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A Comfortable Working Environment

17th January 2011
By 1million2012 in Legal
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A safe and healthy environment is generally one which is comfortable. This is not always practical but all reasonable efforts should be made to make the workplace as comfortable as possible.

It can be uncomfortable to either sit or stand or long periods. If it is reasonable for employees to perform their duties while seated then seating must be provided. Construction of the seating should be comfortable and sturdy and take into account the type of work being carried out. Seating can generally be provided for breaks if the task must be performed standing.

Employers have a responsibility to provide workers with a smoke free environment. The laws relating to smoking in the workplace are the responsibility of the Ministry of health. It has long been established that smoking and being exposed to second hand smoke are both health hazards. Developing a smoke free policy is a good idea. This can then be referred to during recruitment, in employment agreements and other workplace policies. The policy and smoke free signs can be printed and displayed in prominent places around the workplace. Make sure that all contractors are aware of the policy. Smoke free policy education and training should be rolled out to all employees, managers and supervisors who should also be aware of what to do in case of violations. If steps are not taken to provide a smoke free workplace employees are entitled to lodge a complaint with the Ministry of Health.

There are no maximum or minimum temperature set in law at which work must stop. This is because there are many factors that influence how much we are affected by air temperature . How hot we feel can be influenced by external factors such as air temperature, humidity and wind. This can be exacerbated by having to wear protective clothing, strenuous work, level of acclimatisation and insufficient breaks. It can be uncomfortable to feel hot and this can lower productivity and morale and as such the above factors should be controlled as much as possible. Excessive heat exposure can cause heat exhaustion and in extreme cases even fatal heat stroke. All practicable steps need to be taken by both employers and employees to ensure that the level of heat exposure does not reach dangerous levels.

Low temperatures can also result in an employee feeling stressed. This can happen when they are required to work outside in the cooler months, at high altitude, in wet weather or in refrigerated environments. Wind chill factor needs to be taken into account even at moderate temperatures. It is important that employers ensure that employees wear appropriate protective clothing and that appropriate measures are taken. Some effects may be minor and result in only discomfort but greater cold stress can have serious consequences including death. Symptoms of cold stress can include less dexterity, stiffening of joints, reduced muscle strength and the worker can be less mentally alert.

As a result he will be more prone to accidents. Direct health effects of exposure to cold temperatures are those that affect the extremities such as frostnip and the more severe frostbite and those that affect the body’s core such as hypothermia. As women are less able to increase their body temperature by shivering or activity they are more likely than men to suffer ill effects form exposure to cold. Other factors which affect the level of cold injury are increased age, fatigue, some drugs, alcohol and smoking.

Making sure that the working environment is comfortable is an important aspect of ensuring the health and safety of employees.

For more information on Work place Comfort please visit our website, OSH NZ
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