Page 1

The ABC of Office Work


Authors: Piret Kaljula, Mari-Liis Ivask, Indrek Avi and Rein Reisberg. Language editor: Agentuur La Ecwador OÜ Translation: Imagoline OÜ Design: Agentuur La Ecwador OÜ Photos: La Ecwador OÜ, stock.adobe.com Print: Agentuur La Ecwador OÜ © Tööinspektsioon, 2017 ISBN 978-9949-592-92-0 (trükis) ISBN 978-9949-592-93-7 (pdf) ISBN 978-9949-592-94-4 (epub)


Table of contents 4 Introduction 4

Various types of offices

6

General requirements

15

Office equipment

18

Placement of workstations in an office

25

Psychosocial risk factors

32

Biological risk factors

33

Chemical risk factors

34

Health examination

37

First aid provider and organisation of first aid

39

Instruction and training

42

Risk analysis and examination of work environment

42

Health promotion

43 References


Introduction There is a popular opinion among employers and employees that office work is safe and nothing bad can happen in an office setting. However, this is not quite true – not only can many occupational accidents happen when performing office work related duties but also low activity due to the nature of work and forced positions can cause health damage. A safe and healthy work environment for employees does not happen just like that – the employer as well as employees have to contribute to creating a good working environment. The employer`s task is to create the workplace, i.e. the employer has to think about the work environment, work conditions and wellbeing of employees. Dealing with these matters helps the employer to enhance the satisfaction and work performance of the employees, reduce possible damage to their health and ensure the sustainability of the business. In this booklet, we offer relevant and practical advice on creating a good and ergonomic working environment for office work.

Various types of offices Our world is constantly changing, therefore changes and trends also influence the office environment. The primary types of offices we can discuss are enclosed and open plan offices, but also home offices and offices located on production floors. Before designing workstations and choosing the type of office, the employer has to consider the nature of work and activities that will be performed there as well as take into account suitability and specifics of the environment.

Enclosed office The enclosed office comprises of separate rooms, i.e. workstations are distributed between separate rooms. This solution has several advantages: preservation of greater privacy and easier arrangement of workstations to satisfy the employees’ needs. If there are only one or two employees in one room, it is quite easy to find comfortable solutions and arrive at compromises. Private/shared office system should be preferred in organisations where the work process requires confidentiality, more privacy, concentration and mental work.

Open plan office The underlying idea of the open plan office is that it should promote cooperation between employees. Open offices are currently quite popular that has allowed to conduct research into this type of workplace organisation. Research has revealed both positive and negative aspects of this type of office. The employer may prefer the idea of an open plan office because it offers saving opportunities on rooms and thereby helps cut costs. However, the open plan office solution has come under considerable criticism because employees are having hard time accepting this concept. Depending on the nature of work, an open plan

4 | THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK


office may cause a significant decline in productivity. Important concerns are disturbing noise, tight space, not much privacy and limited opportunities to create a workstation that meets the needs of an individual employee. It is advisable for the employer to initially think through who will be sharing the open plan office in future. What are the duties and nature of work of the employees sharing the office and are they compatible? A setting where salespersons, whose work requires constant talking, and accountants, whose work requires concentration, share the same room cannot be considered an appropriate and productive work environment. Secondly, the employer should think about the layout of the room and placement of workstations. Although open plan office is seemingly spacious, the employees should be left room for circulation. In order to secure the employees’ sense of security and wellbeing, the workstations should be placed in a way that respects their privacy. Partitions, shelves etc. to section off personal space of an employee can be of great help. In addition to the above, it is important that employees agree upon rules. An open plan office brings together different people and individuals, and therefore it is necessary to come to agreements between the parties. These rules should cover such topics as avoidance of excessive noise (agreements concerning talking with each other and on the phone) and taking co-workers into consideration and respecting each other’s work. Certainly, the working environment should support mutually agreed rules and vice versa. For example, a rule that forbids talking on the phone and having short consultations with co-workers in an open plan office environment is not applicable if employees have no other place to go and have the necessary talks (telephone booth, meeting room or other). The employer should carefully plan a work environment with very few distractions where employees would feel comfortable and can work productively. In general, open space fits better organisations where the work process requires fast exchange of information and tight teamwork.

Home office Remote working and home offices are gaining popularity. However, the employer has to be aware that occupational health and safety rules must be followed also in a home office. The health and health care of employees is important regardless of the specifics or place of work. The role of the employer is to design and furnish a workstation so that occupational accidents and damage to health are avoided and occupational health and safety requirements are complied with in every possible work situation. This means that the employer must ensure work conditions that comply with occupational health and safety requirements when the employee is doing remote work. The employer has no right to delegate its obligations and responsibilities to the employee. Thus, the employer is not allowed to make an arrangement with the employee that the employee will work as is suitable to him/her and that the employee himself/herself is responsible for possible consequences. THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK | 5


Remote working has many positive aspects; however, the employer must take into account possible risks, e.g. poor ergonomics of the workstation, insufficient lighting, accident risks, extended time working alone, insufficient contact with co-workers, extreme flexibility in regard to working time and other psychosomatic risk factors. It is so much easier for an employee to work outside an office if he/she is supported by clear management, communication and technical solutions and remote working rules are in place in the company. It is reasonable to fix specific arrangements and rules set by the employer in writing in an agreement on remote working between the employer and the employee. The employer must take into account that acquisition, installation and maintenance of tools and equipment is usually the employer`s responsibility. The employee must take care of and use tools and equipment in compliance with the rules established by the employer. If there is no ergonomic working environment in the employee´s home, the employer together with the employee has to find a way to create appropriate conditions. When furnishing a home office, the employer is advised to consult with the Estonian Tax and Customs Board about taxation.

Office on production floor Often there are single office workstations in a production environment. In such cases, it should be determined whether the office workstation is sufficiently separated from the production floor and whether production-related risk factors, such as noise, dust, chemicals etc. influence the workstation. Regardless of the fact that the workstation is close to production, the requirements established for office work must be followed and, if necessary, a solution should be found to separate the workstation from the production environment. To separate the production and office environments, a double door, door lock, windows that insulate noise or other materials that insulate noise should be used. There was an office in the middle of a professional kitchen that was separated from the kitchen space only with a low partition wall. The office space was open in the upper part and everything that happened in the kitchen influenced the office environment – noise caused by kitchen equipment could be heard in the office and the office was exposed to temperature changes and smells from the kitchen. If placement of an office in production cannot be avoided, it must be ensured that activities in production should not influence the office environment.

General requirements A workstation has to be designed so that the employee can change his/her position and find a comfortable work position. Free space around a workstation must be ensured to allow ample room for free movement. Workrooms must be sufficiently high and spacious to enable employees work without damaging their health. A workroom must have airspace of at least 10 m3 (when estimating airspace, the height of the room is deemed to be 3.5 m) per an employee. To find volume, the length, width and height of the room must be measured and then multiplied by each other. We would like to draw your attention to the

6 | THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK


fact that these are minimum requirements, not the suggested size of a workroom because this is a quite small area. To create a good work environment, the employees should be involved in the creative process, i.e. it is reasonable to put in place a plan where the agreed conditions are described in cooperation with employees. Involving employees provides an opportunity to get information on what kind of workstations are considered good and inspiring for them. It should be taken into account what the requirements arising from the work environment or specifics of work are and what the employees` needs (incl. specifics of employees) are and how to combine these requirements. Another aspect that must be considered is what tools are to be used and how to avoid possible damage to health.

Lighting in the workplace Light sources in the workplace are general lighting or combined general lighting and spot lights. Natural light in the workplace is good but it may not ensure even and stable lighting. Hence, when discussing lighting solutions, we refer to artificial lighting. Lighting in a room must take into account the nature of work and visual acuity of employees and it must be adequate to provide sufficient illumination of work surfaces and necessary contrast of surfaces that are in the employees` field of vision. Part 1 «Indoor work places» of standard EVS-EN 12464-1 «Light and lighting. Lighting of work places» should be taken as guidance. The standard requires luminance of the work surface of a computer workstation to be 500 lx and 300 lx in close proximity. If necessary, luminance of a workstation must be increased to correspond the employee`s age or health condition. The position of the screen in relation to light sources and the lighting of the room influence significantly the employee`s health. Light sources falling into the eye or reflecting from the screen disturb the employee, force him/her to work in an uncomfortable position and may cause reduction of visual acuity. Possible reflection of a light source on the screen must be avoided and light-regulating window treatments must be installed. If there are disturbing light sources, they have to be redirected, limited or diffused or the position and angle of the screen has to be adjusted. Glass partitions, wall covering materials and work surfaces may also reflect light in a disturbing manner. Non-reflective surfaces are preferred in the employee`s field of vision (for example matt desks).

Noise In an office environment, noise is a factor that disturbs concentration and is tiring. Usually no office equipment makes such loud noise that could cause hearing damage to employees. An exceptional situation may be if an office workstation is placed in the same room as production where loud noise is generated (for example, a saw with its noise level exceeding 85 dB). In such cases, the office workstation must be changed. Various activities may cause noise in an office – for example, a loud phone ring, talking on THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK | 7


the phone, discussions between or short meetings with co-workers, but also equipment, listening to music, people moving around etc. Loud noise is a big concern in open plan offices or offices where many people work together in the same room. Background noise influences the attention capability of employees, causes additional stress in employees and reduces their productivity. Therefore, a noise problem in an office must be dealt with and a solution to reduce noise must be found. There are different ways how to reduce excessive noise. Hence, when designing rooms, several factors, such as who will work and which work tasks will be performed in a particular room and whether they are compatible must be taken into account. If necessary, noise insulating materials and partitions can be used. It is possible to reduce the level of noise by imposing various rules, such as talking on the phone is allowed only in designated places, meetings must be held in the meeting rooms, music can be listened to with earphones etc. Earphones are also one of the solutions to reduce noise.

Interior climate in the workplace Interior climate, including ambient temperature, air humidity and speed of airflow must be comfortable for the performance of work duties and the supply of fresh air to workstations must be ensured. Thermal comfort is an important factor in ensuring employees‘ satisfaction that influences their productivity. Research shows that a large number of office employees are not satisfied with their thermal environment. A human`s thermal comfort is mainly influenced by air temperature; however, important factors are also relative air humidity, air flow speed, the person`s level of physical activity and the thermal properties of his/her clothing. People often have different opinions about comfortable air temperature depending on several circumstances. However, the proportion of people not satisfied with thermal comfort is smaller if air temperature in an office is between 19-23 °C in a cold season and 22-24 °C in a warm season. Airflow speed in a workplace must be kept as low as possible (below 0.15 m/s in a cold season and below 0.25 m/s in a warm season). Air from a ventilation system or conditioning equipment should not blow directly on the employee. In such cases, a workstation must be moved to some other place. Relative air humidity is an important interior climate factor that influences comfort and well-being of employees in an office. Too dry air irritates the mucous membrane of eyes, noise and throat and causes discomfort for those wearing contact lenses. This is why appropriate relative air humidity in an office setting is between 40-60 %. Humidification of dry air in a room during the heating period must be a well thought through and professional process because excessive relative humidity may cause the spread of health-damaging organisms (including mould, fungi, bacteria) that may lead to allergies and diseases in humans. Dryness of eyes can be relieved with eye drops or artificial tears. Insufficient supply of fresh air at the workplace causes discomfort and impairs the concentration and performance of employees. In case of suspicion, it is reasonable to have

8 | THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK


the ventilation system inspected and, if necessary, increase the speed of air exchange. Measuring the carbon dioxide concentration in the workplace during a working day can be of help. If the concentration of carbon dioxide is high, air exchange must be improved. As a temporary solution, windows should be opened during breaks; however, it must be taken into account that opening the windows is likely to change the room temperature and there is a risk of draft.

Accident risk In 2016, 89 occupational accidents happened in an office setting. 16 of these accidents caused a serious physical harm, usually a fracture. The maximum number of days of incapacity for work due to an occupational accident was 125. Thus, in an environment, such as an office, that seems safe, occupational accidents can happen and may cause absence from work for several months. Occupational accidents mostly happen in passageways; however, furniture, doors and glass partitions and items fixed to the ceiling or the wall are also among the causes of occupational accidents. Anyone can slip or trip regardless of the activity and their age. A simple way to avoid accidents is to follow the advice – do not rush and make sure you look in front of you when walking. Falls caused by slipping in an office setting are mainly related to slippery floors. Floors become slippery because they are washed, snow is brought in with footwear or water is spilled on the floor. Usually people do not work 24 hours in an office, which makes it possible to clean the premises outside the employees’ working time. This helps avoid employees walking over a freshly washed floor. If cleaning is done just before the beginning of a working day, it must be taken into account that the floor must dry out before the arrival of employees. If cleaning is done at the same time while other people are working, then low humidity cleaning method must be used or the floor must be dried. If necessary, a warning sign must be put out to inform people of the possible wet and slippery floor. A risk situation was caused because a corridor was washed at an unusual time, before noon, because of an earlier decision to clean the floor before the arrival of guests. The employees were not aware of this situation and there was no sign to warn against wet floor. An employee walked in an interior corridor over a freshly washed slippery floor and fell on his right side, partly against the wall. The company providing the cleaning service should have put out a sign "Attention! Wet floor!". There was no warning sign when this occupational accident happened. The accident resulted in contusion of the employee`s right buttock and thigh area and caused incapacity for work for 10 days. The floor may become slippery due to weather conditions. If it snows or is muddy outside, employees may bring water or snow with their footwear, clothes or umbrellas indoor and make the floor wet and slippery. In order to avoid such situations, mats or carpets are cleaned or changed frequently must be placed at the entrances of the building. THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK | 9


An employee entered the building with snowy footwear, slipped on the PVC covered floor and fell. She was wearing her own high-heeled outdoor footwear that had snow attached to them. This occupational accident resulted in a talus fracture and caused incapacity for work for 40 days. A risk of slipping occurs also when water or coffee spills on the floor. Water dispensers are usually installed in corridors. Employees come to take water from the dispenser and then return to their workstations. Water usually spills when a cup full of water is lifted up at the dispenser and the person walks with a full cup in his/her hand. If water spills, the floor must be immediately dried because other employees are unable to see the slipping risk. This situation is especially dangerous in case of PVC floor coverings. An employee was making his regular tour to check that the drinking water dispensers were in working order. He slipped and fell at one dispenser. Spilled water near the dispenser had made the floor cover slippery. This occupational accident caused a wrist fracture that made the person incapable for work for 39 days. A common reason for falling is usually that the person trips on a cable or a carpet or an item placed in the passageway that is not usually there. The cables are usually power cords of electrical equipment and network cables of computers. The first step in the prevention of such accidents is to consider upon designing workrooms where and which operations will be performed in the particular rooms. Wires can be installed along the walls or on the floor directly to the workstations to avoid the need to use extension cords later. Extension cords should not replace permanent wiring in an office. If it is not possible to avoid cables in passageways, they must be fixed correctly so that they would not obstruct movement. After a committee session, an employee stood up from behind the desk and was about to exit the meeting room when he tripped on a cable, fell and injured his left knee and right hand. Wires commonly limit movement when a projector is used. When the electricity project is prepared for the room, it is not always taken into account that the free-standing projector needs a power cord as well as a signal cable. To avoid a tripping risk, the best solution is to use a projector attached to the ceiling which has power supply coming from the ceiling and the images are transmitted through air. In a meeting room, attention must be paid to laptop power cords. If this aspect is not considered upon furnishing the room, power cords will be an obstruction and the last participants to join a meeting have to step over cables. A computer was attached to the projector for a meeting. The cable of the projector was connected to the socket in the wall and was about 50 cm high in the air above the floor. An employee wanted to get a better view of the image on the wall and began making his way to the other side of the computer. He saw the cables but decided to step over them. Unfortunately, his leg was caught in the cables and he fell hurting his knee on the stone floor and hitting his leg against the metal leg of the desk. This occupational accident caused incapacity for work for 66 days. Carpets are the most dangerous floor coverings if not fixed correctly and when the corners start to curl. People trip in places where the floor is uneven, i.e. where a ceramic plate or parquet is broken and missing. A good safety culture presumes that the employee

10 | THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK


informs the employer of such risk situations and the employer eliminates them as quickly as possible. On his way to receive mail, an employee tripped over a curled corner of a mud mat that he did not notice. He lost balance, instinctively grabbed the handle of the exterior door and fell on his knees. His body and head moved very strongly backwards which caused pain in his left side and in his neck. This occupational accident caused incapacity for work for 5 days. Thresholds also cause problems, especially in older reconstructed buildings. If thresholds are higher than usual, they must be marked to make them visible for the employees. Good lighting is important in all passageways, particularly in more dangerous places, such as stairs or where there are higher thresholds. Safety culture requires passageways being kept free of any boxes and packages. If a box of goods is brought into a room, it must be placed in its place right away and not left in a passageway thinking that I would deal with it later or somebody else would take care of it and put it in its right place. An employee tripped on a threshold when leaving his colleague`s office and fell with his right shoulder against the cast iron radiator on the opposite wall of the corridor. This fall accident resulted in a humerus fracture. An employee walked along a corridor to another room to scan documents. He exited the room with his back to the entrance and fell on an empty cardboard box. The employee fractured his wrist. When taking the stairs, the risk to lose balance is higher than when walking on an even surface. Special attention must be paid when the person holds something in his hand that makes focusing on the stairs and keeping balance more complicated. A person cannot hold on to the handrail when carrying a laptop, documents or a coffee cup. It is reasonable to avoid speaking with a mobile phone or reading papers when walking on the stairs because the person is then focused on talking or reading and does not pay attention to the stairs. An employee was running out of time to get from one meeting to another and he had to hurry. When descending the stairs, he focused on the mobile phone and failed to notice when the stairs ended. Due to hurrying and distracted attention, he placed his left foot in an unnatural position. The occupational accident ended in a fractured toe and caused incapability for work for 30 days. THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK | 11


There are incidents where office walls, doors and windows have caused accidents. Glass doors and walls are dangerous. Glass walls and doors must be made of safe material or protected against breaking and must be clearly marked. Although it can be expected that people who work in the office every day know where the doors and walls are and are careful when moving around, it is not always so. Glass surfaces must be marked at the eye level so that they are promptly and well visible. The marking should not be too small or fade away because it blends in with the background. When planning marking it must be taken into account whether children or persons with special needs visit the room (for example, partially sighted persons, persons in wheelchair). This may mean that the surfaces have to be marked at a lower level or a stronger contrast must be ensured. An employee wishing to enter a room with glass walls and a glass door hurt his head against the closed glass door. The cleaning company that had cleaned the room earlier had removed the warning sign and a new sign was not installed. This caused an open wound of the right eyebrow. Windows can be dangerous if something is placed in front of a window, e.g. a desk, and it is hard to open or close the window. In such situations, it is impossible to open or close the window standing on the floor and people tend to climb up on an office chair with wheels, and then onto the desk. Stepping on a chair with wheels is very dangerous because a slight sideways movement will cause it to move and the person standing on the chair will lose his/her balance. An employee had to climb on the windowsill to close the window. When coming down from the windowsill the employee stepped on the chair, which fell over, and the employee sustained a strong blow to his nape. He also hurt his left leg during the fall. When placing office desks in a workroom, free space must be left to allow access to the workstation. This photo shows that the placement of desks allows around 40 cm for access, which is clearly not enough for safe and comfortable walking. If the desks had sharp corners, moving through between them would be even more complicated. When using furniture with drawers it is worth to pay attention that the drawers are not left in a drawn-out position. Co-workers may not notice a drawn-out drawer and can trip on it. When searching for documents, an employee tripped on a drawer unit and fell. The occupational accident resulted in a toe fracture that caused incapability for work for 48 days.

12 | THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK


Occupational accidents have happened when using an office chair. Some basic suggestions. Before sitting down on the chair make sure that the chair is under you and has not rolled away. When sitting down on the chair avoid bending and twisting your body too much and leaning backwards. It is safer to sit at an office desk so that your feet rest on the floor. If you need to get something from a higher shelf, a step-on ladder instead of an office chair must be used. An employee opened the barrier to allow a client leave the company`s territory. He stood up from his chair and leaned towards the window. The office chair remained behind the employee and when he sat back down on the chair, it moved and he fell and hit his head against the metal leg of the chair. In offices, falling items are a possible source of risk. Such items may be poorly fixed to the wall or the ceiling or carelessly placed on some piece of furniture. The photo shows a ceiling where one of the boards is not firmly fixed. As the light fixture is attached to the board, both the ceiling board as well the light fixture may fall on an employee. An employee took a pack of paper from a cupboard. He closed the cupboard door and started to return to his workstation. At that moment the cupboard fell from the wall and hit the employee`s shoulder. The occupational accident ended in an upper arm contusion that caused incapacity for work for 10 days. An employee was handing office supplies to a co-worker from a shelf. The shelf shifted slightly and a ventilator fell from the shelf to the face of the employee.

Electricity An office environment and electricity are inseparable. Usually electricity poses a problem when there is no power and some pieces of equipment or light fixtures do not work in an office. This seemingly invisible part of an office is also important from the safety aspect. Electricity may cause an electric shock or a burn but also a fire or an explosion. The responsibility of the employer is to design and furnish a workstation so that it is possible to avoid occupational accidents and damage to health, which also includes protection of employees from the risk of electric shock because of a direct or distant contact. Protection is primarily ensured by insulation of parts that conduct electricity or are delineated. THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK | 13


To prevent an electric shock, the easiest way is to regularly conduct a visual check of electrical equipment and installations to identify injury as early as possible. If it is discovered during an inspection that the body or power cord of a piece of equipment is damaged, it should be forbidden to continue working with the equipment and the person competent to maintain the equipment must be notified of the injury. The same procedure must be undertaken with pieces of equipment with parts (e.g. adapter) warmer than usual. When an electrical cord is inspected, it is examined whether there are incisions in the insulation and it is not broken due to wear or damaged under load. To avoid damage to power cords, the general requirement is not to pull the plug by holding the wire but to take hold of the plug. If you pull by the wire, it may tear close to the plug and parts that conduct current lose insulation. This is true if you see coloured wires near the plug. If you pull by the cord, the plug may break and inserting a broken plug into the socket is an electricity hazard. Cords must be checked also when they are tied together or put into one single blanket. A connector attached to the wire should be intact (for example, not bent or fractured). The plug-in sockets must be fit for the connector. However, sockets that have the openings enlarged to allow larger contacts of newer connectors to fit into the sockets are still used. Sockets and switches must also be examined to ensure that they are firmly attached and intact. Sockets installed in the floor are becoming popular but concerns with this type of sockets are that there are no covers on the floor level or the covers are broken. Extension cords is an important topic in ensuring electrical safety. The best solution is not to use extension cords and connect all consumers of electricity to sockets installed in the wall or the floor. However, in many workplaces there is not a sufficient number of sockets and people use extension cords. If the consumers getting electricity through an extension cord are low voltage and close to the socket (e.g. spot light, screen) they should not cause any risk. In case of consumers of larger voltage (e.g. heaters) it must be ensured that the voltage in the extension cord does not exceed the voltage allowed for the cord.

14 | THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK


If discoloration of a plug, socket, wire or switch that indicates overheating is discovered during an examination, the use of this equipment must be stopped. When electrical equipment is moved to another place, it must be disconnected from the power network. It is advisable to follow this procedure if a piece of equipment has not been used for a longer period. An employee suffered from an electrical shock caused by a desk lamp when he switched it on. A flash of blue light was visible above the lamp and thereafter the employee experienced acute pain in his arm and shoulder area and he felt the arm muscles tense. The employee was incapable to work for 7 days after the electrical shock.

Office equipment Many different devices are used in an office setting and their careless use may cause damage to health. The devices used to perform work duties are computers, screens, printers, copier machines and paper shredders; however, usually coffeemakers, kettles, microwave ovens and other kitchen devices are also used in offices. When a new piece of equipment is taken into use, several steps must be taken. After reading the manual, it must be checked whether the device is intact and has all the parts required by the manufacturer. During the installation of the device, the conditions prescribed by the manual must be followed. Electrical devices may become hot when operated and therefore it is necessary to leave air space around them. It is worthwhile to review the company`s work environment risk analysis. If the risks related to the new device are not discussed there, the risk analysis must be amended. Safety manuals must also be reviewed and, if necessary, the existing manuals have to be amended or new ones have to be prepared. Safety instructions must include safety requirements established in the manual of the device. Although a device may seem safe to use at first glance, many requirements and suggestions regarding the device and how to safely operate it can be found in the manual. After the instruction is changed or a new instruction is prepared, the employees who will use the device must be instructed. If during the inspection of the device (either before taking a new device into use or daily) a defect is found in the device, it should not be used further. In order to avoid hurting yourself or others when repairing the device, only a competent person who has sufficient training, experience and knowledge is permitted to repair the device.

Computer A computer is the main office work tool. The choice of the computer depends on the employee`s nature of work. A personal computer set – computer, screen, keyboard and mouse – allows working at a specific workstation. A laptop allows working outside the regular workstation and is a good tool when the job is mobile. Also, several smart devices, such as tablets and smartphones, are used. Laptops as well as smart devices are THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK | 15


meant for short-term use and they do not allow ergonomic design of a workstation. At a permanent workstation, tools such as a separate screen, keyboard and mouse in addition to a laptop or smart devices must be used. The chapter about the design of a workstation discusses a computer workstation and its furnishing in more detail.

Paper shredders Paper shredders are designed for shre­ d­ding paper and if used unskilfully may harm the user`s health. This may happen if the user is caught between the shredder`s cutting knives. New machines have safety features that should prevent this from happening. There are different devices that stop the shredder when a hand is close to the feeder or when a hand touches the feed opening. The manual of the shredder describes what kind of a safety device is used and how to make sure that it is in working order. Another usual safety feature is blockage that stops the shredder if the door in front of the feeder of shredded material is opened. When the door is open, the shredder will not start. If the door is open and feeder removed, it is possible to touch the shredding knives from below and this poses a risk of cutting the hand. Regardless of safety features, hands must be kept away from the feed opening when shredding paper or other materials. Care should be taken if the person using the shredder has clothes with details that may be caught in the shredder`s feed opening, e.g. a scarf, tie or wide sleeves. Attention must be paid if the person has long hair or wears jewellery. If the paper shredder has also the functionality of a CD and plastic card shredder, the device has other openings or an additional device attached to the paper feed opening. If the shredder can be used to shred CDs and plastic cards, the usual requirement is that CDs and plastic cards are fed one by one. The manual also explains how many sheets may be fed into the particular shredder. The shredder should not be cleaned with a cleaner packed in an aerosol package and it is forbidden to spray anything near the shredder when the shredder is working. The user must know how long the shredder is allowed to operate without stopping. Larger shredders usually have no limits but in case of smaller shredders the manual says when a break must be made or how many sheets are permitted to be shredded in a day. As with any other device, before beginning operating the shredder the employee must know how to use the machine (what the buttons do and signals mean).

16 | THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK


Printer Although printers are one of the safest office devices, some precautionary measures are suggested to be taken. Printers have hot surfaces and moving parts and they require electricity and chemicals to function. A laser printer toner contains fine powder that smells like plastic and its main components include ferric oxide and styrene compounds. The characteristics of the powder are explained in the safety data sheet prepared by the manufacturer. Usually, this powder does not cause any health risks when leaking into the work environment but may cause irritation of the respiratory tract that may lead to sneezing and coughing. This dust causes more problems for employees who suffer from respiratory tract diseases (e.g. asthma or bronchitis). It is advisable that employees with these ailments avoid maintaining and changing toner cartridges. If the skin is exposed to this powder, wash the powder off with soap and cold water. If the skin is exposed to the powder for a moment, it does not cause any damage; however, repeated contact may cause a rash. The powder is irritating when in contact with the eye. It is forbidden to rub the eye if exposed to the powder. The eye must be rinsed with water, preferably using a special eyewash station. If the powder gets into your mouth, immediately rinse the mouth. This powder leaks into the work environment usually when toner cartridges are changed. Therefore, it is suggested to take a cartridge out slowly. The risk is even higher if a used toner cartridge is shaken before putting it back into the printer. When disposing of empty cartridges attention must be paid that no powder leaks into the air. Some printers have carbon black collectors. If not changed in a timely manner, carbon black may leak into the printer and the air. A good safety feature is that the printer is switched off when the carbon black collector is full and it is possible to continue using the printer after it is replaced. If this powder has spilled on the printer or a desk, this small amount may be cleaned away with a cloth rinsed in cold water. In case of spillage of a larger amount, it is suggested to use a special vacuum cleaner or wipe the powder together and clean carefully with a damp cloth. A regular vacuum cleaner must not be used for this operation because static electricity can be created in the powder that may ignite dust in the vacuum cleaner (an explosion is also possible). It is advisable to wear gloves when handling toner cartridges and carbon black collectors and when cleaning the powder. During the use of a printer, oxygen and nitrogen particles are generated that create ozone as a result of reaction. If a printer is used uninterruptedly for a long time, a specific smell can be felt in the room. Although the amount of ozone generated is not usually so large as to influence health (e.g. itching of eyes), it is suggested to put the printer into a ventilated room or a room where nobody has a permanent workstation. Printers have turning rollers that move paper through the printer. The same rollers may drag along long hair and hanging jewellery. The manufacturers of ordinary office printers have installed sufficient safety features to avoid such accidents. The task of the users is to monitor that these safety features exist and are fixed into place. Printers used to print papers of large format, such as building drawings are more dangerous. THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK | 17


Warmth must be created in laser printers to engrave the toner powder into the paper. After a laser printer has operated more than several minutes, the details within the printer have turned so hot that they may cause a burn. If after some time it is necessary to change a toner cartridge or remove a paper jam, the printer must be let to cool down first. Office work does not involve only the use of various devices. Occupational accidents have happened also when using common office supplies that proves that attention must be paid when doing any work. An employee checked invoices. He lifted a paper up and scratched his left eyeball with it. The eye started to hurt and water and it was impossible to keep the eye open. The accident resulted in cornea abrasion that caused incapacity for work for 12 days. An employee injured the small finger of his left hand with the metal clasp of a folder when filing documents. This resulted in a cut that needed stitches in the emergency room. When measuring the size of a marketing poster a metal measuring tape was used. The measuring tape slipped from the employee`s hand and cut into his finger. This resulted in an open cut of the finger and caused incapacity for work for 5 days.

Placement of workstations in an office A workstation is comprised of screen equipment and necessary hardware and software, an office chair and a desk and, if necessary, document folders and other supplies and the ambient environment with respective heating and cooling equipment, windows and circulation passageways.

Figure 1. When placing workstations it is advised not to place furniture on the hatched areas.

When designing computer workstations for an existing room it is suggested to begin with drawing the plan of the room or obtain drawings of the room that show all structures and

18 | THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK


objects in the room, including walls, columns, windows and existing radiators. The first step is to determine the areas where furniture cannot be placed to allow necessary space for circulation and access to the windows. It is suggested to leave free (see Figure 1): • • • •

a 50 cm area in front of a window; 3 meters from the main entrance and 1-meter wide adjacent area; 1.5 metres from other doors and an area of 50 cm on the sides of the doors; 50 cm around a radiator.

The next step is to create a plan for each computer workstation that takes into account the needs of the employee and his/her work duties. A workstation comprises necessary interior design elements such as a desk, an office chair, cupboards and chairs for guests. Ample free space must be allowed around furniture for moving around the workstations and for sitting down and standing up without obstructions. When designing a workstation allow at least: • a 55 cm wide free space in front of a desk or a chair intended for visitors; • a 55 cm wide free space to access the workstation; • a 75 cm wide free space on the side of the desk where the office chair stands; • a 100 cm wide free space on the side of the desk where the office chair stands if there are cupboards or shelves behind the employee (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. Requirements of space for moving around different workstations.

Depending on the specifics of the rooms, the workstations of employees who communicate often are placed close to each other. It is reasonable to place the workstations of employees who receive guests close to the entrance or create a separate (mobile) workstation for that purpose. It is suggested to plan as many workstations close to the windows as possible. Windows are preferred because of the view and light they provide. Workstations should be placed so that when a person is sitting behind a screen the windows are not directly in front of or behind the workstation. A window within the field of vision of an employee can blind him and a window behind the employee may cause reflection of light on the screen. It is ideal to place a workstation perpendicular to a window so that light falls from right or left. Employees feel better if they face the entrance while sitting. Designing workstations is quite complicated and may give rise to disagreements. Therefore, considering various options and planning are relevant to finding the best solution.

THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK | 19


Design of a workstation A sitting position may cause extensive muscle strain in upper back, shoulders and arms. Although muscles tire in any position, there are better and healthier sitting positions to take into account when designing a workstation. When working with a keyboard that is on a surface higher than the elbows, the employee’s shoulders are often in a raised position. When the lower back is supported and shoulders are free, the optimal height of the keyboard and the mouse is at the height of the elbow or a little lower Figure 3. Musculoskeletal system tires less if – the shoulders and wrists must be in the most the keyboard is placed at the same level as the neutral position. If the keyboard is placed on the elbow (B), the upper edge of the screen is on the same level as or a little lower than the eyes (C) desk and the desk is not adjustable, the height and the seat is adjusted to a height that allows of the desk described above must be preferred. to rest soles on the floor and most of the body If the height of the desk cannot be adjusted, the weight is distributed onto the seat (A). seat of the chair must be adjustable to the right position depending on the level of the keyboard. Smaller employees may need a leg rest. (See Figure 3) Office work may also cause neck pain and overload for eyes. To protect neck muscles and eye health, it is optimal to position the screen so that the central part of the screen is around 15° lower than the horizontal level of eyes and the screen surface is perpendicular to the glance (the lower edge of the screen is slightly slanted backwards). It may be more convenient for an employee wearing multifocal glasses if the screen is positioned lower. It is suggested to position a screen further away than closer, i.e. at least 51 cm or within the motion range of the arm. If reading the text on the screen is easy, the screen is not too far away and eye muscles tire less. If the computer programs allow it, increase the size of the on-screen text. At a workstation where the person mostly works both with the keyboard and documents , a keyboard drawer is a popular choice. In such cases, documents spread out on the desk do not disturb working with the keyboard and the mouse and vice versa. A suitable keyboard drawer can accommodate both the keyboard and the mouse (width >70 cm, length >25 cm). When using a keyboard drawer, the arms must be in an appropriate position and supported. Documents can also be placed into a special document holder attached to the side of the screen or between the screen and the desk. When trying to find a comfortable position the problem may lie in insufficient space for legs under the desk. The reason is

20 | THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK


CORRECT POSITION

WRONG POSITION

usually the items stored under the desk, such as a drawer unit, boxes, wastebasket etc. Thus, the space under the desk should not be used as a storage space and there must be sufficient free space under the desk. Concurrent use of two screens is a popular solution at a computer workstation; however, the problem is how to position the screens. If a workstation has one screen, the screen is positioned in front of the employee so that he/she does not have to turn sideways, meaning that the employee`s head is in a neutral position, whereas with two screens the person has to turn his/her head frequently. The placement of screens should reduce the need to turn the head, the range of turning the head and increase the time the head is in a neutral position when working. If an employee uses mostly one screen during working time, it must be placed in front of the employee as shown in Figure 4. The second screen is placed to left or right as the employee prefers as close to the main screen as possible. If two screens are used almost

Peamine kuvar

Figure 4. Placement of two screens at a workstation depends on the length of time spent using the particular screen

THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK | 21


for the same length of time or it is impossible to determine which is the main screen, the sides of the screens are positioned in front of the user. This way the person does not have to turn his/her head left or right very often. It may be more convenient to turn the body along with the chair instead of the head when changing the screen. The upper edges of both screens are positioned at the same height. Often two screens are used, where one is a large screen and the other is the screen of a laptop. This means that the screens are positioned at different levels and in addition to turning the head, the person has to rise and lower his/her head. So, if there is a need to use two screens at a workstation, then a good solution is to use two large screens. WRONG POSITION

WRONG POSITION

Using a laptop may be quite convenient for a short time. However, it is not possible to design a workstation ergonomically only with a laptop because a laptop is not a suitable device for a long-term work. A laptop screen is small and positioned quite low forcing the person to hold his/her head forward and turn it downwards which will cause bodily discomforts in future. Working a long time uninterrupted in this position affects adversely both the spine as well as the neck. When working with a laptop a frequent problem is supporting the arms which may lead to discomfort in shoulders and arms. A laptop allows to move about and work in different locations (behind a desk, in a coffee shop, on a couch, beanbag etc.), however, working long-term in a bad position may damage health. It must be understood that working on a couch or in an armchair has the same effect in terms of time. Consequently, changing the place of work does not necessarily mean that the working position is better or that the negative effect on human health is reduced. There are many options for using a laptop at a workstation in the right way: a laptop dock that allows to attach the laptop quickly to the screen, an additional keyboard and a mouse.

22 | THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK


Auxiliary devices can be attached to the laptop without a special dock and wireless devices are convenient to use (e.g. a wireless mouse and keyboard). As an alternative to an additional screen, it is possible to place the laptop higher so that the screen is at a suitable level to the eyes (the central part of the screen is ca 15° lower than the horizontal eye level). Although there are special platforms for raising laptops up, also items at hand can be used for that purpose.

An appropriate office chair One of the most frequent complaints of employees is lower back pain. While sitting, it is important that the employee`s back rests on the backrest of the office chair. If this is not so, the lumbar area or the natural curve of the back is not supported. The smaller the angle between the thighs and the body, the bigger is the pressure on the spinal discs. To prevent and reduce discomfort, an office chair must meet three ergonomic requirements: Figure 5. A larger angle between the thighs and the body reduces lower back discomfort. • the position and angle of the backrest must be adjustable; • the backrest of the chair must support the lumbar area; • the seat of the chair must be adjustable to slope forward. We suggest choosing an office chair that meets the requirements of standard EN 1335. The conformity marking of the product (CE) and a reference to the standard must be found on the chair. The chair should have the following features: • depth, angle and height of the seat are adjustable for the user; • the chair enables sustainably perform duties and free movement without the need to stand up; • the chair has adjustable armrests that can be removed, if necessary (it is required, if the armrests do not allow to move the chair under the desk); • the cover material of the seat and the backrest do not cause perspiration.

THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK | 23


Discomforts caused by the employee`s body position The main problem when designing an ergonomic workstation is the employee`s body positon. Although a sitting position is more convenient than a standing position, sitting for a long time may eventually cause pain and discomfort. Figure 6 depicts the most frequent discomforts of musculoskeletal system that office employees suffer from.

Sitting reduces the metabolism of the spinal discs and may lead to degenerative changes in the discs over time. Strained back muscles and shoulders often result in pain and discomfort. Disturbed circulation in lower extremities may lead to oedema in feet. Hence, there is no one and only preferred sitting position because in every position muscles are strained and tire over time. To recover from fatigue, the workstation and organisation of work must allow changing the body position. If duties require constant sitting, a workstation with alternative sitting and standing options is a suitable solution (Figure 6). It is possible to create a workstation with an option of standing and sitting in different ways. The easiest and most convenient solution is to use electronically regulated desks. An alternative is to use auxiliary devices to raise the desk but in that case changing sitting and standing positions may be more difficult because it requires the rearrangement of the workstation. There is also a possibility to design some standing workstations in the workplace that the employees interchange. This solution also requires moving things around but auxiliary devices (e.g. a workstation with a computer or a dock) can make it easier for the employee. The optimal height of the desk of a computer workstation to be used in a standing position is slightly lower than the height of the elbow of the user and attention must be paid that the screen is at a suitable height.

24 | THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK


Importance of breaks Good ergonomic design of a workstation increases productivity and creates an environment for reduced complaints and discomfort related to eyes, vision and musculoskeletal system. Even if a workstation is designed appropriately, the employee is still in a static (forced) position that may cause discomfort, health problems and reduce productivity. Consequently, organisation of work that requires the employee to leave the workstation from time to time and breaks help to ensure the wellbeing of the employee and reduce fatigue. If working with screen equipment cannot be exchanged with other tasks, the employee has to take regular breaks that last at least 10% of the time spent on working with screen equipment. The most common regime is 15-minute breaks after working 2 hours with screen equipment. These breaks should be taken more often, if the employee has complaints and in case of a very heavy mental workload and strong eye and muscle fatigue. In such cases, it is suggested to take at least a 6-minute break after working for an hour. After sitting continuously for 30 minutes, the person should stand up from his/her workstation and stretch. Breaks have a good effect on the eyes. The rule 20-20-20 makes it easier to remember, i.e. every 20 minutes look for 20 seconds at least 20 feet (equal to around 30,48 cm) or 6 meters away. Suggestions for an employee who works with screen equipment: Change your sitting position often, and, if possible, stand up and move around. If you feel discomfort, take a break. Stretch and extend your fingers, palms and arms. To help recover from fatigue, frequent and short breaks are more effective than longer and infrequent breaks.

Psychosocial risk factors It is the employer`s responsibility to ensure the employees’ good psychosocial working environment. This is not important only for the fulfilment of legislative requirements. Employees who feel good at work contribute more to the business of the company – they are more creative and committed and have higher performance results than stressed employees. Hence, a good psychosocial work environment supports the success of the company. A bad psychosocial working environment causes stress in employees, reduction of motivation and a burnout syndrome that disturbs the work and damages the reputation of the company. To ensure a good psychosocial work environment, it must be first taken into consideration which psychosocial problems may occur in the work environment. It is always more efficient and cheaper to prevent problems with good planning, management and work organisation than to deal with adverse consequences later. There may be very different psychosocial risk factors or aspects of work organisation that cause stress in employees depending on the working environment. In order to better understand the psychosocial risk factors, risk sources are often categorised: • Demands made to the employees exceed their capability to cope with them. Problems may be related to an employee`s insufficient skills to perform the work duties or lack of THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK | 25


working time or unsuitable tools to achieve the objectives. For example, in a situation where the work has to be done quickly and with good quality, or high quality work is required, the employee has to work overtime because of lack of skills or time. • The employees do not have enough say in their job. For example, a situation where the employees cannot set their work pace or decide when and how to perform their duties. • An employee cannot rely on the help and support of the managers or co-workers. Employees expect and value a good team and cooperation. Social relationships, social support and acknowledgement by others are very important for people. Therefore, it must be thought through whether work is done as a common team in the company, whether and how co-workers are acknowledged for good work and help, and whether employees are supported sufficiently in resolving negative situations. • Job related relationships are strained. A frequent problem is a conflict between coworkers and/or departments. These conflicts are usually related to the organisation of work and communication problems, also competition between co-workers or departments (e.g. a competition between co-workers to find out who is the best salesman). As a consequence of unresolved conflicts, a workplace bullying may occur in which suffer those who participate in an abusive conduct as well as those who witness such situations. • Employees do not know exactly what their responsibilities and liability are, duties are unclear and/or contradictory. For example, a situation where the direct manager gives employees information and duties that do not correspond to the common work organisation and conduct. Research shows that one of the strongest stressors for employees is unclear duties. Uncertainty is usually caused by poor work organisation, constant changes and lack of communication in the company. • Uncertainty in an organisation, as employees are not involved in changes introduced to the work organisation and employees are not given sufficient information about changes, i.e. they are not explained what these changes bring about and why they are necessary. A constantly changing environment forces companies to change, but it must be done clearly and mindfully – a lack of a clear vision and goal increases uncertainty. Changes must be managed. In addition to unclear managerial decisions, the current economic situation and temporary work may cause uncertainty in employees.

Occupational stress and burnout Occupational stress is a stress situation where a person feels a conflict between the challenges of the work environment and his/her coping opportunities. Some occupational stress may be motivational and constructive but if stress is too severe or it lasts for a long time, the organism tires and the individual is unable to cope with the stress – his/her body

26 | THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK


is exhausted and mental and physical health problems occur, such as cardiovascular diseases, metabolism disorders, musculoskeletal system disorders, anxiety and depression and malignant cancers, which are associated with occupational stress. If it is possible to set limits for other work environment risk factors and offer clear risk management instructions, the situation is more complex in case of job stress – stress and associated damage depend on several factors, including gender, age, skills, knowledge, previous experience, health status of the person and social support. For example, young employees are receptive to job stress because their ideals and ambitions are high but they lack previous experience that would help them to cope with stress better. A situation that causes uncomfortable stress for one person may be invigorating for another; one day a common duty may seem impossible due to problems in personal life or the relationships with co-workers influence the employee`s mood and performance. Consequently, it is important to know people well, be open and notice what causes excessive stress in employees. Excessive occupational stress influences the thinking, conduct and feelings of employees. For example, an employee may become anxious, easily irritable, introverted, careless, have concentration problems, difficulties in remembering things and making decisions. Fatigue, poor mood and relationship problems with co-workers indicate occupational stress. These signs should be noticed early and responded to because in the long run they may cause health damage. One stress sign is absence from work due to health problems.

The more stressed employees are over a long time, the more devastating their conduct will become. Burnout is a common result of a long-term stress that is reflected in a negative attitude towards work among other things. Burnout develops gradually in an environment of a constant excessive occupational stress. The first stage is the so-called honeymoon when the employee works with great commitment and enthusiasm, shows initiative and gives his/her maximum to the work. Long-term stress, if not alleviated by acknowledgement and support offered by co-workers or a more peaceful work period, lowers the energy levels and the employee tires. If this situation does not change, classical burnout symptoms will occur: THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK | 27


• the employee is exhausted (this may be physical and emotional exhaustion as well as exhaustion of the thinking process with disturbed memory, concentration, creativity etc.); • the employee is cynical and has a negative attitude towards the organisation and his/ her job; • the employee`s motivation has gone and his/her performance is poor. Burnout influences a growing number of employees in contemporary occupational life: high stress level, intensity of work and disappearance of the border between the job and personal life are significant burnout risk factors. Particularly at risk are employees whose job involves role conflicts and who are not supported enough in their work and who do not get enough feedback, whose work requires communication or taking responsibility. Good employees who are committed, competent and key persons in the organisation are those who mostly experience burnout. Usually the friends, family and co-workers are the first to notice a change in the conduct of the employee. For example, in a situation where an enthusiastic and friendly employee becomes passive and negative, the employer and co-workers should take this as a clear sign of burnout. The employee himself/herself sees the work in a distorted way and often does not understand that his/her attitudes towards the environment have changed, not the environment. A popular belief is that burnout is a personal problem, meaning that a person is burnt out because of his character flaws, conduct or general capabilities. In reality, burnout usually indicates deficiencies in the work environment and conditions. For an employer, a burnt-out person means that the efficiency of work and commitment to the organisation decreases, conflicts occur more often and the number of sick days and the staff turnover increases.

Workplace bullying Workplace bullying means that an employee is treated repeatedly, i.e. systematically and for a long time in an unpleasant or demeaning way so that he/she has difficulties to protect himself/herself. Workplace abuse usually begins with an unresolved conflict that grows into abusive behaviour. The supporting aspects of workplace abuse are stress in job, overload, lack of labour as well as direct contact with clients – these factors may cause misunderstandings, conflicts and aggressive behaviour. Abusive behaviour may involve causing inferiority or fear in the other party using occupational relationships or situations to that end. Bullying often involves the abuse of power, backbiting, public shaming or making it harder for the employee to work, e.g. not forwarding important job-related information to the person. Bullying may involve social isolation or ignoring the employee in work-related matters, e.g. the person is not given duties or the duties given are contradictory, without purpose and do not correspond to the employee’s position. Bullying can be classified as job related abuse that is directed

28 | THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK


towards the job and position and abuse related to the individual that is directed towards a certain person and the characteristics of that person. Abuse related to the individual is more harmful because the person feels it more personally and therefore it is harder to cope with. The abuser may be a co-worker (including a manager) as well as a client. Regular assignment of duties, supervision of work and provision of feedback to the employee, including negative feedback in a constructive manner is not considered workplace abuse. The consequences of bullying and job-related violence may be very serious and lead to a decrease in self-esteem, depression, sleep disorders and other stress-related health disorders. In more serious cases, the stress symptoms caused by abuse are similar to the posttraumatic stress syndrome that people experience after catastrophes and assaults which remain with the person for years after the incident. Social isolation, problems with the family, quitting or loss of work and the related financial problems may add to the abusive situation. Bullying should not be taken lightly and in case of signs of workplace abuse the employer has to deal with the situation (conduct an investigation and find solutions to the situation).

Prevention of psychosocial risks and creating a good work environment A good psychosocial work environment is created by work planning and competent management. Work duties, requirements for work and working time as well as the skills and capabilities of the employee must be in balance. An employee is more satisfied with work and his/her stress level is lower if he/she feels that the specific work and work environment suits him/her well. From the point of view of the organisation, an employee who feels good while working produces better results. One of the main needs of man is security; hence, creating security in the workplace is also an important aspect in creating a good work environment. The employee should be protected from various risks – risks as well as attacks that are related to the physical work environment and work process. Fear of various hazardous situations causes stress in employees. Based on the risk analyses, the employer has to determine how to manage different risks and thereby create a secure work environment. For example, in case of the risk of attacks and violent incidents, it is relevant to consider using security services and installing security buttons so that employees can quickly call help in a risk situation. In addition to creating appropriate conditions, the employer must teach the employees in which situations and how to call for help. It is reasonable to phrase rules and traditions that help to create a good work environment. The aim of traditions and conduct rules is generally to create a positive atmosphere and prevent unsuitable behaviour in the workplace.

THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK | 29


An example of good practice as defined by one company: 1. I respect co-workers, I know how to be grateful and acknowledge a good deed and the person who did the good deed. 2. I help a person in need of help. I dare to ask for help. 3. If I have disagreements with co-workers, I will talk with them about it. I do not let disagreements ruin good relations with co-workers. 4. I share information required for work with co-workers. 5. I keep my promises. If I am unable to keep my promises, I agree upon another solution. 6. I dare to make suggestions because a new idea may improve the daily work of the company. 7. I am open to innovations. I help to find new solutions, not cause new problems. Attention must be paid to instructing and training employees. The better the employees know how to work and are aware of the rules, the better results they will produce in their work. An employee is often thrown into untested waters to see whether he/she swims or drowns. This causes dissatisfaction and stress in the employee and makes him/her unable to work well. The employee should be taught the specific work process as well as general rules and instructions of the company so that he/she knows how to act in different situations. Equal treatment in the workplace is also important, i.e. the principle is that all employees are equal. Making exceptions for a certain employee without a visible reason or explanations is not considered good practice. It must also be taken into account that diversity is part of our lives, which means that differences should not be belittled and the employer has to deal with discrimination incidents in the workplace. Internal communication in a company is important for smooth work processes as well as avoiding misunderstandings, rumours, conflicts and uncertainty. Internal communication should be an acknowledged and strategic activity because it helps to create a relationship between the company and the employee. Communication has a key role to play in change management – timely sharing of information and explanations provide the employees with guidelines and help better understand the purpose of changes. It is also important for the employer to receive feedback from employees. Employees like when their opinion is valued, heard and taken into consideration. Involvement of employees increases their satisfaction with work and commitment and helps the company to be successful by employing innovative suggestions offered by employees. Supporting and acknowledging employees are components of a good psychosocial work environment. Acknowledgement shows the employee that his/her work is noticed and valued. There are different ways to acknowledge an employee, starting from thanking and praising to granting various bonuses. Noticing the efforts of employees and acknowledging them is appropriate at any time not only when making summaries. In addition to the

30 | THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK


acknowledgement by the manager, a good word and praise by a co-worker is an effective way to motivate employees. In complicated situations, employees expect support from the employer as well as coworkers. Resolving problems often seems much harder and stressful when the person has to deal with them alone than resolving them together. Support may be offered in the form of helping the employee with some duties as well as supporting the employee in conflict situations, including support following a conflict. In some companies, support persons are assigned who the employee can turn to for help. In larger companies support groups have been established for the same purpose. In some cases, the internal support might not be sufficient, for example if the individual is burnt out or suffers from workplace abuse, harassment or physical attacks. In such cases, it is reasonable to offer the employee an opportunity to consult specialists. Mental stress can be alleviated with sufficient rest time within a workday. Intensive work, disturbing noise and other environmental factors tire employees. To recover, employees must be given an opportunity to take short breaks within the working day when the employees can remove themselves from work and related noise to rest for a short time and switch themselves off the work environment. Setting aside the work process and work-related thoughts for a short time alleviates the employee`s stress and thereby improves his/her productivity. The keyword in resolving the conflict between work and family life is flexible work organisation. In stress prevention and reduction, promotion of healthy lifestyles is most important. For example, exercising is one of the most effective stress relievers. The employer can promote exercising, for example by promoting exercising in the workplace, organisation of different joint events and campaigns involving exercising or compensating the expenses that employees incur in relation to amateur sports. To promote a good work environment and the health of employees, it is very important to notice and respond to problems early.

THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK | 31


Biological risk factors Biological risk factors are microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi etc.), including genetically modified microorganisms, cell cultures and human endoparasites (human microflora) and other biologically active substances (e.g. pollen, hay dust, animal hair) that may cause an infectious disease, allergy or poisoning. In an office environment, the main contact point with biological risk factors is contact with co-workers or clients. Possible contact with animals and parasites is less likely. It is worth remembering that mould is a fungus (i.e. also a biological risk factor) that may cause damage to health when inhaled. If you see mould in an office, it must be removed, the cause of mould must be identified and measures must be taken to avoid reoccurrence of mould (e.g. processing surfaces with special chemicals). As mould may be harmful to health, specialists should be instructed on how to safely remove mould.

Disease prevention To avoid sick people from coming to and staying at work and infecting co-workers, in many companies opportunities have been created for employees to use paid free days or so-called health days or the sickness benefit is paid from the first day that an employee falls ill. Both measures give the employee an opportunity to recover at home when taken ill and avoid a situation where a sick person comes to work and infects others. In addition to the risk of spreading a disease, a sick person is less productive and makes more mistakes. Frequent washing of hands and disinfecting surfaces during the period when viruses spread is important. During the period of spreading of the flu virus, daily thorough cleaning is important because the flu virus remains live on hard surfaces 24-48 hours. If handwashing is not possible all the time, it is reasonable to use hand disinfectants. Before using a telephone or earphones that another person has been using, it is advisable to clean them first and also wash or disinfect hands after using somebody`s keyboard or mouse. In case of flu, employees that have contact with a large number of people could be given protective masks to avoid contact with the virus.

Vaccination A decision must be taken together with the occupational health doctor whether it is necessary and appropriate to vaccinate employees who have to communicate with a large number of people, such as client assistants. If the occupational health doctor considers vaccination necessary, the employer must bear the vaccination expenses. Vaccination is especially important if the employee works for example at the registration desk of a hospital where the concentration of sick people is higher than average. The employer can offer employees vaccination but cannot demand that employees let themselves be vaccinated if they do not wish to do so. Vaccination is important also when the employee is sent on a business trip to an exotic destination. Suggestions about vaccination are given on the travel vaccination page of the portal www.vaktisneeri.ee.

32 | THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK


Chemical risk factors Chemical risk factors constitute hazardous chemicals and materials that contain such chemicals handled in the company. Although office work and work with hazardous chemicals do not seem to have any connection, it cannot be presumed that the risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals in an office is unavoidable. In an office, contact with hazardous chemicals may occur when cleaning the screen, using a glue as well as removing lime scale from kettles or coffee makers and washing dishes. If the responsibilities of an office worker include also driving a car, the employee is very likely to be exposed to at least two hazardous chemicals – petrol or diesel fuel and window cleaner. If the responsibilities of an office worker include also cleaning the office, exposure to hazardous chemicals is quite certain. A data entry clerk drank tea that he had prepared (unknowingly) with water that contained lime scale remover that was in the kettle. The employee got an oesophagus burn. This occupational accident was caused because of the carelessness of the employee using lime scale remover. To avoid similar accidents, employees have to agree who is responsible for removing lime scale and how other employees are informed thereof. Attaching a stick-on note to the kettle helps to avoid such accidents. The floor covering was deep cleaned and waxed in a company. Old wax was removed and new layers of wax were applied to the floor. After some time several employees that worked nearby complained that they feel bad because of the wax smell. To avoid similar accidents, the cleaning procedure in a room where people work must be planned beforehand. The best solution is to clean an office using hazardous chemicals (deep cleaning of floors) outside the working hours.

What is a hazardous chemical and how to recognise it? A chemical with such characteristics that may damage the environment, health or property is considered hazardous. The package of a hazardous chemical carries the following marking (one or several pictograms). If even one chemical used in your office carries one of the pictures depicted below, the following information is also meant for you.

Chemical safety data sheet To learn about the characteristics of a chemical and its safe handling, the chemical safety data sheet must be obtained for every hazardous chemical used in the company. The THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK | 33


employer gets the chemical safety data sheet from the supplier (seller) and it must be in the Estonian language. The packaging of a hazardous chemical has information about the characteristics and handling requirements of the chemical but this may not be sufficient for the safe use of the chemical (e.g. the packaging is small and only limited information can be fitted on the packaging). The seller of the chemical is obligated to give the buyer the chemical safety data sheet and if it is not offered, you have to ask for it yourself. If an employer has obtained a hazardous chemical without a safety data sheet, it is forbidden to give such a chemical to employees because the requirements of safe handling and possible health risks of such a chemical are unknown. Chemical safety data sheets should be kept in an easily accessible place (if an accident happens or it is necessary to know the fire extinguishing measures or how to give first aid there is no time to search for the safety data sheet). For example, if an employee drinks water that contains lime scale remover, it is necessary to know how to give first aid, or if an employee`s skin is exposed to a chemical, it is necessary to know how to act in this situation. Access to safety data sheets during working time must be ensured (e.g. an employee wishes to check something or refresh his/her memory). During an internal inspection of the working environment it is advisable to review whether safety data sheets of all hazardous chemicals are present in the company. For example, a chemical is replaced with another substance but the safety data sheet has not been obtained for the new product.

Health examination The employer must organise health examination for employees whose health may be influenced by a work environment risk factor or the nature of work during the work process. The aim of health examination is to find out as early as possible and to prevent adverse impact of a work environment risk factor on the employee’s health. During health examination, the health status of the employee is assessed and based on the assessment, the suitability of the work environment and conditions for the employee is determined. The basis of health examination of the employee is the risk analysis of the work environment that should give information about the employee`s exposure to health risk factors. This means that the employer must conduct a work environment risk analysis during which the work environment risk factors are identified, their parameters are measured, if necessary, and the risks to the health and safety of employees are assessed. When assessing risks, it is important not only to take into consideration the presence of a risk factor but also to assess the likelihood of possible exposure to the risk factor and potential time of exposure and prepare applicable preventive measures. Health examination for office workers is usually organised because they work with screen equipment over 50% of working time. It is important to assess the percentage of working time an employee works with screen equipment during the risk analysis. Currently, it is hard to imagine an office worker who works with a computer less than half of working time. This means that generally office clerks have to undergo health examination. Health examination must include:

34 | THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK


• eye and vision examination, • examination of musculoskeletal system, especially to find out discomforts related to working in a forced position. The first health examination must be organised for an employee within the first month of employment and in future at the time set by the occupational health doctor, but no less than once in three years. Health examination for minor employees must be organised at least once in two years. If employees undergo a health examination because they work with screen equipment, health examination must also be organised when the employee demands it because of visual disorders or discomfort caused by working with screen equipment. If an employee wishes to visit an eye doctor because of reduced visual acuity although a year has not passed from the last health examination, the employer has to send the employee again to health examination although the next scheduled health examination is in two years. To organise a health examination, the employer has to provide the occupational health doctor with the work environment risk analysis, a list of employees sent to the health examination along with the description of exposure to risk factors of the employee in the work environment and the time the employee has worked in the particular position and the decisions of previous health examinations if these exist. The task of the occupational health doctor is to be a partner to the employer, i.e. in addition to conducting health examinations, they are to consult the employer in connection with the working environment and conditions and suggest improvement actions. Health examination is organised during working time and at the employer`s cost. If the employer sends an employee to a health examination, the employee has no right to refuse the examination. The Occupational Health and Safety Act imposes an obligation on the employee to undergo health examination organised by the employer. It is also forbidden for the employer and employee to make an agreement that when the employee does not wish to undergo health examination the employer will not arrange it. Before going to the occupational health doctor, the employee has to fill in the declaration of health. Often the employer distributes the employees the declaration of health so that THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK | 35


they can fill it in before going to health examination. This declaration contains information about the employee`s health which means that the data provided in the declaration are confidential. The employer must not collect the filled in declarations to forward them to the occupational health doctor. The employee has to take his/her declaration of health with him/her and give it personally to the occupational health doctor. The occupational health doctor makes a health examination decision based on the conducted health examination. The health examination decision is forwarded to the employer and it establishes whether the work environment and organisation of work in the company are suitable for the employee as well as proposals and suggestions for making changes. The occupational health doctor will not give the employee`s health data to the employer. The doctor provides information about health data solely to the employee, i.e. the doctor explains the employee the results of tests, gives an assessment to the person`s health status and introduces the employee the health examination decision. The employer must fulfil the decision issued by the occupational health doctor. If the occupational health doctor has decided that the specific working environment and organisation of work are not suitable for a particular employee, the employer must not allow the employee to continue working in this position. The employer has to adhere to the limits that the occupational health doctor has imposed, i.e. under which conditions the employee is allowed or not allowed to work. The suggestions provided in the health examination decision are not mandatory but advice for the employer. A suggestion may involve, for example, massage or rehabilitation. The employer must maintain health examination decision 10 years after the end of employment of the employee with the employer. The reason for the obligation to maintain health examination decisions that the employer may collect during or after the end of the employment of the employee is the need to prove that health examinations were organised and decisions were made (e.g. the employee is diagnosed with an occupational disease). An occupational health doctor maintains health examination decisions and related data for 75 years.

Reimbursement of the expense of glasses If during health examination it is found that the employee`s visual acuity has reduced, the employer has to acquire glasses for the employee to be used for the work with screen equipment or other sight correction devices or reimburse their expense upon agreement with the employee. The employee and the employer may agree that the employee acquires the glasses and the employer reimburses the expense. How the price of glasses is reimbursed in an organisation is established in the internal procedure rules of the employer (for example, establishing the maximum sum of reimbursement of expense of glasses or a separate sum for glasses and frames or other options). To avoid any misunderstandings regarding the reimbursement of expense of glasses, new employees that will work more than half of their working time with screen equipment must be introduced the company`s policy on reimbursement of the expense of glasses during induction. If this is not done, the employee may buy expensive glasses expecting

36 | THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK


the employer to cover the price in full without knowing that the employer has established a significantly smaller amount for reimbursement of the expense of glasses. Such misunderstanding causes stress and disappointment for both parties although it is easy to avoid with communication and instructions. When working out the procedure for reimbursement of the expense of glasses, the views of the Estonian Tax and Customs Board regarding reimbursement of glasses and taxation of fringe benefits should be consulted. If the glasses intended for work with screen equipment or other devices that correct visual acuity are used for activities not related to work, the proportions of these activities should be determined and the cost of the auxiliary device is only partly considered a business related expense. The proportion of non-business activity is considered a fringe benefit subject to fringe benefit tax. If the price of non-business proportion is paid by the employee, no additional tax obligations arise for the employer. The employer is not obligated to compensate the price of glasses regularly, meaning that the obligation arises when the visual acuity of the employee has changed. For example, if the company`s procedure for reimbursement of the expense of glasses reads: “An employee has the right of reimbursement of glasses once in three years“, then this is not a lawful condition. An employee has the right of reimbursement of the expense of glasses if during health examination it is determined that the employee`s visual acuity has changed. Consequently, if the visual acuity of the employee changes and he/she requires new glasses more often, the employer has to reimburse the expense of glasses more frequently. If the visual acuity of the employee is unchanged during three years, the employer has no obligation to reimburse the price of new glasses. The requirement of reimbursement of the expense of glasses is applied if the employer has sent the employee to health examination because the employee works with screen equipment (in general, if the employee works at least half of the time with screen equipment, i.e. works with screen over 4 hours a day or over 20 hours a week). Reimbursement of the price of glasses by the employer is not dependent on the length of employment. Reduction of visual acuity means that the visual acuity of the employee does not allow him/her to perform work duties and he/she needs auxiliary devices to do so. Based on that the employee (also a new employee, incl. during probationary period) has the right to be reimbursed the price of glasses.

First aid provider and organisation of first aid The employer has to carefully plan the organisation of first aid because the life and future health of a person may depend on skilfully provided and prompt first aid. The employer has to assign first aid providers from among the employees. The number of first aid providers depends on the size and location of the company. The principle is that first aid must be ensured in the workplace. Consequently, if work is organised in shifts or the company is located in different locations, first aid providers have to be assigned for every shift and THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK | 37


every location. The size of the territory, number of floors and number of employees must be taken into account. Assigning and training one first aid provider may not be sufficient to ensure availability of first aid in every work-related situation because the person assigned as the first aid provider may be absent from work either because of holiday, incapacity for work or other reason.

A first aid provider can be only an employee who has undergone appropriate training. The employer must organise training for the employee who will provide first aid no later than within one month after assigning the employee as the first aid provider. The initial first aid training must be at least 16 hours. Every three years the first aid provider must undergo refresher training (at least 6 hours). After the assignment of first aid providers, the employer must notify other employees who to contact if they need help. Information about the employees who know how to provide first aid must be displayed in a visible place. If first aid providers change in the company, these changes must be communicated to the employees. It is important that in case of an accident when quick response is necessary, the employee knows to whom to turn for first aid. In addition, emergency telephone number 112 and instructions on different methods of first aid (posters, leaflets and other informative materials) must be displayed in a visible place. First aid equipment must be easily accessible and clearly marked as required. The marking for the location of first aid equipment is a white cross on a green square. First aid equipment must be always available for all employees in the workplace. An unlocked cabinet or portable first aid box must be in a room that employees can easily access. It is not correct to keep first aid equipment in somebody`s office where the door is locked part of the time. It must also be ensured that no items are placed in front of a first aid cabinet that obstruct access to first aid equipment. A first aid cabinet or box must contain sufficient supply of first aid equipment at all times. A person must be assigned in the company who regularly checks the sufficiency of first aid equipment, their expiry dates and, if necessary, replace expired or missing equipment. This task may be assigned to the first aid provider. First aid equipment must be checked

38 | THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK


so that in case of an emergency, the equipment is complete and ready for use. In 2016, a working environment consultant saw a white wooden first aid cabinet with a red cross over it. The cabinet contained a bottle of Spritus Vini with expiry date in 1988 and Citramon tablets in cellophane with expiry date in 1989. What is amazing is that in almost thirty years nobody had taken a look into the first aid cabinet to check its contents. No medicinal products should be put into the first aid cabinet because an employee may not know whether these products are unsuitable for him/her or could cause allergy. Consequently, a person must carry the medicinal products he/she has to take with him/ her and not take medicine from the fist aid cabinet. There must be a designated room in the workplace where first aid can be provided and the victim can be kept until the arrival of medicinal assistance. A common rest area intended for employees can function as such a room. It is important that a person can lay down there.

Instruction and training Each new employee must be introduced the occupational health and safety rules. The volume and length of instruction depends on the nature of work and its complexity and dangers. Although office work may seem safe and straightforward, an employed employee must be instructed about these rules. For example, an employee who works with screen equipment must be explained what is an appropriate workstation and organisation of work and how to arrange an appropriate workstation. The instruction for the employee must be conducted by a competent specialist: partly by the working environment specialist and partly by the direct supervisor or mentor. The instruction must be conducted before the employee begins to perform his/her work duties and the instruction must be based on guidelines prepared and approved by the employer. The first step is the initial induction during which the new employee is given more detailed information about the business of the company and organisation of work in the company. An employee must be conducted an induction about the following: • work organisation in the company, rules of work organisation and legal acts regulating occupational health and safety; • measures taken to ensure occupational health and safety; • guidelines how to respond in case of risk of accident or occupational accident; • guidelines on prevention of pollution of environment; • the rights and obligations of the employee in compliance with legislation; • contact details of the working environment representative, first aid provider and Labour Inspectorate. In addition to the provision of general guidelines, a new employee must be introduced his/her work duties and workplace in more detail and he/she must be explained how and which methods of work should be employed to perform the work so that it would not put the employee and co-workers at risk. For that purpose, the employee must be introduced: • safety guidelines regarding the work performed or the equipment, machines, tools, vehicles and other tools used, prepared and approved by the employer; THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK | 39


• risk factors of the working environment and how to use necessary personal protective equipment; • ergonomically correct work positions and methods; • work organisation of the employee; • fire and electrical safety requirements; • location of emergency telephone, first aid equipment and fire extinguishing equipment; • risk signs used in the workplace and the location of evacuation exits and routes. The employee must be given an opportunity to familiarise himself/herself with the guidelines and instructions because just reading is not enough. The most important requirements in the instructions must be discussed with the employee. The employee must have an opportunity to ask the instructor about topics that remain unclear to him/ her. After instruction it must be ensured that the employee has understood the rules and he/she is allowed to begin working independently. In certain cases there may be a need for further instruction of the employee. Additional instruction must be arranged for the employee in the following cases: • adoption of new occupational health and safety instructions or legislation or when the valid requirements change; • changes in work organisation or if there has been a longer break than three months in his/her work; • exchange or renewal of technology or tools; • transfer of the employee to another work or significant change in his/her work duties; • if the employee violated occupational safety requirements so that it caused or could have caused an occupational accident; • work or activity that is not included in the work or work duties set out in the employee`s employment contract; • if the manager of the structural unit or the employee himself/herself considers it necessary; • if the labour inspector considers it necessary. Legislation does not require regular additional instruction but the employer may arrange it, if necessary.

Registration of instruction Instruction of employees and allowing them to perform their work independently must be registered by recording the following information: 1.

date and length of instruction;

2.

first and family name and position of the instructed and the instructor;

3.

structural unit where the employee is employed;

4.

in case of additional instruction, the reason for additional instruction;

5.

names of the guidelines and legal acts introduced to the employee;

6.

date the employee is allowed to begin working independently.

40 | THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK


The employee confirms with his/her signature that instruction was conducted and he/ she was allowed to begin working independently. Instructions may be registered digitally but then the document must be digitally signed. Regardless of the format, on paper or digitally, the instruction registration documents must be kept at least until the end of work relationship. As these documents are proof that the employer might need later, it is reasonable to keep these documents for a longer period.

Safety instructions There must be safety instructions about work duties performed and tools used. Safety instructions prepared for tools must take into account the manual of the manufacturer of the specific tools. The employer will decide if safety instructions are prepared separately for a type of equipment, e.g. safety instructions on how to use a paper shredder, or safety instructions on working with screen equipment, or if safety instructions for office workers are prepared in one document where the above safety requirements and additional information, if necessary, are included. Regardless of the name of safety instructions and the number of instructions, all activities and tools that are used in the company must be covered in safety instructions. Instructions discussing work with a computer should include suggestions on how to arrange a workstation – placement of screen, adjusting the chair etc., but also instructions regarding breaks to reduce forced positions and their effect on the health. It is useful to use figures and pictures in safety instructions. For example, safety instructions may include a picture to demonstrate the correct design of a workstation. Visual materials help people better understand and remember information. 90° 90°

Simply stating that the workstation must be planned and designed ergonomically is insufficient for the purpose of instructing the employee. An employee must be given specific instructions about what is an ergonomic workstation, how to make a workstation suitable THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK | 41


and what is an appropriate work organisation. The procedure for reimbursement of the expense of glasses may be also included in safety instructions prepared for employees who work with screen equipment.

Risk analysis and examination of work environment It is the employer`s obligation to create a safe and healthy work environment for employees. To ensure a good work environment, the employer has to know what work environment risks are. For that purpose, the employer has to conduct a work environment risk analysis. The employer must conduct a risk analysis regardless of the number and occupation of employees; hence, a risk analysis must be conducted regarding office workstations. Maintaining a good work environment requires continuous attention to the condition of the work environment and, if necessary, applying improvement measures. This means that the employer has to think how to get information about problems in the work environment and how to be sure that all occupational health and safety requirements are fulfilled. Thus, it is reasonable for the employer to put in place the principles of organisation and a system of inspection of the work environment. Based on the above example, the employer has to think how to find out problems as quickly as possible even if the employees do not talk about them and how to resolve these problems. An office chair of an employee was broken but he did not notify the employer thereof. Because of the broken chair, he sat in a skewed position and caused additional load to his body. During a regular work environment examination, the employer discovered the broken chair and found out that the employee had been sitting in this chair in this uncomfortable position for over a month. The employer replaced the office chair and explained the employee to whom to turn if such problems occur.

Health promotion Health promotion and related activities support the employees` capability to improve their health. Important components of a healthy lifestyle include a reasonable proportion of working and rest time, exercising, balanced eating and giving up harmful habits (e.g. smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol). Health promotion may mean the promotion of knowledge and the motivation of employees as well as the improvement of opportunities and conditions of the environment. People spend over half of waking hours working and therefore it is worth for the employer to think how to help and improve the employees’ health in addition to providing a good work environment. A good work environment and healthy employees help the company to achieve success. One of the main meals falls within the working time, hence the choice of food is quite important. The employer should find out what the opportunities to eat in the workplace and nearby are. Is there a rest area where employees can keep and heat food that they have taken along from home? Is the lunch break long enough so that employees have time to go and eat? Are there eateries close to the workplace that offer healthy meals for affordable prices? Then it can be decided how to improve the situation and employees` awareness of healthy food.

42 | THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK


Physical activity is a keyword in the prevention and treatment of many health problems and also in designing a lifestyle that promotes health. Physical inactivity is considered an important risk factor that causes mortality by influencing the spread of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity and joint diseases. Physical activity is any movement of the body – conscious training and involvement in sports as well as walking, doing household chores etc. Moving is useful and it is necessary at any age. To alleviate the effect of work-related forced positions and forced movements, an opportunity must be found to alternate work or take breaks to move and exercise. Simple small actions also help, such as standing up when talking on the phone and during meetings, using stairs instead of the elevator, walking to and from work and promoting walks or exercising during breaks. A good practice involves also the establishment of wellness trails and fitness corners in the workplace. In an office setting, a good practical example is moving printers and wastebaskets further away from the workstations to force employees to stand up and move their bodies. In addition to small daily actions, various joint events and campaigns can be organised or the employees` expenses related to amateur sports could be reimbursed. Generally, it is useful to contribute to the establishment of a suitable environment and conditions as well as to improve the employees’ awareness because these measures support each other. For example, if the employer promotes healthy food choices, then it is useful to give the employees information about healthy choices and why particular choices should be preferred. The situation is not ideal if the employer urges the employees to make healthier food choices, but the workplace and nearby eateries do not support these choices. Therefore, it is important to carefully design what and how to do and think through what could be done.

References: 1. Salvendy, G. 2012. Handbook of Human Factors and Ergonomics. Fourth Edition. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2. Seating at work. 2011. Third Edition. Health and Safety Executive. 3. Work with display screen equipment. 2003. Guidance on Regulations. Second Edition. Health and Safety Executive. THE ABC OF OFFICE WORK | 43


Questions about Working Life?

The Labour Inspectorate knows the answers! LOOK at the website of the Labour Inspectorate of Estonia at www.ti.ee CALL the lawyer’s hotline at 640 6000 Mo-Fri 9:00–16:30 USE the client portal eti.ti.ee WRITE jurist@ti.ee INVITE a working environment consultant to your company, free of charge. Further information www.ti.ee

Euroopa Liit Euroopa Sotsiaalfond

Eesti tuleviku heaks

Profile for Tööinspektsioon

The ABC of Office Work  

The ABC of Office Work