Commercial Insurance Profile – September 2022

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Controlling Workplace Noise in Open Offices

Noise is a common employee complaint when working in corporate office settings, especially open-plan offices. According to a poll by Iris Clarity, 79% of workers would like their working space quieter than it is currently. With too many audible distractions, employees can become frustrated and experience lower job satisfaction. Furthermore, such distractions can make it harder to focus, affecting employee productivity.

Fortunately, there are ways to control workplace noise. Consider these tips:

  • Install noise-friendly flooring and furniture. Hard surfaces such as wood and ceramic can be extremely unforgiving in noisy environments, as they can amplify sound. Consider carpet or vinyl flooring solutions instead. Additionally, wall partitions, filing cabinets and large high-backed sofas can positively impact the acoustics of an open-plan office. Consider the clever placing of screens and appropriate furniture to help deflect and break up sound.
  • Examine ways to improve office layout. A change in layout could help reduce current noise levels. For example, consider relocating loud office equipment—such as photocopiers and printers—away from employees, ideally in a separate room. Additionally, well-placed large indoor plants and shrubs can be effective in absorbing sound.
  • Create a dedicated quiet space. While empty conference rooms make a great makeshift peaceful workspace, consider incorporating dedicated quiet areas if there’s enough capacity. Although enclosed rooms are ideal, soundproof booths and pods can also be utilised for this purpose. Likewise, don’t forget to include dedicated noisy areas. Whether it’s a team meeting, training session or somewhere to chat to colleagues, providing a space where people can make noise will discourage them from chatting elsewhere.
  • Be flexible. Consider allowing homeworking for tasks that require focus and limited distractions. If this isn’t possible, think about offering staff noise-cancelling headphones.

For more information on workplace well-being, contact us today.

Reducing Mould and Bacteria in Commercial Buildings

When commercial offices or facilities experience reduced operations or shutdowns, it’s important to address any potential risks that may have developed. Two such hazards include the growth of legionella bacteria and mould, which can flourish in plumbing and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems that aren’t properly maintained. To keep staff and visitors safe, it’s vital to minimise the risks of these microbial hazards. Consider these tips:

  • Flush water systems. Legionella growth favours stagnant water. Flush hot- and cold-water systems through all points of use, including sinks, showers and toilets. In systems that have been stagnant for long periods of time, consider advanced disinfection measures.
  • Clean cooling towers. Cooling tower cleaning is essential to reduce the build-up of accumulated nutrients, a primary cause of legionella growth. Remove visible slime, debris and biofilm from cooling towers. Remember to follow any manufacturer guidelines for cleaning protocols.
  • Check the HVAC system. Following an extended closure, run the HVAC system for at least 48 to 72 hours before reopening. Further, perform routine HVAC checks and clean and replace filters regularly.
  • Assess the building. Before occupants return, inspect equipment and surfaces for signs of mould and replace any materials that can’t be sufficiently cleaned. Once up and running, maintain strict cleaning procedures to keep on top of microbial risks.
  • Maintain indoor humidity. To keep mould at bay, low indoor humidity is recommended. The ideal position is 30% to 50% relative humidity, but always lower than 60%. Because it only takes 24-48 hours for mould spores to develop, mould can appear quickly if the humidity rises above 60%.

Extended building shutdowns and reduced operations can create optimum conditions for legionella and mould to thrive. These microbial hazards can cause property damage and severe health issues if left unattended. Therefore, it’s imperative to take measures to prevent and control the risk of exposure.

For more information on workplace safety, contact us today.

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