Monthly Archives: August 2014

Poor Seating Can Affect Performance and Productivity: Are Your Workers Sitting Comfortably?

Poor seating can negatively affect physical and emotional wellbeing, work performance and productivity. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has estimated that back pain costs UK employers up to £625 million per year. Continuous sitting on poor seating cannot be maintained for the whole of one’s working life. So what makes a good office chair and how should it be selected?

7 Tips for Selecting the Correct Chair

  1. The seat needs to be adjustable so that both feet can rest comfortably on the floor. The seat pan should stop the pelvis from tilting away and support physiologically the ‘right’ sitting. The seat should permit both active and dynamic sitting, i.e. between a forward, upright and laid-back posture.
  2. The backrest should be high enough to reach at least the shoulder blades. There should be a gap between the back and the seat pan for the buttocks. Some backrests have a tilting mechanism which adjusts with the worker. This can provide comfort in a wide range of working positions.
  3. Armrests: whilst not essential, they can provide comfort, as they can take the weight of 8-10kg, i.e. the arms, which would otherwise simply hang on the shoulder girdle, causing fatigue. Armrests should be set back from the front edge of the seat or be adjustable to allow the chair to fit under the desk.
  4. Chairs should be mobile, i.e. have castors, to provide flexibility where workers need to move from one location to another. Ensure the correct type of castor is selected, e.g. for hard floors or carpeted areas.
  5. Adjustments may include seat height, backrest height and tilt. Adjustment controls should be easy to use from a sitting position.
  6. Weight: no one weighing more than 16 stone should use a gas-lift chair, unless it is one which has been specially designed to accommodate larger persons.
  7. Upholstery: the seat, backrest and armrests should be well padded to ensure user comfort and reduce the likelihood of damage. Upholstery should meet BS 7176:2007 in respect of resistance to ignition.

Follow these tips and you will be able to demonstrate that you have taken steps to avoid posture-related problems and injuries and will be able to defend any claims that arise.

If your staff require an assessment of their workstation, please contact us.

 

Carbon Monoxide: 9 Tips for Managing this Deadly Gas in Your Workplace

Symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to food poisoning and flu, producing drowsiness, headaches, chest pain, breathlessness or nausea. The most sensitive areas in the body are the heart and nervous system and workers with heart, lung and respiratory problems are most susceptible, as are pregnant women and smokers.

How to Manage CO in Your Workplace

  1. In practical terms, you can address this silent killer by drawing up a floor plan for your workplace. Don’t forget to include any confined spaces.
  2. Next, identify all potential and actual sources of CO – include equipment, processes and storage – and risk assess each. Consider employees who use petrol, diesel or gas-driven tools and appliances such as floor grinders, concrete cutting tools, compressors, diesel forklift trucks or small mobile plants. Remember that cabs in vehicles which have defective exhaust systems can also be affected by CO.
  3. Where possible, change from petrol or diesel-powered equipment to equipment which is powered by batteries or electricity, if practicable to do so. If not, do not use petrol or diesel-powered engines or tools in poorly ventilated areas, inside your building or in partially enclosed areas.
  4. Determine your workers’ exposure by carrying out an indoor air quality assessment. Current workplace exposure limits should not exceed 30ppm for long-term exposure and 200ppm for short-term exposure.
  5. Implementing engineering controls such as local exhaust ventilation will remove CO before it is released into the workplace. Ensure ventilation ducts are not blocked.
  6. Ensure appliances have been properly installed and are maintained by a competent person.
  7. Train employees on how to recognise the hazards that can lead to CO poisoning and ensure you place hazard warning labels on any equipment, tools or appliances likely to produce CO.
  8. Only allow authorised personnel to operate equipment, tools and appliances which are likely to produce CO. All such personnel must receive adequate training, information and instruction.
  9. Use CO monitors with audible alarms or personal CO monitors where a risk of exposure exists. However, these should be provided as a back-up and not as a substitute for a safe system of work.

The responsibility for a safe workplace falls squarely on your shoulders. Don’t let this silent killer catch you out.

Contact us if you wish to discuss this topic.

 

Are Your Staff Feeling the Heat?

With the recent heat waves, thermal comfort in the workplace is now becoming something of a challenge for many employers. Whilst there is no maximum workplace temperature specified in the UK, the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 state that workplaces shall be maintained at a ‘reasonable’ temperature. What is ‘reasonable’ will depend upon the nature of the work, but according to the HSE, an acceptable level of thermal comfort lies somewhere between 13°C and 30°C.

Workers likely to be most at risk include catering staff, outdoor workers e.g. horticultural workers, maintenance personnel, process workers and employees who must wear personal protective equipment (PPE) such as breathing apparatus or impermeable clothing. Employees working in offices which do not have air conditioning are also likely to be affected by hot weather.

10 Top Tips for Dealing with the Heat

  1. Consult with your employees to establish reasonable levels of thermal comfort for the majority, but accept that you won’t be able to please everybody.
  2. Carry out a risk assessment and identify employees who are most susceptible to heat stress, e.g. pregnant women. Consider altering work patterns to reduce the level of risk by job rotation, working at cooler times of the day. Limit exposure of outdoor workers by providing sunscreen and suitable clothing, e.g. long sleeves and hats.
  3. Modify the working environment by providing mobile air conditioning units, but not oscillating fans, as these simply circulate warm air. Use window blinds or shades to help reduce the effects of heat and solar gain.
  4. Provide more frequent breaks in a cooler environment – the hotter the working environment and more strenuous the work, the more frequent breaks should be.
  5. Ensure a constant supply of drinking water and stress to staff how important it is to maintain hydration at work. Caffeine-based drinks can actually speed up dehydration, as they are diuretic. Coffee also speeds up metabolism, thereby increasing body temperature.
  6. If you have a dress code, consider relaxing it, as it’s better to have productive, casually-dressed employees, than employees who must leave work because they feel unwell.
  7. Ask staff to turn off electrical equipment when leaving the office. Power used to keep items on stand-by is dissipated into the workplace as heat.
  8. Do big print runs and other heat generating jobs in the cooler part of the day.
  9. If office temperatures are unbearable for some, consider allowing them to work from home.
  10. Review PPE provision to see if there is any which is cooler and more comfortable and which can offer the same (or better) level of protection.

Your risk assessment must take into account factors such as temperature to protect your employees, as well as helping you stay on the right side of the law.

If you require advice please contact us.