OSHA Office Space Guidelines

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is an agency within the United States Department of Labor that protects workers rights and assures workplaces keep their employees' safety and health a priority. The office building is a particularly safe work environment, but some factors can affect employee health and productivity over time. To provide an OSHA standard working environment, concern yourself with indoor air quality, temperature control, proper lighting, workstation flexibility, and the adequate break-times for your employees.

  1. Indoor Air Quality and Temperature

    • According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans spend up to 90 percent of their time indoors. Outdoor pollutants are usually filtered by natural air circulation, but indoor air must be adequately circulated to bring in fresh air and remove air with pollutants.

      Properly install a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system to provide good indoor air quality. This means suiting an HVAC system differently to spaces occupied by people, as opposed to storage spaces like attics. People, furniture, and building materials release pollutants into the air. The HVAC system should be installed to provide continued circulation of an outdoor air supply without obstruction. HVAC equipment must also be properly maintained. This could mean regularly checking all essential parts and changing filters.

      Another aspect of proper ventilation is temperature control. Damp, humid workplaces can cause more workplace absenteeism and less productivity from allergies, illness, and discomfort. Keep humidity between 30 percent and 60 percent to create a comfortable environment. Maintain airflow rates in ventilation systems at a relatively unnoticeable three to six inches per second to prevent drafty spaces. Indoor temperatures should be between 68 and 74 degrees in a heating season and 73 to 78 degrees in a cooling season to reflect changes in employee attire.

      Temperature is most efficiently maintained when equipment that emits hot or cold air, such as refrigerators or computers, is not placed near temperature gauges. Poor placement causes HVAC systems to unnecessarily emit heated or cooled air for longer periods of time.

    Proper Lighting and Ergonomics

    • Continuous use of artificial light can take its toll on an employee's sight. Glare on an employee's workspace, computer screen, or paperwork can cause eyestrain or headaches. Light should be diffused across the entire workspace to prevent concentrated bright lights from desk specific lamps. Workspaces should be at right angles to natural light from windows. Backlit workspaces cause contrasts that increase eyestrain. Paint walls medium colored non-reflective paint to eliminate glare from reflections.

      Ultimately, keeping a workstation flexible for individuals is imperative to workplace safety and health. Computer screens should be placed at an employee's eye level to prevent unnecessary neck strain from prolonged periods of inflexibility. Repetitive movements like typing on an improperly placed keyboard can cause long-term joint problems like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Give your employees break time to walk around or sit down if they are consistently in the same position. Encourage them to stretch and move around and they will be happier, healthier and more productive in the long run.

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