A Change in 'Sit'-uation

How sit/stand workstations are raising questions about compliance

29 March 2016

If you have been involved with the furniture industry the last couple of years, you have undoubtedly seen the trend towards sit/stand work stations, also known as height adjustable and motorized tables.  The phrase "sitting is the new smoking" comes to mind, as a growing number of studies identify numerous health issues associated with sitting for extended periods of time. As this industry trend grows, it has raised many challenges and questions for manufacturers, distributors, architects, designers, and inspectors, such as:

  • Do they need to seek a variance?
  • Is it satisfactory if the components used in the product were listed / recognized by a NRTL?
  • If "X" organization doesn't have to do this why do we?
  • Since our product has been listed by an NRTL is anything further required?

The City of Chicago was the first major market to release a memorandum providing clarity on the expectations of installing sit/stand work stations in a commercial space.  The document outlines four conditions that must be met for these work stations:

  • Sit/Stand type work stations with electric motors must be labeled, as an entire assembly, by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL).
  • The motor used to raise the desk top may be plugged into an outlet dedicated for that work station. The cord shall be a three conductor type with a grounded three prong molded case plug.
  • A power outlet assembly of the clamp on type may be used on a motorized sit/stand work station. The power assembly must be plugged into an outlet dedicated for that work station. The cord shall be a three conductor type with a grounded three prong molded case plug. The power outlet assembly shall contain no more than four power outlets and shall have an internal overcurrent protection device.
  • The length of cord allowed for both the work station motor and clamp-on outlet assembly shall not exceed nine feet for each.

With the growing trend of electrifying furniture and adding wireless communication technology (Internet of Things), we are seeing a rapid shift in the types of materials and components used to manufacture furniture.  Consumers are demanding that private offices, desks, and public seating have readily available power and data ports to support today's always-connected devices. Chicago will not be the only major city to issue a memorandum like this and many major markets in the U.S. and Canada require end-product evaluation of similar items. It is important that the industry be knowledgeable of these new requirements, and that they are prepared to meet them in order to ensure continued market success.

Today's expert blogger is Brian Kneibel, Sales Manager for Intertek's Furniture division. Brian has spent more than 5 years at Intertek where he has been involved in multiple aspects of standards development across the furniture industry, authoring various articles and technical papers focused on the testing and certification of furniture. Brian is currently involved with the Standards Development Committee of the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer's Association (BIFMA), Sleep Products Safety Council (SPSC) for the mattress and bedding industry, and recently joined the Solutions Partner Board for American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA), where he will play an active role in identifying issues and developing solutions in efforts to further advance the furniture industry within the global marketplace.