Why do I need an industrial chair?


If you search “Industrial Chairs South Africa” or “Work Industrial Chairs” in Google, it is highly likely that the results will show various “industrial looking” products for trendy coffee shops and bistros. These are normally 4 legged steel chairs or stools without a seat cushion. Factory or industrial chairs used on production lines and in workshops, have different requirements to normal office chairs. The application of these chairs can range from casual seating in factories, to ergonomic seating used on assembly lines.

bistro chair

This type of 4 legged steel chair used in coffee shops and bistros, is often call an “industrial chair”.

However, there is another application of “industrial chairs” and this is what this article is about.

Because the operating environment for industrial chairs is vastly different to standard office chairs, the actual application becomes extremely important.

1. How will the industrial chair be used – the application?

a. Area of application

The first considerations include:

  • Is the chair part of the workstation setup? For example, a circuit board assembly workstation. In this case the operator is expected to sit on the chair for most of the day.
  • Will the chair be used in a multi- shift operation? Here you would probably place greater emphasis on the strength of the chair. 

b. Height of work surface

At what height from the floor is the working surface? Can the chair height be adjusted so that the industrial worker can perform the work comfortably, or is a footring conversion required? There are many footring conversions available that are prone to rotate around the centre column and thus become unstable and un-safe.

Nugen footring column used for industrial chairs in South Africa
Karo’s NUGEN footring column

Karo’s NUGEN footring is unique!

The NUGEN footring is bolted to a specially-made lower column and cannot come loose and rotate around the gas lifter. This makes the NUGEN the safest and most stable footring available for industrial chairs in South Africa.

c. Type of work performed

Does the work involve leaning forward over the work surface, for example intricate electronic assembly. Often you will see industrial workers sitting on the front edge of the chair and leaning forward to perform the work.  A seat angle that can be adjusted forward to create a negative tilt would be advantageous.  

Factory chairs used for intricate electronics assembly should meet specific ergonomic criteria to ensure the wellbeing of the workers is not compromised.

electronics assembly line for better ergonomics

d. Mobility of industrial chairs for certain work

How mobile does the chair need to be? Having a chair with castors provides manoeuvrability, but perhaps this is not so desirable if you sit on a higher chair with a footring. A chair fitted with glides may be netter than one with castors.

e. Is a Sit-Stand applicable?

There are applications in a workshop, factory or warehouse, where a chair may not be appropriate. The work might involve moving to different work stations at different locations. Under these conditions, Sit-Stand solutions should be considered.

sit-stand industrial chair used in South Africa enhances ergonomics

2. Where will the work industrial chairs be used?

In certain industrial environments like food processing, it may be important that the work chairs are easy to clean. In such applications, a non-porous vinyl upholstery is better than fabric. Vinyls are easy to wipe clean with a mild detergent. The great thing about vinyl upholstery is that the chair is easy to reupholster should it be torn or worn out. 

In some workshops, you need a more robust chair. Here it would be better to use a factory chair where the seat and back are covered with self-skinning polyurethane foam (referred to as PU chairs). PU chairs are very hard wearing and are easy to clean. The seat on a PU chair may not be as soft and comfortable as a conventionally upholstered chair.

Industrial PU chairs are used in South Africa for assembly lines to improve ergonomics
Delta PU industrial chair

Polyurethane (PU) foam chairs.

PU chairs are very hard wearing and are extremely easy to keep clean. The seat may not be as soft and comfortable as a conventionally upholstered chair.

In food processing and other hygiene intensive environments like those at Unilever, an important consideration is that the factory chairs do not have any “nooks and crannies” in which bacteria can accumulate and grow.  

In an electronic assembly or repair facility, static electricity charges must be avoided to prevent damage to sensitive electronic circuitry. These industrial work chairs are known as Electrostatic Dissipative or Static Control Chairs (ESD chairs)

ESD chairs divert the static charge generated by sitting and discharge it safely through the floor.

A special conductive fabric or vinyl upholstery and conductive (ESD) castors must be used.

ESD castor
ESD castor

3. Factory ergonomics

Factory ergonomics, specifically related to chairs, is important for any person concentrating on executing exacting operations in an industrial or workshop environment. According to Assembly Magazine, “ergonomics is paramount for keeping the employee safe, comfortable and productive”.

Research has shown that using the wrong chair, or one that is badly adjusted, can have a detrimental impact on the wellbeing of employees. In such cases, the risk of Muscular Skeletal Disease (MSD) increases. Workplace ergonomics is vital. Failure to include factory ergonomics in the design of work areas, may result in lower productivity, higher absenteeism, and a higher staff turnover. All of which result in higher costs! In other words, not having industrial chairs in your work areas, may cost you more.

This of course leads into the final consideration….

4. Economics

PRICE….all too often, this is the only consideration! 

Cost is important and even more so during tough economic times. However, it should never be the only consideration. Selecting the right work industrial chair for your workshop or factory, must take into account the other points listed above. The application of the chair, the working environment and the correct factory ergonomics, must all be considered. By examining your needs carefully, you will be able to select the most economic industrial chair for your work.

Author: Joachim Roetger
Director at Karo Manufacturing (Pty) Ltd
17 Feb 2021

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