Providing a comfortable work environment for workers is part of providing a healthy and safe workplace. All reasonable steps should be taken to ensure that the workplace is as comfortable as practically possible.It can be uncomfortable to either sit or stand or long periods. Seating must be provided if it is reasonable for workers to carry out their work while seated. Construction of the seating should be comfortable and sturdy and take into account the type of work being carried out. If it is necessary to perform the work standing seating can normally be provided for breaks.
Employers have a responsibility to provide workers with a smoke free environment. The Ministry of Health is responsible for the laws which govern smoking in places of work. It has long been established that smoking and being exposed to second hand smoke are both health hazards. It is wise to develop a smoke free policy. This can then be referred to during recruitment, in employment agreements and other workplace policies. Smoke free signs and the smoke free policy can be put up around the workplace. All contractors should be notified of the smoke free policy. Smoke free policy education and training should be rolled out to all employees, managers and supervisors who should also be aware of what to do in case of violations. An employee can lodge a complaint with the Ministry of Health if these measures are not taken.
There is no requirement in law for work to cease at any particular minimum or maximum temperature. How cold or hot we feel is influenced by many factors. How hot we feel can be influenced by external factors such as air temperature, humidity and wind. This can be exacerbated by having to wear protective clothing, strenuous work, level of acclimatisation and insufficient breaks. In order to keep morale and productivity high it is wise to keep workers comfortable by controlling these factors as much as we are able. Excessive heat exposure can cause heat exhaustion and in extreme cases even fatal heat stroke.
Employers and their employees should take all practicable steps to make sure that heat exposure is within safe levels. Low temperatures can also result in an employee feeling stressed. Environments in which this occurs include working outside during winter, at high altitude, in the wet or in walk in coolers and freezers. Even at moderate temperatures wind chill factor needs to be considered. The onus is on employers to make sure that workers wear suitable protective gear and that appropriate precautions are taken. Some effects may be minor and result in only discomfort but greater cold stress can have serious consequences including death.
Symptoms of cold stress can include less dexterity, stiffening of joints, reduced muscle strength and the worker can be less mentally alert. Accidents are more likely as a consequence. Direct health effects of exposure to cold temperatures are those that affect the extremities such as frostnip and the more severe frostbite and those that affect the body's core such as hypothermia. Women are regarded as being at greater risk of cold injury as they are less able to increase their temperature by shivering or exercise. Other factors which affect the level of cold injury are increased age, fatigue, some drugs, alcohol and smoking.
Making sure that the working environment is comfortable is an important aspect of ensuring the health and safety of employees.