IS YOUR “FLEXIBLE” OFFICE FITOUT A HEALTH RISK?
With 40 per cent* of Australian workers expecting flexibility and having a say in the hours they work, the traditional office space is being reshaped to offer employees the ultimate in digital connectivity and freedom to work in either formal or relaxed settings, but what does this mean with regard to the employees’ health?
Rising rental costs, lower operating profits and perhaps improved productivity (no real figures are available on this dynamic) are encouraging the corporate industry to embrace the new dimension of flexible office fitouts. Multiple connectivity points allow employees to work from anywhere in the office and not just at their allocated work point. They might sit at a desk one day, work on a table in a breakout area on another day or even work with a laptop or tablet in a casual seating area. Each area will probably have different lighting, different air quality and certainly different seating. The flexibility to work anywhere in the office sounds great in theory, but what hasn’t been considered too closely is the very real physical and mental impact this may have on workers.
Jeremy Keane, accredited Physiotherapist and Managing Director of leading corporate health management organisation,Injury Treatment, lists five ways in which un- assigned work points could potentially be harmful to your employees.
- If workstations, desks and chairs are not adjusted appropriately to suit the individual user, this can increase the risks of postural strain and subsequently, serious longer-term injuries.
- Workers with particular needs, such as petite or tall statures, or workers with pre-existing injuries or conditions requiring particular ergonomic equipment are disadvantaged, as flexible work spaces do not generally provide the specialised equipment they need.
- Un-assigned desking usually requires the use of mobile equipment, such as laptops and tablets, but these are often not the best devices for prolonged work periods, as they aren’t easily adjustable.
- Environmental factors like noise, glare and reflection, can be vastly different from one side of the office to the other. This means that employers should take into account these changes in the office fitout and manage their employees’ needs accordingly. Some workstations may be uncomfortable or unsuitable for some workers.
- At times, workers can experience a loss of identity as a result of losing their own assigned desk space. There can be an emotional impact, with workers being deprived of the bonds of camaraderie and familiarity that come from being exposed to the same colleagues each day. Un-assigned desking can strain these bonds and make it more difficult for workers to build strong relationships with their colleagues.
However all is not lost. With some careful consideration, un-assigned desking can be possible without putting staff at risk. Jeremy Keane provides his top tips to minimise negative health effects when implementing an un-assigned desking regime.
- Ensure workers are fully trained on the importance and principle of safe ergonomic set-up.
- Provide workers with self-help strategies to reduce risk of injury, such as stretching and regular breaks.
- Invest in chairs for all the different spaces in the office that comply with the minimum standards and are easily adjustable to suit the majority of the workforce.
- Supply a range of specialised ergonomic equipment – height adjustable screens, document holders, hands-free telephones and adjustable desks – so that there are work points suitable for every employee.
- With workers using mobile devices more often than ever, employers should consider upgrading to specialised accessories, such as laptop raisers, external keyboards and docking stations to minimise the risk of workers injuring themselves while using these devices.
- Identify workers that may need specific upgrades to the general ergonomic equipment that’s provided and be prepared to be flexible. Un-assigned desking may not work for all employees, so be willing to provide those workers with their own space if required.
*Taken from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Working Time Arrangements
Construction 2015: The winners, the losers and what to expect
Although the sector is operating at its strongest since the recession, cracks are beginning to show in parts of the system, whilst others are thriving.
With a period of change and uncertainty inevitable over the coming months, 2015 looks to be a pivotal year for many parts of the industry.
But who is set to come out on top and what should we expect to see throughout the year?
The real winners, as in 2014, are anticipated to be housebuilders, as the latest figures showing a ten per cent rise in the number of new homes being built last year prove.
The sector has been able to and will continue to effectively capitalise on the growing demand in the market and rising sales.
“The real winners, as in 2014, are anticipated to be housebuilders”
May’s general election is set to further rally up public interest in the housing issue, with political party manifestos predicted to include incentives to stimulate country-wide housebuilding, resulting in a positive outlook for UK housebuilders.
Specialist contractors and service trades are also tipped to have a strong year, with escalating demand outstripping supply.
Many trades will be able to demand both the increased pay and conditions they desire as housebuilding continues to benefit the whole supply chain ensuring specialist contractors stay in business this year.
Further factors also likely to impact the sector include the expansion of European Quantitative Easing, along with reported warnings that hedge funds are issuing bets against property businesses.
Both will result in increased competition for skilled labour driving up costs across the UK construction industry; benefiting sub-contractors and specialist skilled workers, as they prosper from the demand for their services.
Sub-contractors are already awake to the benefits of the current market and have begun to leverage their strengthened relationships with clients, developed over the last year.
2014 saw a progressive trend towards the supply chain preferring to work directly with the client and cutting out the middle man – the main contractor.
This has proved advantageous for both contractor and client and will continue throughout 2015, creating a more efficient cash flow system, where sub-contracts are paid on time and more regularly.
And this leads us to the foreseen casualties of 2015.
“Contractors, who have struggled in the market in 2014, are the most likely losers”
Main contractors, who have struggled in the market in 2014, are the most likely losers.
Unless they are able to adapt to the changing conditions and external demands of the next year, many could be on their way out.
Prime commercial and residential developers could also be seeing a tough time ahead.
As the top end of the market slows in the lead up to the election, foreign investment into the sector stalls and the price and availability of specialist materials and workers becomes an increasing strain, they too could be looking at a period of uncertainty.
Yet the long-term vision for the sector is bright.
Investors still flock to invest in real estate markets that have proved stable throughout adversities and London retains a top spot, with the UK as a whole remaining an attractive option for the international community.
Whatever the outcome of this year’s election, government policies are certain to include measures to stimulate economic growth across the UK, and infrastructure construction will be needed to support this growth.
Keith Taylor is managing director for property development group, iWS Group
Overseas Investors Continue To Dominate Central London Market
According to international real estate advisor Savills, the City and West End investment markets continued to see an increased appetite from overseas purchasers during 2012 accounting for 76% and 67% of overall transactions respectively as London continues to retain a ‘safe haven’ status. This compares to circa 60% reported in 2011 for both markets.
Savills notes that the total transaction volume for the City market was £8.9 billion, while the West End saw £6.1 billion reported. Of the transactions conducted by overseas purchasers, it was the Asian investors that dominated in the City accounting for £2.27 billion of transactions. Savills advised buyers from Malaysia, Japan, Greater China and Korea including the purchases of Thames Court, Lower Thames Street for £165 million and 10 Queen Street Place also for £165 million.
European buyers took the lead in the West End accounting for £1.55 billion with Savills advising buyers from Italy, Spain, Germany and Sweden. Deals of particular note were 1 Southampton Row in Covent Garden for £110 million and Kings Place in King’s Cross for £235 million.
UK investors were also an active force in the Central London market during 2012, with Savills research showing them account for 24% (£2.17 billion) of market share in the City and 33% (£2,019 million) in the West End.
Savills research shows that this diversification in appetite is demonstrated by overseas investors generally conducting less deals in Central London with 64 and 79 concluded in the City and West End respectively, but accounting for a higher transaction volume than domestic purchasers who have transacted a higher level of deals at 88 in the City and 89 in the West End, but with a lower overall sales volume.
Original Source: http://www.iwsgroup.co.uk/news/overseas-investors-continue.html
Shortage of Building Maintenance Workers In Scotland
Mr John Fielding, principal of maintenance painting company Local Home Painters, reported to UK999 that there had been an upsurge in maintenance work being undertaken and it didn’t matter if it was Glasgow, Edinburgh or Aberdeen highly skilled tradesmen where in short supply.
Mr Fielding said, ” the issue is the lack of apprentices being trained over the last decade and this is now showing up in trades in most demand” He went on to say “the cost of building maintenance programmes has risen significantly in recent years as building owners have had to match higher wage demands for the skilled tradesmen they require to complete the various tasks.”
Shortages in skilled tradesmen are not confined to Scotland as we see in this video of the same issue in Canada.
UK999 was also made aware of the shortage of skilled trades people not only in the Northern Hemisphere but also Australia. A Governments report published in September 2014 noted that there was a shortage of skilled painters in New South Wales. This was not just the situation in New South Wales but also other states around Australia. They noted that 40% of all advertised vacancies were not filled.
Mr Jacob Smith, founder of Ace Roof Restoration Melbourne confirmed to UK999 that the shortage of skilled tradesmen in the painting industry was no different than in the Australian roofing trade.
Mr Smith said, “we have the ability to grow our business four fold interstate but is only constrained by our ability get qualified staff to complete the projects offered to us.” He noted that the roofing trade was one for a younger man and many older tradesmen quickly move on to other industries where the fitness and agility required for climbing around roof tops was no required. This put added pressure on companies to train roofing apprentices which has not been occurring.
The continuation of not training apprentices in all trades is going to force building and maintenance costs higher around the globe. The pool of skilled labour shrinks with natural attrition of older skilled workers retiring or leaving the roofing industry.
Mr Fielding said, “requests for painting Glasgow homes are going to more and more unskilled operators as the skilled resources are just not there and home owners have become desperate to get overdue maintenance work done.”
You can visit Local Home Painters website at: http://localhousepainters.net
Why is Controlling Mosquito’s on Your Building Site Important
Mosquitoes are a major health risk on Building Sites. Ensuring that you find ways to control mosquito outbreaks by removing stagnant water and other measures will prevent your workers from getting illnesses related to these pests.
There are over 220 mosquito species in Australia and many of these are carriers of diseases like Dengue Fever, Malaria, and Ross River Fever. These diseases can make people very ill and can in some cases lead to the death.
Mr Arrond of Pest Control Sydney said that there main emphasis is to keep you and your workers safe from mosquito related diseases. The following are ways that they carry out mosquito control.
• Removal of all the potential breeding sites in your building site.
Mosquitoes are attracted to breeding sites that give them what they require. Clearing all these potential areas will help in stopping their breeding cycle and hence eradicating mosquitos from that area. Ponds of water are one of the mosquito’s favorite breeding grounds. The female lays eggs on the water surface, the eggs hatch into larvae which in turn live under water and become pupae, which also then live under water. After it emerges from the water it becomes an adult mosquito.
They have experts who help to identify and clear all the breeding grounds. They use Eco friendly chemicals which have been approved for mosquito control.
Long grass and large bushes are also used by some mosquito species as their preferred breeding places. The only way to prevent any infestations in these locations on building sites is by clearing the bushes and cutting short or removing any long grass.
• Mosquito traps
Trapping mosquitoes can be a tedious task but placing traps around the construction site will get all the mosquitoes in your immediate working area. In some cases, mosquitoes may not react to the placed repellants or pesticides and trapping them in this way is the most convenient method to capture the pests.
• Mosquito repellant sprays
One way to curb mosquitoes in construction zones is to spray a mosquito repellant by certified applicators. Pest Control Sydney note that the advantage of spraying a repellant is that it works fast, unlike the trapping method. They conduct the spraying when the building site is vacant of workers. This ensures that you have no contact with the chemicals which some may be allergic to.
CCTV Camera Surveillance – Building Site Security Is A Growing Issue In 2015
CCTV security surveillance is now an imperative aspect and component of construction site security today. Not only used to assist combat night security issues but also to aid workplace safety for all staff and visitors to the business.
Camera monitoring is a valuable tool to deter criminal activity. The advancements of technology in recent years has meant that modern CCTV security systems are able to combine large panoramic views over floors, face recognition and even number to plate identification allowing verification.
CCTV cameras that monitor people, building plant equipment, large delivery areas and building site perimeters, is all done via satellite via live networks. This allows the contractors site security in the guard house or at the head office to monitor incidents and security issues in real time.
Customised commercial solutions have seen enhancements to some existing CCTV installations systems that include busy areas such as loading zones and tool lock ups without imposing any physical restrictions on the movement of staff or visitors.
Australian based Wise Group Security uses the latest enhancements in CCTV technology provided by leading brands including Hik-vision, Bosch and Pacom. These providers offer suitable solutions for all types of indoor and outdoor commercial as well as top end residential environments. They also provide home alarms and home smoke alarms as seen on some of the well known home design magazines.
Stop Press: New Interior Design News Website
Triple Nine has been advised that a new website is being developed with Interior Decorating news that will be shared on this site by them. More details to follow on this industry addition.