While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not specifically mandate regulations for cubicles, the government agency does concern itself with ensuring that workers are given ample space to perform their daily work. These areas, commonly referred to as “confined spaces,” should be designed with worker safety in mind.
OSHA, 29 CFR 1910.146, defines a confined space as any space that is “large enough and so configured that an employee can bodily enter and perform assigned work.” In addition, confined spaces have limited entrance and exit pathways and are not intended for continuous occupancy, but rather are designed for a specific type of work. This broad term includes cubicles and office spaces.
OSHA does not provide a minimum requirement for the dimensions of a confined space or cubicle, but at minimum each employee assigned to the area should be able to enter, exit and work in the space comfortably.
Entrance and Exit
Entrances and exits into confined areas should be wide enough to accommodate employees egress. In addition, they should be free of obstacles that may impede easy travel in and out of the space, particularly in an emergency situation.
Permit-Required Confined Spaces
Permit-required confined spaces are those that may contain hazardous materials. If the workplace contains permit spaces, the employer shall inform exposed employees, by posting danger signs or by any other equally effective means, of the existence and location of and the danger posed by the permit spaces.
Employees who enter permit-required spaces as a function of their job description should have adequate safety training and follow a mandated set of safety procedures. Employers must post hazards contained within the area, including the presence of flammable and toxic materials or potentially unsafe conditions.
Confined spaces should have a sufficient source of oxygen and ventilation and an atmosphere safe from toxic gases. Before an employee enters a permit-required confined space, the internal atmosphere may be tested for oxygen content, flammable gases and potential toxic air contaminants; employees have the right to observe testing prior to entering the confined space.
Independent Contractor Rights
Independent contractors working within the confined spaces of a firm are entitled to a number of benefits stipulated by OSHA, including adequate space within the cubicle or confined space to work, safe entry and exit, clean air and knowledge of any and all potential hazards within the work area. In addition, the host employer must inform all contractors of permit-required confined spaces, their location and potential hazards contained within.
Rights for Employees with Disabilities
Employees with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations to their cubicle, as mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act. This may include modifications to the entrance and exit pathways to allow a disabled person to easily pass through, even in an emergency situation. In addition, modified signage of emergency procedures may need to be posted at a lower level to be easily read by a person in a scooter or wheelchair. Signs may also need to be provided in Braille for visually-impaired employees.