For most office spaces and working areas, the vast majority of training and assessing with regards to ergonomics and reducing the workplaces strains and sprains is focused around sitting postures, how to correctly set up the chair and adjust the computer and accessories to the individual. If all of these individual factors are correctly set up, then the risk of workplace strains and sprains can be reduced. The main reason these areas are focused on with regards to assessment and training is that prolonged static sitting postures and repetitive based tasks such as typing or mouse use can all increase ones risk of developing musculoskeletal strains and sprains. In the clinical sense, far more workers present for the treatment of neck, shoulder and back pain into my clinic as a result of prolonged sitting postures, incorrect sitting postures and overuse then they do because of poor lighting and uncomfortable working temperatures. This is not to say that lighting, temperature and humidity are not important and I will detail below as to why.
Assessing The Lighting Within The Office Space
When it comes to assessing the lighting within the working space, it is important to review the following:
- External Light
- Internal Light
- Poorly distributed Light
- Flicker and Contrast on the Monitor
The amount of light required for the worker will vary depending on their job and tasks performed. Workers who are required to spend a great deal of time working at computers with detail will obviously require more light than someone who is working in a public outdoor space. In the below section I will take a look at reviewing the light within an office based setting.
External light – Depending on where the desk is situated with regards to the window, it is important to ensure that glare is avoided where possible. This can mean glare onto the screen or off the desk. In many situations this can be avoided by offices implementing blinds in the office area. In situations where this is not possible, a screen filter may be required to reduce glare.
Internal light – Depending on where the desk is located to an overhead light, excessive light can cause glare and eye strain and a lack of lighting can cause the worker to also develop eye strain and fatigue. These workers are also likely to find themselves moving towards the screen as the day progresses due to having to focus harder, therefore possibly leading to neck, shoulder and back tension.
Reflected Light – It is important to ensure that light reflected off walls, desks and equipment does not hit the worker directly in the eye. Reflected light in the wrong area can result in an increased risk of injury and impact on work performance.
Contrast – Is the relationship between the brightness of the object and its background. It is important to have the right degree of contrast within an office ergonomic set up or there may be an increased risk of injury and reduced work performance.
Flicker – It is important to ensure the computer is working correctly and there is no flicker. A flicker can be distracting and also increase the workers risk of developing an injury.
It is suggested that the illuminance level of 500 – 1000 Lux can be seen as stress free within an office environment. A more complex working environment may require a level of 750 – 1000 Lux (www.lightingdeluxe.com/workplace-lighting-ergonomics.html)
Reviewing Temperature & Humidity In The Office
The occupational health and safety act 2004 states an employer should provide as far as practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to health. The compliance code for workplace amenities and environment goes into a little more detail and states that
“Workplaces that are buildings need to be capable of maintaining a temperature range that is comfortable and suitable to the work. Workplace temperatures that are too high or too low can contribute to fatigue, heat illness and cold-related medical conditions.”(www.ohsrep.org.au/faqs/workplace-and-amenities/offices…/index.cfm)
The code states that “optimum comfort for sedentary work is between 20 degrees celsius and 26 degrees celsius, depending on the time of year and clothing worn.” (www.ohsrep.org.au/faqs/workplace-and-amenities/offices…/index.cfm)
Officewise from Worksafe recommends the following to improve thermal comfort:
- Regulate air conditioning for temperature and humidity;
- Avoid locating workstations directly in front of or below air conditioning outlets;
- Install deflectors on air vents to direct airflow away from people. These measure will prevent staff being annoyed by draughts;
- Control direct sunlight (radiant heat) with blinds, louvres and the like;
- Minimise draughts and thermal differences between the head and the feet (thermal gradients);
- Ensure adequate air flow. Feelings of stuffiness can result when air flow is low, and draughts result when air flow is high. An air flow rate of between 0.1 and 0.2 metres per second is desirable.
In regards to humidity, if it is too high it will cause discomfort and if it is too low, it can cause respiratory issues. Generally it is acceptable to have humidity levels between 40-60% (but kept within 30-70% in most cases) (www.ohsrep.org.au/faqs/workplace-and-amenities/offices…/index.cfm).
Measuring Illumination, Temperature & Humidity
There are a variety of hand held tools that can be used to measure the illumination, temperature and humidity within an office space. For more information on such devices, please check out Instrument Choice in Australia.
Ergonomic Assessments & Measuring Of Illumination, Temperature & Humidity
Corporate Work Health Australia Pty Ltd is a nationwide company that provides the following services:
We provide services in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia.
Services include: Ergonomic Risk Assessments, Manual Handling Risk Assessments & Training, Corporate Seminars, Pre-Employment Screening & Much More. To find out more about our services, please go to www.corporateworkhealth.com.
Principle Four Osteopathy is located in the heart of the Melbourne city cbd 3000 at 29 Somerset Place, Melbourne city cbd 3000 (near the corner of Little Bourke & Elizabeth St). Appointments can be made by calling 03 9670 9290 or booking online @ www.principlefourosteopathy.com