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Whether an individual is moving across the hall, or the entire company is moving to a different building or to a new city, relocating an office can introduce health and safety concerns that are not a "normal" part of business.
This document examines some of the health and safety aspects of moving a typical office. It does not cover contractor safety, building codes, permits etc. Check with your local municipality and provincial departments for more information on these topics.
In the early stages, it is important to get a good idea of what needs to be done, and when. Establish a time line of major tasks and requirements. Communicate clearly to staff why some tasks need to be done, when, and why they need to be done early.
You should also try to plan the moving date around business cycles (i.e. move during production downtime or a "less busy" time of year).
It is important to get a good understanding of the company's needs. For example, conduct a job task analysis and determine how each job task is done. Decide if you need new furniture or if a new layout of existing furniture will better meet the needs of your staff and their duties.
More information on the following is available in OSH Answers:
Start by taking an inventory of what you have.
In addition, you must evaluate the new facility. Whether it is a new building or a renovated space, remember the following:
It would be a good idea to hold an orientation session to familiarize staff with the new office setup.
All staff should be made aware of new safety hazards that may be present and participate in the decision-making process. It is important that staff know they will be able to resume their job tasks and functions as soon as possible. Prioritize essential start-up items such as computers , network requirements, phone, mail, etc. Communicate this schedule in advance to all staff.
Individual staff responsibilities may include:
An important part of relocating, whether it is across town or to a new city is to be aware of the impacts on the employees from a social perspective. These concerns may be on many issues such as:
Hazards that are introduced include:
When packing, be sure to keep the hallways clear from clutter. Boxes and containers can be placed in a common area if there is not enough room in the work space to pack and store them.
Be sure you have the appropriate moving supplies on hand. These include:
When lifting, remember:
See OSH Answers documents on Manual Material Handling (lifting) for more information.
In addition to the safety hazards (falls, trips over boxes), and lifting concerns, you may experience problems with dust, dust mites, mould and book lice, especially if papers or books have been stored for a while.
The three major inhalation hazards are dust, dust mites and mold. If these are present then it is likely that they will become airborne when staff are handling the materials. Once these materials are airborne then there is potential for staff to be exposed.
Dust mites are invisible and are a fairly common allergen. People who are allergic to dust mites may experience symptoms such as itchy, irritated eyes, runny nose, cough and in more severe cases, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing (asthma). Onset of severe symptoms can be delayed and occur during the night.
Mould grows in warm areas where there is high humidity (greater than 70%) or in materials which have become wet. There are many different kinds of molds. There are extremely toxic molds which can make you very sick and there are molds which are non-toxic. If mold is visible then it is active. It can be many different colours. It will appear as spots on the cover or on the exposed pages of the books.
Mould will likely be present if there is high humidity during the spring and fall although it is not particularly warm. If there is no gross contamination observed then materials should be checked for limited contamination. This check can be done by using a cotton swab to wipe the outside of the book. If there appears to be mold on the cotton swab after swabbing then there probably is mould present. For more information on mould, please see the OSH Answers: Indoor Air Quality - Mould and Fungi.
Booklice (psocids) are minute, soft-bodied, transparent to grayish-white insects about 1/32 to 3/16 inch (1 to 4 mm) long, usually wingless, and may go unnoticed. It is helpful to use a hand lens and flashlight for detection. Booklice avoid light and prefer temperatures of approximately 24°C to 30°C (75°F to 85°F) with relative humidity of 75 to 90 percent. They do not bite humans or animals or spread disease. However, skin irritation may occur in some sensitive individuals.
Recommended procedures and precautions for staff cleaning or packing these materials include: