ICW Group mySafetyNews.com
Printed from www.mysafetynews.com - Your Risk Management Resource
Home > All categories > Stability Balls Belong in the Gym, Not the Workplace

Risk management blog

Stability Balls Belong in the Gym, Not the Workplace

- September 20, 2016 by Robert Harrington (View all posts by Robert)

The Swiss ball, stability ball or yoga ball has been introduced as an ergonomic alternative to workstation chairs.  Proponents of the fad claim the balls increase abdominal muscle activation—thus increasing core strength—while on the job. While this may be true, they are still not a suitable replacement for an ergonomic designed desk chair. Last week, we posted our podcast about office ergonomics, in which we discussed stability balls in the workplace.  In this post, I’ll be elaborating on the points we discussed with some of the potential health and safety risks of using a stability ball instead of a chair.

Exercise Balls Are Not Comfortable to Sit On

Several credible studies have found that sitting on an exercise ball for long periods of time is actually uncomfortable. This is due to a greater amount of spinal cord compression, than when using a chair.  In addition to the potential for injury, back pain doesn’t make for a productive work atmosphere. Can you concentrate when you’re in pain?

Why is Lumbar Support So Important?

Another area to consider is back support—specifically your lower back or lumbar. Studies have concluded that exercise balls offer no lumbar support—a key component is maintaining correct body posture. When seated, the lower back has to bare three-times more weight than when standing. Without proper support, the back fatigues, causing people to slouch—further adding spinal compression.

You also need different areas of support throughout the work day, as people change posture frequently. Chairs offer the lumbar support that can be adjusted as posture changes.

Exercise Balls Are Not Firmly Planted on the Ground

From a pure accident standpoint, there is a chance of an exercise ball popping or shifting—causing an employee to fall and hurt themselves. A person can only focus on two things at the same time for so long, before one of them gives.  Maintaining balance is one thing, and all other work activities makes two…or three…or four things a person’s brain must keep in check.   

If someone becomes so engrossed in working, the brain may forget to make a small balance adjustment—and BAM—a hard crash to the floor. Hello work comp claim!

ICW Group recommends customers not use exercise balls as workstation chairs.  A chair whose height, depth, angle and back can be adjusted for optimal support is the better option. While it is your legal obligation to keep your employees safe, some employees may insist on using an exercise ball. I recommend implementing a policy that bans using exercise balls at a workstation.

For more on ergonomics, checkout my colleagues’ posts on mySafetynews