Standing desks have emerged as a popular alternative to sitting all day, boasting a range of health benefits. Like most office equipment, they must meet quality and safety standards to maximise their benefits and prevent any unintended consequences.
$46 billion of office furniture is sold in the USA alone each year – and only 40% of it is ANSI/BIFMA certified.
- The remaining 60% of fixed-height or adjustable desks, filing cabinets, and chairs do not meet the ANS/BIFMA standards.
- These are usually sold through retail and online outlets like IKEA and Amazon. They’re much cheaper but offer less assurance of durability and safety.
(Related: What Are The Benefits Of Standing Desks?)
What Are ANSI Standards?
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is a private non-profit organisation that creates frameworks and best practices for technology standards in the United States.
ANSI safety standards provide guidelines and requirements for products to ensure that they’re:
|Safe.||The company makes a reasonable effort to minimise accidents and injuries.|
|Reliable.||The company makes a reasonable effort to maximise longevity and minimise the need for repairs.|
Committees of experts develop the standards, handpicked from industry, government and academia.
What Are BIFMA Standards?
The Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association (BIFMA) is an independent organisation with official accreditation from the ANSI.
It has established itself as a leader in developing standards for modern office furniture.
These standards include testing protocols for product safety, stability, durability, and strength. They also address ergonomic considerations, such as adjustability and user comfort.
BIFMA also develops sustainability standards for furniture products. These address environmental considerations, such as using recycled materials and reducing waste during production.
Do ANSI & BIFMA Standards Apply To Standing Desks?
Yes. A BIFMA certification is a quick and easy way to tell if your standing desk has been designed with safety and health in mind.
Above: ANSI/BIFMA X5.5, which applies directly to standing desks. Download here.
In 2021, BIFMA published its updated version of the ANSI/BIFMA X5.5 standard to include standing and adjustable desks:
- BIFMA describes testing methods that require adjusting the load-bearing test to accommodate standing desk models.
- The result is a more reliable strength test for desks with a height of 38″ and above.
Is Furniture Without ANSI & BIFMA Compliance Illegal?
No. Legally, office products without BIFMA compliance can be sold to consumers. Likewise, employers aren’t under any legal obligation to purchase BIFMA products.
However, obtaining office furniture with BIFMA certification means:
- A product has gone through rigorous testing performed by a BIFMA-approved lab.
- The manufacturer cares about quality, comfort, and durability.
- The product adheres to industry standards and meets modern workers’ needs.
Office furniture can demand significant capital investment, with some ergonomic chairs costing over $1000.
We advise businesses to think of ANSI & BIFMA standards as proxy indicators of quality and safety, which translates to tangible business ROI by:
- Reducing the chances of employee injury.
- Reducing the risk of workers’ compensation claims for workplace-related injuries
- Increasing productivity and morale of the workforce.
As more businesses develop employee well-being programs, replacing old office furniture with BIFMA-compliant products becomes a measurable goal.
(Related: Are Standing Desks Worth It?)
Frequently Asked Questions About ANSI & BIFMA Standards.
Business owners, managers and professionals who purchase office equipment for their home offices ask us the following questions.
Do ANSI & BIFMA Standards Apply To Office Furniture Sold In Australia?
Office furniture sold in Australia may carry an ANSI/BIFMA certification mark, although the standards are designed for the US market. The closest Austalian equivalent standards are:
How Can I Tell If A Standing Desk Meets ANSI And BIFMA Standards?
Look for a label or certification mark from ANSI or BIFMA on the desk or its packaging.
What Is The Difference Between ANSI And BIFMA Standards?
- ANSI covers a wide range of industries (including office furniture), overseeing and monitoring the process of safety standards.
- BIFMA is dedicated to the furniture industry and develops technical safety requirements.
Where Can I Find Additional Information About The Standards?
ANS and BIFMA standards are available in these documents:
|BIFMA X6.5-2022||A document focusing on furniture products used in small businesses and home offices. This standard looks at stability, leg strength, and more.|
|G1-2013||A set of ergonomic guidelines which include recommendations for designing office products that support health and productivity.|
Office furniture manufacturers can also refer to BIFMA standards when choosing materials:
|ANSI/BIFMA e3-2019||A standard that establishes best practices for using sustainable materials in office furniture.|
|ANSI/BIFMA X7.1-2011||Addresses formaldehyde and TVOC emissions from furniture, while the accompanying standard M7.1-2011 sets best practices for measuring TVOC emissions.|
|8.1 Standard||A document that would create best practices for using materials that can withstand cleaning and sanitising.|
How Are The Standards Developed And Tested?
The independent lab that performs BIFMA testing on standing desks will set up a custom experiment.
There are approximately 50 tests the item can undergo, but it only needs to meet standards in a designated category.
Some of these tests include:
- Stability under vertical load test.
- Horizontal stability test for desks/tables with casters.
- Force stability test for tall desk/table products.
- Concentrated functional load test.
- Leg strength test.
- Work surface vertical adjustment test.
- Keyboard support and input device support adjustment tests.
- Durability test for desks and tables with casters.
- Pull force test.
The lab will:
- Test the product thousands of times over weeks.
- Utilise robotic sensors to simulate a user adjusting the desk repeatedly.
- Attempt to tip, break, or overwork the motors in the desk to gauge its limits.
Are There Any Gaps In ANSI/BIFMA Safety Standards?
Like any safety standards, ANSI/BIFMA standards cannot cover every possible safety issue or hazard from furniture products.
Are Treadmill Desks Covered By ANSI & BIFMA?
Yes. Treadmill desks combine a sit-stand desk and a treadmill, allowing users to walk while they work. However, standalone under-desk treadmills are not covered.
While the health benefits of these desks are not yet clear, ANSI & BIFMA standards apply to them too.
What Are The Levels Of BIFMA Certification?
When tested, the desks are awarded points in four categories: materials, energy and atmosphere, human and ecosystem health, and social responsibility.
Based on the number of points awarded, BIFMA offers three levels of rating:
|Level 1||The first tier of certified performance.|
|Level 2||Certifies that additional levels of performance have been achieved.|
|Level 3||The highest level that can be awarded.|
Final Word On ANSI & BIFMA Standards For Standing Desks.
There is a growing awareness that sedentary lifestyles can lead to poor health outcomes.
The British Journal of Sports Medicine showcased that sitting for just four hours per day can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease by 125%.
With that in mind, office workers are open to embracing alternatives to the traditional cubicle. Standing desks are a welcome addition to offices, as they:
- Encourage workers to stay active throughout the day.
- Engage leg and core muscles for more excellent lower body stability.
- Can Reduce one’s risk of developing obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
ANSI & BIFMA standards create a uniform benchmark of excellence for standing desk manufacturers committed to providing consumers with best-in-class standing desks.