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Are you giving each employee the 2.25m2 of open floor space which he's entitled to?

by , 20 July 2015
Overcrowding in the workplace means your employees don't have enough space to work effectively without intruding into their colleagues' personal space. Here are three important questions you need to ask yourself to prevent adverse health effects.

Seven negative effects on your staff and company
1. Insufficient space to optimise work flow results in delays, downtime and possibly rework or defective products and services.
2. Increased maintenance time and costs which impact work outputs.
3. Accidents which interrupt production.
4. Fatigue and errors resulting from an oxygen-poor environment resulting in decreased productivity.
5. Increased frequency of absenteeism for short period i.e. one to five days leading to decreased output or increased overtime to maintain service or production levels.
6. Increased need to take smoke breaks to manage personal stress.
7. High staff turnover leading to loss of skills and the need to continually recruit and train new staff.
Now let's looks at the three important questions you need to ask yourself to prevent adverse health effects.
Attention! Health and Safety specialists face fines imposed by the DoL!
Recently, the Department of Labour (DoL) conducted over 190,000 impromptu health and safety inspections. It even shut down a company for failing to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).

Employers have been warned that there will be many more inspections.
Don't let them show up at your door unannounced.
Three important questions you need to ask yourself to prevent adverse health effects
1. Has the number of accidents increased because there's not enough space to perform routine tasks comfortably?

2. Are your employees suffering from headaches, fatigue, common infections like the common cold, influenza, diarrhoea, problems with muscles and joints from working in obstructed space?

3. Is your staff stressed because of an invasion of personal space.
If you answered yes to any one of these questions, your employees are experiencing adverse health effects. You're violating the first requirement of Section 8 of the OHS Act, general duties of employers to employees. You must identify hazards, assess risk and implement the required measures to reduce the risk to health and safety of employees to an acceptable level (Section 8(2)(d), OHSA).
Four solutions to overcome four possible overcrowding problems

Infrastructure and facilities
1. Problem: Your air-conditioning system doesn't provide enough fresh air. It must meet the required number of air circulations an hour, for the number of people in the area and the type of work they're doing. People doing physically demanding work will require more air changes an hour than the same number of people doing sedentary work in the same area.
Solution: Contract the services of a Department of Labour (DoL) approved occupational hygienist to conduct an air quality survey (according to international guidelines), to determine if the ventilation you've provided is adequate for the area and type of work being done. Then upgrade your ventilation if required.
Read on for more solutions….
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2. Problem: Your emergency exit routes aren't wide enough to allow the volume of people to evacuate the premises rapidly enough should the need arise.
Solution: Compare your emergency exit routes to the requirements of SABS 0400 Section TT.
This is the legal specification for calculating the number, length and width of emergency routes according to the number of people in a specific area. Redefine or provide suitable emergency exit routes.
3. Problem: You or your employees overload your lifts. This results in increased maintenance and incidents e.g. the lift does not stop level with the landing and people trip and fall getting in and out of the lift.
Solution: Equip all your lifts with a notice posted near the button panel indicating the safe load, in kilograms, of the lift (Lift, Escalator and Passenger Conveyor regulations, amended 10 June 1994). Educate employees about the hazards of overloading the lifts.
4. Problem: Overloading of existing sewerage systems results in blocked toilets and increased maintenance.
Solution: Look at the sanitation requirements according to the 'occupancy classes' of the premises and provide sufficient toilets.

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