks that arise at work which might seem safe at first sight. These risks are associated with a great number of complications.
Definitely, working with a computer is not subject to as many regulations as staying in conditions which are hazardous to health. However, in this case the employer also has duties to fulfil, which are aimed at taking care of employees’ health and life. In labour law regulations, we can find precise sections devoted to work ergonomics, where one of the main topics is precisely equipping the workplace with a footrest - not for the sake of the employee's comfort (although the use of a footrest has been proven to have a measurable effect on the improvement of work comfort), but especially for the sake of his or her health.
When referring to specific legislation that provides for the organisation of the workplace, we should direct our attention straight to the source - in this case, to: the Ordinance of the Minister of Labour and Social Policy of December 1st, 1998 on occupational health and safety at the workplace equipped with screen monitors. The above Ordinance reads as follows:
"Pursuant to Article 23715 (1) of the Labour Code, it is ordered as follows:
§ 1. The Ordinance defines:
1) OHS and ergonomics requirements to be met by the workplace equipped with monitor screens,
2) work organisation requirements to be made by the workplace equipped with screen monitors.
§ 2. Whenever the ordinance mentions: (…)
2) the workplace- meaning the work area, including its equipment with means and objects of work, which includes (...) c. accessories, including a table, a chair, a document holder, a footrest,
§ 4. The employer shall organise workplace with screen monitors in such a way that it complies with the minimum OHS and ergonomics requirements set out in the Appendix to this Ordinance.”
(THE ORDINANCE OF THE MINISTER OF LABOUR AND SOCIAL POLICY of December 1st, 1998 on occupational health and safety at the workplace equipped with screen monitors. Polish Journal of Laws 98.148.973)
In accordance with this provision, it is clear that one of the legal requirements for employers is to ensure the safety of office workers and to comply with OHS and ergonomics rules at work, where a footrest is an integral part of the workplace equipment.
An integral part of this Ordinance is its Appendix that provides for the minimum OHS and ergonomics requirements to be met by the workplace equipped with monitor screens. One of its sections specifies the requirements that a footrest should meet under labour law:
7. 1. At the employee's request, and when the height of the chair prevents the employee from having his or her feet flat and resting on the floor, the workplace should be equipped with a footrest.
7. 2. The footrest should have an inclination angle in the range of 0°÷15° and its height should be adjusted to the needs resulting from anthropometric characteristics of the employee.
7. 3. The surface of the footrest should not be slippery and the footrest itself should not move on the floor during use.
(THE APPENDIX “MINIMUM OHS AND ERGONOMICS REQUIREMENTS TO BE MET BY THE WORKPLACE EQUIPPED WITH MONITOR SCREENS” TO THE ORDINANCE OF THE MINISTER OF LABOUR AND SOCIAL POLICY of December 1st, 1998)
In accordance with the provision in the appendix to the ordinance, the employer is obliged, at the employee’s request, to equip the workplace with a footrest that meets the minimum requirements - an inclination angle of at least 0°÷15°, with an appropriate height, ensuring a slip-resistant surface of the footrest and rubber feet to prevent it from slipping on the floor during use.
Currently, footrests available in the offers of many manufacturers have additional functions improving work comfort, such as smooth inclination angle adjustment, height adjustment of the footrest base, or massaging surfaces - these are certainly important features that allow to combine the legal requirements of work safety with comfort and convenience: in other words, to offer a combination of business and pleasure.