Most of us are aware of how keeping a good posture during prolonged gaming sessions is good for your back. Using the right gaming chair can ensure that you won’t suffer back problems in the long or short term.
When it comes to considering whether gaming chairs are safe or not, this is often the first thing that springs to mind. I will discuss this aspect of gaming chair safety in the article. But there are also several other safety aspects of gaming chairs that users are less well aware of. This article sets out to look at all aspects of gaming chair safety and ultimately answer the question – Are gaming chairs safe?
What are the potential problems with gaming chairs?
Various potential dangers need to be considered when discussing the safety of gaming chairs. Before we delve into them, let me start by reassuring readers that they are highly likely unlikely to become a cropper because of their chair spontaneously combusting or collapsing in the middle of a gaming session, but believe it or not, these are some of the issues that I will be covering.
Potential gaming chair dangers include:
- Gas Cylinder Explosions
- Fumes from padding and upholstery
- Chair collapses
- Upholstery allergies
- Mechanisms that can cause injuries
- Falls from chairs
Whilst these are all potential problems, most reputable chairs are designed and constructed such that issues that can befall gaming chair users are few and far between.
Gas Cylinder Explosions
This is perhaps the most dangerous of all potential problems that can occur with gaming chairs. This is an occurrence that went viral on Google Trends when a famous YouTuber posted a video that mentioned exploding office chairs.
The potential for explosion comes from the gas cylinder located at the base of the chair, although this only applies to chairs that use a gas lift mechanism to adjust the seat height.
These types of chairs use compressed air inside a pressurized cylinder which allows the user to make the adjustments. There are three main types of air-pressurized chairs on the market: –
- Hydraulic pressured
How likely is a gas cylinder explosion?
It has happened, but the chances are infinitesimally small. During my research for this article, I could only find reports of three incidents of this nature, all of them occurred in China.
- A Chinese woman was sitting in an office chair that suddenly exploded. As a result of the explosion, the woman had to undergo surgery to remove pieces of plastic, metal, and fabric from her wounds.
- In 2008, a man received arm injuries after a steel rod was ejected from his chair with such force that it damaged the ceiling. The steel rod was a substantial 15cm long, which gives you some idea of the force of the explosion.
- Most tragic of all is the case of a 14-year old boy who was killed when his chair exploded. The boy, from Shandong Province in China, died from blood loss after receiving extensive injuries to his lower body as a result of the explosion.
The fate of these unfortunate victims may put you off buying a chair with a gas cylinder, but there have been billions of these chairs used for decades now, and these are the only reported incidents.
There are also regulations and safety standards in place in the US, EU, and most other developed countries that manufacturers must adhere to. Whilst these regulations cannot completely exclude the possibility of an explosion, it does make the possibility highly unlikely in all normal usage circumstances.
How can I avoid gaming chair explosions?
The risk is already minimal, but there are some steps you can take to minimize the risk even further.
- Check your gas cylinder – Gas cylinders can fail after some time and although rare, can be faulty in a new chair. If it isn’t working for whatever reason, then stop using the chair. The cylinder is easily replaced on most chairs.
- Use your chair properly – Jumping up and down on your chair is not recommended, no matter how delighted you are at finally completing that impossible level. Remember it is designed for one purpose – as a seat. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for proper usage guidelines.
- Buy from a reputable manufacturer – A reputable manufacturer will always ensure that their chairs are manufactured to meet all the required safety legislation. In addition, the gas springs should have a safety certificate from SGS. Unfortunately, there are chairs on the market that have been made by less safety-conscious manufacturers that bypass the safety legislation.
Fumes from padding and upholstery
This is another potential safety issue with gaming chairs. First, let’s not confuse this with the fumes that often occur with new chairs. It is quite common to notice a strong plastic or chemical-like smell with new chairs, this will usually dissipate within a few days.
However, in some instances, chair owners have reported that these smells haven’t gone away and in the worst-case scenarios, people have been feeling physically unwell from the fumes. The fumes are commonly referred to as “off-gassing” and can contain chemicals that include formaldehyde. As I noted in most instances, these will unnoticeable within a few days.
As with gas cylinders, reputable chair manufacturers are subject to strict safety legislation in the materials that can be used in the manufacture of chairs. So buying a chair from a reputable manufacturer will go a long way to ensuring that any fumes that occur are not long-lasting.
There are a few steps you can take to quicken the time it takes for the fumes to dissipate: –
- Leave the chair outside in the sun for a few hours. The fresh air and sunlight will help the fumes evaporate and, of course, not fill your gaming room with potentially toxic fumes.
- Placing charcoal-filled bowls on the seat and throughout the room helps by absorbing the fumes in your room. This can take a few days, so it is best to refill the bowls with fresh charcoal daily.
- Use a fabric odor neutralizing spray to freshen up the chair for the first few days.
- Sprinkle baking soda on the fabric surfaces of your chair and leave it overnight, then vacuum it off the next day. The baking soda freshens the upholstery by absorbing the fumes, this may need to be repeated for a few days.
If your chair still generates strong odors after trying some or all of the above steps, then it is worth contacting the manufacturer, particularly if you feel it may be making you ill.
Gaming Chair Collapses
Having a gaming chair collapse below you is a possibility, gamers of a larger disposition (me) might be more prone to this, but it can happen to lightweights too. This problem is mostly down to the quality and age of the chair.
I have personal experience of this one, a few years ago, (and a few pounds ago) one of the legs of my chair just gave way, and over I went. It was ungainly and embarrassing, but luckily only my pride was hurt. The chair was a cheap office chair that, to be frank, was already past its best.
With a new chair from a reputable brand, this really shouldn’t be a problem, most standard gaming chairs are designed to support up to 250lbs or even more. Also, proper assembly and maintenance can go a long way to ensuring that you and your chair have a long and happy relationship!
When assembling your chair always follow the instructions carefully. Once assembled and is in use, always keep an eye on any screws or bolts that can work loose.
Whilst this is uncommon, it is still a potential problem, particularly in older chairs which I will discuss in a bit more detail a little later on. But first, if you have bought a new chair and believe that it is making you feel ill, the problem may well be the fumes produced by a new chair and not an allergy, as noted earlier in the article.
Allergy to upholstery is extremely rare, what is less rare is an allergy to dust and even dust mites that can build up in the nooks and crannies that adjustable chairs have an abundance of.
If you regularly experience cold-like symptoms or itching when you are in the midst of a gaming session, then it could be down to an allergic reaction to the dust and other debris that these chairs can accumulate. In most cases, all that is needed to alleviate the symptoms is a regular cleaning routine.
Most chairs will come with cleaning instructions, including being marked with an upholstery cleaning code that explains what types of cleaners can be used on the material. When cleaning, pay particular attention to any areas where dust can accumulate.
Mechanisms that can cause injury
Cheaper chairs that are poorly designed and manufactured can result in injuries from the various mechanisms and adjustments.
And again, I speak from experience here, I once received a rather nasty gash on my finger from a sharp metal edge that was left exposed very handily close to the height adjustment lever. Not the sort of thing you want to experience during a game of Half-Life (funny the things you remember).
While rare, getting your fingers trapped in between moving parts of your chair when making adjustments can happen. And poorly finished chairs with sharp edges and ill-conceived mechanisms are more likely to cause cuts or other injuries.
With any chair avoiding this type of injury is easily accomplished by just staying aware of where all your precious game-playing digits are when making adjustments. And also by not groping blindly for a lever while crawling through a sewer in Half-Life.
Falls from gaming chairs
I’m pleased to say that this has never happened to me, but falling from your chair is the most common way that people injure themselves, or worse. Although I can’t find any statistics that are specific to gaming chairs, I did discover that in the period between 1999 and 2010, falling from chairs was listed as the cause of death for more than 2,000 people in the US.
Roughly speaking this is around 200 per year or 4 per week. These figures put the chance of being injured from an exploding gas cylinder into context.
For gamers, particularly in the heat of the moment, an unstable chair can be a real potential problem. I know that I’m prone to all sorts of involuntary movements when racing around the Indy500 oval, or running from a hail of gunfire in Call of Duty.
A good gaming chair is less likely to have you toppling over halfway through a game. It offers more support in the right places, has a more stable base, and has enough movement to let you maneuver yourself, but not enough that you are likely to unbalance your chair.
Having a level floor of the right material is another consideration. Most castors on chairs are designed to work on carpeted floors, if you have a wooden or tiled floor, there are mats available specifically designed to allow castors to function correctly on hard floors.
Having everything you require close to hand is also something that can reduce the chances of falling over. Overreaching for something like a can of soda perched on the end of your desk is one of the most common causes of people falling from their chairs. Getting a chair that has a cupholder and pockets for controllers etc., is a simple yet effective way of keeping you upright during the most intense moments.
Simple steps to help you stay on your chair include: –
- Do not overlean (forwards, backward, or sideways,)
- Never stand on your chair
- Make sure your castors are level and on the correct surface
- 5-legged chairs are more stable than those with 4 legs
- Check the chair for damage and loose screws etc. every few months
Do it yourself chair repair
Some parts of a gaming chair are exposed to wear and tear. Regular checks of the chair mechanics and the adjustable parts let you recognize the wear before major damage occurs due to defective parts.
Only carry out any small repairs yourself if you know what you’re doing. Otherwise, you should arrange for repair through a professional.
When you order replacement parts it is important that the parts are the right ones and also fit. The parts should also be approved and have the appropriate safety certificates.
By taking the right precautions, it is highly unlikely that you are going to fall victim to a serious gaming chair accident. With a bit of common sense, some regular maintenance, and a little preparation there is no reason that you can’t enjoy years of accident-free gaming.
Ultimately, the most important factor is the chair itself. High-quality chairs that are designed and built to incorporate the latest safety standards are not going to explode, nor are they going to poison you with fumes, and they won’t fall over every time a breeze comes through an open window.
Cheaper chairs with lower standards and use low-quality components are far more likely to cause an injury than anything from a reputable brand.