Minimum workspace requirements
- Desk size
- Space behind the desk
- Access/egress requirements
- Storage facility access requirements
- VDU electrical fields
Office workers prefer a quantity and quality of workspace suitable for their personal space and comfort, productivity, job demands and safety. Under Regulation 3.14 of the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 employers are only required to provide each employee with sufficient space in which to work without risk to the employee’s safety and health.
There are no minimum space requirements specified in the Regulations. The Building Code of Australia requires a minimum floor area of 10 m2 per person. However, this is based upon the total floor area (i.e. total area of each floor including furniture and corridors, divided by the number of employees) and is the minimum required to ensure safe means access and escape in the event of an emergency.
The amount of space an employee requires should be determined by conducting a risk assessment. This should take into account factors such as:
- the type of work the employee performs;
- how often they need to leave and return to the workstation;
- the type of materials they need to take to and from the workstation; and
- how much furniture they use/need.
The following should be considered when conducting the risk assessment. They can be used as “building blocks” to help determine the total area necessary.
For mixed paper and computer-based tasks, the minimum recommended desk length is 1500 mm. The desk should be deep enough to enable the employee to position the screen at a comfortable viewing distance, usually between 400 - 550 mm from the desk’s front edge. If a Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) computer screen is used, this requires a desk depth of at least 900 mm. If a Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) screen is used, a shallower desk is acceptable. More information of desk parameters can be found in the National Occupational Heath and Safety Commission publication Ergonomic Principles and Checklists for the Selection of Office Furniture and Equipment.
To enable the user to safely use the chair, a minimum clearance behind the desk of 860 mm is recommended.
The Building Code of Australia produced by the Australian Building Codes Board specifies minimum total floor areas, and minimum path of travel widths and distances to exits. For egress from behind a desk, the recommended minimum width (between the side of the desk and the closest obstruction) is 600 mm.
Sufficient space is required to enable storage facilities such as filing cabinets, cupboards and bookcases to be used without excessive bending or twisting. Sufficient storage facilities should be provided so that heavy and frequently used items can be stored between the employee’s standing knee and shoulder height. A minimum clearance of 1.2 m is recommended.
To avoid unnecessary operator exposure from adjacent Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) screens, desks should be positioned so that employees are sitting at least an arm's length from the sides or rear of nearby CRT screens.
Further information on Office Safety can be found in the Comcare Australia publication Officewise: A Guide to Health and Safety in the Office.