Choosing The Right Cleanroom Seating
Each day cleanroom professionals spend hours upon hours at their work bench, making the cleanroom chair one of the most heavily used and easiest pieces of equipment to overlook. After all, chairs are essential for your staff to work comfortably at their workstation for long periods of time and their comfort, or lack thereof, can lead to losses in productivity. With this in mind, this months blog post is about how to maximize your employees comfort while working within a critical environment.
Ideally a cleanroom chair or stool will provide the user with a comfortable, ergonomic fit while meeting the strict requirements of the sterile environment they work in. Unfortunately it’s not as easy as just ‘picking out chair’ and calling it a day. Since body shapes and sizes vary from person to person it is important to consider each potential user. A chair for a tall technician will not provide the same comfort or ergonomic benefits as for a shorter technician. Mismatches like this can actually be harmful for an employee after a long and uncomfortable 8 hour shift. Even choosing to use a stool instead of a chair can lead to long term problems for the technician. To help prevent this problem from occurring in your sterile environment we’ve put together a checklist to keep in mind for the next time you need to purchase cleanroom equipment.
The Chair vs Stool Debate
Stools offer several advantages that can’t be matched by a standard cleanroom chair. The backless aspect of the stool means that there is a much smaller chance of new particles being generated or introduced into the environment from rubbing against the technician’s back, as well as an ergonomic gains through forced posture. However, stools can be uncomfortable after an extended period of time. Hutchins & Hutchins Inc recommends using stools with glides at workstations that require very little movement or in areas that don’t require a user to be there for hours on end. On the other hand, using a clean room stool with casters can be an efficient way for an employee to remain seated and move from workstation to workstation. Having no backrest or arm rests significantly decreases the likelihood of cleanroom garments being caught as the employee moves around.
Should you decide that chairs are a better choice for your particular environment, follow these 11 steps to make sure that you’re maximizing your employee’s comfort and ergonomic support.
- Measure their height and weight. An employee weighing over 250 lbs will require a roomier chair. Take a look at our selection of cleanroom chairs for plus sizes. These same height measurements should be used when purchasing a stool as well.
- Measure the seat height and the cylinder size. Ideally the seat of the chair will be able to support the thighs comfortably with feet resting firmly on the floor or foot rest. The front edge of the seat’s height should also match the length of your lower leg. This measurement is known as the Popliteal height.
- Determine the depth of the seat. When a worker sits in the chair they should have a space of 1″ to 3″ between the back of their knees and the seat. In this position, their back will be supported by the backrest and the seat cushion will provide a large surface area for weight distribution.
- Measure the seat width. The seat should be wider than the hips. If armrests are to be used then ensure there is an additional 2″ on the total width of the seat for maximum comfort.
- Make sure that the Forward Tilt Seat Angle, when used, does not force the body to thigh angle to fall below 90 degrees. This will cause the technician discomfort.
- Check the Seat Cushion to make sure its ideal for your needs. Keep in mind that a contour cushion with high density padding will be better for weight distribution. A contoured seat, or saddle seat, will also help to eliminate the sensation of sliding out of the chair when in a forward leaning position.
- Ensure that the backrest meets your cleanroom’s needs and supports the technicians lumbar spinal contours. There are backrests with contours available. Low and narrow backrests are generally used for tasks requiring upper body mobility and frequent arm movement. Tall backrests should be used for more sedentary roles. The backrest in this instance should support the shoulders as well as the low back area. Also note that generally speaking, the height of the backrest will be higher for women, whereas men will require a lower placement.
- If Armrests are to be used then they must be placed in such a way that allows the worker to sit close to the workstation without impeding their mobility, but also to be able to use them while the technicians back is firmly touching the backrest. The exact size of the armrest is important because if it’s too thin then it may interfere with the users arm movement, but if it is too wide then it may not offer enough support. Armrests should be placed in such a way that they don’t catch any cleanroom garments that the user is wearing.
- Decide between Casters or Glides. For stations that require little movement, glides may be the ideal option. However if the station requires mobility between sections then casters are encouraged. Casters come in an ESD option for cleanrooms that require static control.
- Ensure the upholstery of the cleanroom chair is either vinyl or polyurethane on the seat and back. Cloth upholstery should not be considered as its use will produce particulates. Polyurethane and vinyl cushions have been filled with foam and sealed to prevent particulates from entering the cleanroom environment as air escapes from the weight of a technician using the chair. These materials are also easier to clean.
- Keep in mind that the standard cleanroom or ESD chair is generally a five legged, tubular steel, aluminium, or reinforced plastic base. Deviations from this may result in a non-cleanroom compliant chair.
To sum this up, first you must decide whether or not your staff will be sitting in the cleanroom for hours at a time. Use this to decide whether or not you will need a stool or a chair at your station, and remember that the less time sitting means comfort is less of a concern, which may indicate that a stool is a better option. To decide if the chair you need requires a certain amount of adjustability, it is best to look at the other equipment. Is any of it adjustable? If so, you may not need that requirement from your chair. There is also a certain level of personal taste for each employee, so it is good practice to discuss their preferred seated position. Seating in the cleanroom should be re-evaluated as tasks change, as what worked in one situation may not work in another.
We hope that with this information you’re well on your way to determining the seating requirements for your cleanroom. Should you need any help or if you would like to discuss seating options, then give us a call at (800) 554-4736. We will be more than happy to work with you to determine the best equipment for your room.