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Are you giving your employees the 2.25m² of open floor space he's entitled to?

by , 26 June 2013
Overcrowding in the workplace means your employees don't have enough space to work effectively without intruding into their colleagues' personal space.

It can cause a decrease in productivity, more incidents that result in defective product or service, lost work time due to injuries and occupational injuries, as well as an escalated risk of fatal incidents in high risk areas.

What's more is, you're legally obliged to provide at least 2.25 m2 effective open floor space for each employee working indoors. This space requirement is over and above the leg space under the desk or work station.

Lets take a look at the negative effects on your staff and company in more detail.

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Three tips to get your employees to comply with health and safety laws

Employees think that safety is something 'management' must do.

They're wrong. Employees also have duties to comply with the OHS Act. It's your responsibility to make sure your employees comply.

Don't know how to do it?

Here's how…

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7 Negative effects of overcrowding on your staff and company

1.    Not enough space to optimise work flow causes delays, downtime and defective products and services.

2.    Increased maintenance time and costs which impact work output.

3.    Accidents interrupt production.

4.    Fatigue and errors because of an oxygen-poor environment causes a decrease in productivity.

5.    Increased frequency of absenteeism for short periods 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.

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.

3 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).

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Get 106 ready to use health and safety templates to kick start your Health and Safety system!

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2 Solutions to overcome 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.
  1. 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.

Check out the Section O01 on Overcrowding in the workplace in your Health and Safety Advisor for for more solutions to overcrowding.

Until next time,

Stay safe!

Kerusha Narothan
Managing Editor: Health and Safety Advisor

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