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Are these three factors making your office unhealthy?

by , 04 October 2013
Keeping your employees safe and healthy is just as important in an office environment as it is in a factory. That's why it's crucial you're mindful of certain factors that can make your office unhealthy. And the steps you can take to eliminate them...

According to the Health&Safety Advisor, there are three factors that can make your office unhealthy.

These are:

  1. Poor lighting;
  2. Too much noise in the office; and
  3. Air conditioning (thermal comfort and air quality in the office.

Let's take a closer look at each of these factors and the solutions.

Three factors that can make your office unhealthy

#1: Lighting in the office

Good lighting in workplaces is essential to enable employees to see clearly and perform their work safely.

Key factors to consider when determining how adequate your lighting is:

  • Amount of light in an area;
  • Number, type and position of the light sources; and
  • Tasks or activities your employees perform, how often and for how long.

In general, good lighting must allow your employees to easily view their work and environment without the need to strain their eyes. But different activities will require different levels and qualities of light.

#2: Noise in the office

So why is the control of noise in an office important?

Generally, the levels of noise in office areas are below those levels known to pose a risk to hearing.

In offices, 'annoyance' noise is more likely and may interfere with communication, annoy or distract employees as well as affect your employee's performance of tasks like reading and writing.

This can be costly for your company. Noise that prevents an employee from understanding an instruction or warning signal may also be a risk to safety.

For these reasons, it's important to consider what you can do to control unwanted noise in the office.

Identifying disturbing noise in the office: To identify disturbing noise sources in an office it's best to ask employees working in the area a series of questions, for example:

  • What noise is most disturbing (if any)?
  • When does it occur?
  • What effect does it have?
  • How do you deal with disturbing noise?

You can do this using a general walk-through survey that includes interviewing employees. Where you've identified noise issues as a problem in an office environment, you should conduct assessment and develop noise control measures.

#3: Thermal comfort and air quality in the office

Comfort is influenced by clothing, the job being done, temperature, humidity and air flow. Employees may feel uncomfortable if the temperature within an office is either too low or too high.

High humidity can create a stuffy, sticky atmosphere and contribute to feelings of tiredness.

Identifying thermal comfort issues: To identify thermal comfort issues in office environments, ask the employees working in the area a series of questions like:

  • Do you find the atmosphere hot, cold, stuffy or draughty?
  • When do you notice these conditions?
  • What effect do these conditions have on your work?
  • How do you deal with them?
  • Where do you notice these conditions?

Some general suggestions for improving thermal comfort include:

  • Regulating the air conditioner for temperature and humidity;
  • Not locating workstations directly in front of or below air conditioning outlets;
  • Controlling direct sunlight (radiant heat) with blinds.

The bottom line: You must evaluate health and safety issues relating to environmental factors in your offices including lighting, noise and air quality.

Remember, health and safety isn't only for factories and mines. The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) covers all places where employees work. This includes your office.

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