Treadmill Desk Workstations and Safety Controls

Property & Casualty, Risk

As modern workplaces evolve, so are the expectations and preferences of employees seeking innovative solutions to improve their productivity – and health! In recent years, we have seen a noticeable increase in inquiries from employees regarding the integration of treadmill desk workstations into their daily routine. This surge reflects a growing awareness around the effects of prolonged sitting and the desire to incorporate more movement into the workday.

With this growing interest, organizations face the challenge of balancing safety with innovation and promoting healthy lifestyles. Despite the incomplete data surrounding accidents on these treadmill desk workstations, many organization leaders are hesitant to embrace this trend due to concerns of safety and potential injuries.

However, it’s important to note that injuries sustained on treadmill desk workstations may be viewed as compensable under the workers compensation statute. While concerns about accidents and injuries are valid, there are many safety controls and protocols that organizations can implement to reduce the likelihood of accidents and demonstrate their commitment to employee well-being.

Safety Controls for Treadmill Desk Workstations: 

If your organization offers treadmill desk workstations, consider implementing the following safety controls:  

  • An audible alarm that notifies the user when the treadmill is starting, as well as when the speed is being adjusted by producing a beeping sound. Many desk treadmills allow for the disabling of the alarm if they become too distracting; it is recommended to use the alarm feature if the treadmill desks are placed near busy areas, as the lack of communication with those walking by could lead to accidents. 
  • A protective belt guard which recognizes when the user stops walking and automatically pauses the treadmill belt to ensure no one steps back on treadmill without recognizing the belt is moving.   
  • A safety feature that starts the treadmill desk at a slow rate of speed.  This is an important safety feature so users aren’t surprised by an accelerating belt. 
  • A safety key that can be fastened to clothing; if the used slips off or steps away from the treadmill, the key will release and stop the treadmill belt. 
  • Walking belt markings which rotate with the belt to indicate belt movement.  Since the motor is quiet at low speeds, this feature is important to keep someone from being caught off guard by stepping onto a moving belt. 
  • Do not allow a treadmill desk that has an incline feature. Walking and working at an incline may place the user in a non-ergonomic position, which can cause discomfort and increase the risk of bodily injury. Additionally, the desk would need to rise in unison with the treadmill, creating numerous design challenges. Don’t forget proper ergonomics when setting up the treadmill desk! 
  • Side rails which allow the user to safely step on and off the treadmill belt. 
  • Plan for plenty of space around the treadmill desk.  There should be enough space for the user to get on and off the treadmill with ease, allowing room for others to maneuver around easily.  Also ensure that any cords from the treadmill or other electronics are secured, not in the walking area where someone could trip and fall 

It’s crucial that treadmill desk workstations are used solely used as intended by the manufacturer. This means adhering closely to the manufacturer’s safety guidelines and instructions for use.

In addition to following the manufacturer’s guidelines, organizations can implement additional user safety controls to further enhance workplace safety:

  • Always use the safety key – this will ensure immediate stoppage if the user falls. 
  • Always start with a slow speed and gradually increase until the user is comfortable. 
  • If your hands must be free to stay in balance, lower the speed. 
  • Wear comfortable running or athletic shoes. 
  • Athletic attire, which may provide more mobility, should be considered.  Wear comfortable, breathing clothing. 
  • Use a hands-free headset, ideally a wireless headset. 
  • Establish a procedure as to how co-workers will get the attention of the treadmill desk users 

Don’t forget to ensure that treadmill desk workstation guidelines are developed and reviewed by all users. To achieve this, organizations can engage all stakeholders, including employees who will be using the treadmill desks, in the process of developing and refining the guidelines. This can involve gathering feedback from various departments with relevant expertise, such as human resources, facilities management, and occupational health and safety professionals. 

Key Takeaways:

Incorporating treadmill desk workstations into the workplace can be a valuable step towards promoting employee health and productivity. By prioritizing safety and implementing robust safety controls, organizations can harness the benefits of this innovative approach while mitigating potential risks.

At M3, we understand the importance of maintaining a safe and healthy work environment. Our dedicated team of risk management experts is here to support organizations in navigating the complexities of workplace safety and implementation of treadmill desk workstations. Reach out to your M3 risk manager for questions or support.

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