U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) office safety procedures include information about ergonomics, lighting, exposure to hazardous materials, temperature and ventilation. Maintaining a safe, healthy environment for employees and co-workers means that more work will get done and, overall, the company will be more productive.
Healthy, safe ergonomics means naturally aligned body positions. If your body is naturally aligned, stress and strain is limited. Hands, wrists and forearms should be in a straight line and parallel to the floor. The head should be level, forward-facing, balanced and in line with the torso. Shoulders should be relaxed. Elbows should stay close to the body and be bent between 90 and 120 degrees. Feet should be supported by a foot rest if the height of the desk isn’t adjustable and feet don’t reach the floor. A lumbar support should support the back, and the chair should be padded.
According to OSHA, light that is either shining on a computer screen or behind it should not be particularly bright. Bright light can cause eye strain and headaches. Using a light diffuser can help balance light levels. If there is too much light streaming through the windows, window blinds can help. Light balance is also important so that employees can easily see images on the monitor and glare is eliminated, making the work day more productive.
Certain chemicals and materials can cause either discomfort or even more serious health problems. Chemicals that can have an adverse effect on employees include volatile organic compounds and cleaning chemicals. Also, particles from computers and other machines such as copy machines or printers may pose a problem. Ask the manufacturer if the equipment emits pollutants. If it does, place it in a well-ventilated area. New equipment should stand in a ventilated area for a few days before use.
An office should not be too hot, too cold or humid and damp. Temperature should range from 68 to 74 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter months. Temperature should range from 73 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer months. Relative humidity should range from 30 to 60 percent year-round, according to OSHA guidelines.
If a room or office is not well-ventilated, the air can become stifling and stagnate. Dry air can cause dry eyes, particularly if an employee wears contact lenses. Work desks and other furniture shouldn’t be positioned in front of or under ventilation ducts. However, if the ventilation ducts are designed to redirect air flow, office furniture can be placed near them. Using an air diffuser can also redirect air flow. If the temperature is either above or below the basic guidelines, workers can become uncomfortable and unable to produce quality, efficient work.