Offices and health

Workplace Health Conditions - Office staff

What types of ill-health effects might I experience as a result of working in an office?

Common ill-health symptoms may include headaches, lethargy, eye, nose and throat problems. To prevent such ill-health in the office, you should observe the following guidelines, ensuring that your office does not jeopardise your health:

What is considered to be a comfortable office temperature?

Regulations which apply to temperature do not specify a maximum temperature. A guideline minimum temperature is suggested at 17.5 degrees Celsius. In addition, windows, skylights or glass partitions in offices should not allow excessive temperatures to be reached during hot weather.

Workstations should be comfortable and safe, with suitable chairs and sufficient space. Allow 4.65 square metres floor space as a minimum for each person working in the office. Adequate lighting must be provided. When artificial lighting is used, it should be sufficient so as to avoid visual fatigue and prevent glare or reflection into workers eyes.

How many water closets and toilets are required in an office?

This depends on the number of people in the place of work. In a five person office there must be a minimum of one washbasin. In a work place of 100 people, there must be a minimum of 5 water closets. One washbasin must be provided for every 20 employees, up to 100 employees.

Office employment can contribute to a range of ailments.

What standard of cleanliness should I expect in my office?

This will depend on the use of the office. Floors should be cleaned at least once a week. Waste material should be removed on a daily basis. Walls, ceilings and work surfaces should be cleaned regularly.

What are the main health areas of concern for office staff?

The National Quarterly Household Survey, issued by the Central Statistics Office, identified the major areas of concern in occupational ill-health as:

  • Musculoskeletal problems.
  • Stress, depression, anxiety.
  • Respiratory problems.
  • Skin problems.

What is a VDU and the associated dangers?

A VDU is a visual display unit. Under the regulations, this category includes any item of display screen equipment such as a computer screen or a microfiche reader. You are covered by VDU Regulations, if you use a VDU for periods longer than an hour each day you work. The main problems associated with using VDUs include reflections, aches and pains, eyestrain, dizziness.

Under these regulations, what are my employer's obligations?

Your employer must:

  • Consult with you on issues affecting your health.
  • Identify those of you to whom the VDU Regulations apply.
  • Provide suitable environment and equipment for VDU work.
  • Facilitate frequent breaks from VDU work.
  • Ensure workstations comply with regulations.
  • Inform you on the dangers associated with VDUs and protective measures, which have been taken for your safety.
  • The employee is entitled to a free eye test made available by the employer at his expense.

What are my duties as an employee?

Co-operate with employer on issues of safety and health.

Use appropriate protective equipment which has been provided for your health and safety.

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