The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a U.S. government agency whose principal function is to protect the rights of industrial workers with respect to safety and health issues. Office buildings located in the U.S. are considered very safe places to work by industry analysts who study the working conditions of employees within various job titles and occupations. This is so because of the very high degree of standardization of building and construction codes for commercial buildings across the nation. Other factors influencing this condition include a long history of legal decisions throughout the country where owners of commercial property have across time been held financially liable for instances of mismanagement of commercial office buildings.
Working environments can affect employee’s health, emotional stability and work productivity across time. At a bare minimum, commercial office building managers need to provide their tenants with OSHA standard working environments in order to be compliant under federal law. This involves the evaluation of indoor air quality, indoor temperature control, safe lighting conditions, workstation ergonomics, and where applicable, food safety standards for on-site cafeterias and break rooms.
Outdoor air pollutants commonly get filtered by plant life and the natural effect of air circulation. Indoor air is different. The air inside an office building is stagnant, and building materials can release chemicals and pollutants into interior airspace. Because of this, air inside a building must be continually circulated in order to bring in an adequate volume of fresh air from the outside, and it should be filtered properly in order to remove interior dust and pollutants.
Lighting and Ergonomic Issues
Continuous exposure to artificial light can have a deleterious effect on human vision. Glare and reflected light on a station of a worker will over time lead to eyestrain, headaches, and ultimately, lost productivity. Interior lighting should be blended with natural light from exterior windows, and it should be enhanced with diffusion elements across the full workspace to cancel out the effects of bright and highly concentrated light. Workspaces should be configured so that employees have sufficient space to sit and work comfortably, and have an opportunity to stretch their limbs as a means to neutralize the effects of repetitive motion disorders.
Fire Safety and Suppression Systems
The structural integrity of commercial office buildings is an important factor with respect to emergency evacuation and fire safety. Walls and ceilings that are not structurally sound, hallways and stairways not adequately lit, and escape routes blocked by boxes and furniture all represent fire safety hazards. Not every office building is sufficiently large to justify the installation of fire suppression equipment, but for those that are, it is important to note that some fire suppression systems are designed to minimize property damage, and cannot be relied upon to save lives in the event of a fire. To be certain that any office building is up-to-date and compliant with local fire codes, all the emergency equipment support systems (including the elevators) and all fire alarm and suppression systems need periodic inspection to ensure that they work properly.
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