Saturday was largely spent in Edinburgh, watching Andrew Wilson and Hannu Rajaniemi from the Edinburgh equivalent of my own writer's circle read from and generally launch two chapbooks at a radical book fair just off Leith Walk. It was enjoyable, partly because I like their stuff, partly because we got to enjoy the unseasonally mild and even summery weather, and partly because it was fun being somewhere other than lying on my back in my living room which, as you know I never fail to remind you, is where I spent my entire summer. What was also cool was coming across books I might never have been aware of browsing through the 'usual suspect' bookselling monoliths.

Over the past couple of days, I've been exploring options for returning to work. I dropped into the old employer and it took him about three minutes to suggest I might be able to do some more of the usual freelance for him. I'm still not entirely sure if I will; the current designer - my replacement - was sitting on the usual, crappy, bad-for-you ripped-fabric stool better suited to some windy church hall rather than a daily working environment.

I looked at him and thought, in a couple of years, your back is going to be so scragged.

And that's the thing that bugs me; in a lot of print and design places, the attitude seems to be that designers are a necessary evil. I suspect this may in large part be because the people who usually open up these places are either people trained in running printing presses, or businessmen with an eye on opportunity; an awareness or understanding of the necessity of good design is not their priority. I've worked for a publisher, for instance, who very nearly attempted to put out a magazine by typing up the articles, justified, single column, in Microsoft Word with no pictures and a single font because they couldn't bear to pay someone to make it look less, well, shit. Sanity - or perhaps the horrified reaction of the advertisers paying to be in the magazine - prevailed. It's an extreme example of a common phenomenon.

And of course the corollary to all this is that even if they do realise they have to actually hire people to make their stuff look purty, they skimp enormously on desks and chairs, getting the most inadequate stuff possible. The desk in the old work is hammered together out of what could well once have been a door. Any designer in a place like that can expect to spend several hours, five days a week, sitting there and working. Anything less than fully adequate seating and desk arrangement is frankly criminal, in my mind.

So I'm thinking very seriously, when my next chunk of money comes in, of buying an Aeron chair off Ebay. I've never heard less than incredible reports about these chairs, but they ain't cheap - they start at about £900 and up; but I've seen them going for less than half that on the auction sites. Mind you, even then, that isn't cheap either. But since I got this cheap (though so far perfectly adequate) executive-style chair out of Staples, I've realised just how much time I spend sitting in this thing. Enough to make me think an investment in an Aeron could be an investment in my health as well.


Anonymous said...

My disability advisor thinks you should sue your old work frankly. And I think you'd woin.

seileach said...

Hi Gary

I think saffron1982 has a point -- your workstation should have been assessed and your employer had an obligation to make sure it was safe and suitable.

Suing might not help if you want to keep a commercial relationship going with the guy, though.

Gary Gibson, science fiction writer said...

I did actually ask someone about this ... I think the way it works is you need to have raised it as an issue at the start, but at the start I had no idea about inadequate seating or the like; it's only since having a slipped disc I've become aware of the problem of adequate seating. I'd have to show an employer had been deliberately negligent despite communicating a problem; and he did in fact get a better chair for me when I said I wasn't going to sit in the old one anymore. That chair - one of the kneeling models - had vanished when I dropped in the other week, to be replaced by some tatty old thing that looked better suited to a skip.

seileach said...


It's not the employee's obligation to raise the problem. Whether or not the employee had complained about a problem would be relevant
in relation to a case for damages at common law, ie failure to take reasonable care for the safety of the employee. However, in relation to a case brought under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regs of 1998 it is for the employer to ensure that work equipment is so constructed or adapted as to be suitable for the purpose for which it is used or provided. Suitable means suitable in any respect which it is reasonably foreseeable will affect the health or safety of any person. There are also specific statutory obligations in relation to the safety of workstations. It is now fairly well-known throughout business and industry that employees can suffer musculo-skeletal injury as a result of unsuitable workstations. In any event, your employer had a statutory obligation to risk assess your job, and if that had been done competently it should have shown up that there was a risk arising from the unsuitability of your workstation

seileach said...

Sorry, Gary, meant to add this to end of previous message. What I am saying is that I think you do have a case if you want to pursue it, and would recommend that if you do you go to one of the specialist firms of personal injury solicitors who may be able to make no win no fee arrangements. You can claim damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity, past loss of wages, and depending on your prognosis, future wage loss or a sum for loss of employability in the future.

Gary Gibson, science fiction writer said...

Thank you, Seileach. I'll check that out.