Childcare professionals in children's daycare facilities are subject to a range of stresses and exposures such as work performed in unfavourable postures, manual handling of loads, and noise. The Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the German Social Accident Insurance (IFA) compiled measurement analyses in the "Ergonomic design of workplaces in children's daycare facilities" (ErgoKita) project and formulated proposals for ergonomic improvements to the working conditions in such facilities. In conjunction with the German Social Accident Insurance Institution for the public sector in Rhineland-Palatinate (UK RLP), these findings were now to be implemented in the field and a model children's daycare facility created with consideration for the factors of climate, acoustics, lighting and ergonomic workplace design.
The model children's daycare facility was created by renovation and extension of an existing facility in Heimbach-Weis. Ergonomic aspects were considered during planning of both the legacy building and the new building.
The existing work situation in the legacy building was first analysed. For this purpose, measurements were conducted of the climate, lighting and noise (reverberation time and speech comprehensibility). For recording of the childcare professionals' physical and mental work situation, the ErgoKiTa measurement concept (a combination of CUELA and heart rate measurements) was applied, and questionnaires completed concerning the underlying conditions and work organization (pre-measure measurement). Owing to differences in the requirements at different times of the year and for the under-threes compared to over-threes, these measurements were conducted at the beginning of September 2013 and the beginning of November 2013 for two childcare professionals and over two days in each case.
The results of the existing situation analysis were incorporated into the IFA's recommendations with regard to the factors of ventilation, noise abatement and lighting. The furniture of the daycare facility was proposed in consideration of the CUELA measurement results and the ErgoKita recommendations, and selected by the childcare professionals of the facility themselves, with close support. The group and staff areas, sanitary and nappy-changing areas and the dining area were furnished in consideration of ergonomic criteria. The staff of the children's daycare facility received instruction on healthy working practices in close cooperation with the UK RLP.
Following completion of the construction work, further measurements (of the climate, hazardous substances) were to permit comparison between the conditions prior to and following the measure, and also between natural and engineered ventilation of the rooms and between the climate in winter and summer. Room acoustics monitoring measurements (reverberation time, speech comprehensibility) and assessment of the noise impact (dosimeter measurements) were planned in consideration of the new acoustic situation. Further measurements were to be performed in consideration of the new lighting situation (new lamps and other arrangements for room lighting). Following an acclimatization phase for the childcare professionals, measurements in accordance with the ErgoKita concept were to be performed once again in the final stage (post-measure measurements). Here too, these measurements were to be performed separately in the under-threes and over-threes area. Their purpose was to describe the childcare professionals' stress and exposure situation following renovation of the children's daycare facility, and to evaluate the recommended measures.
Finally, the results were to be implemented in a guidance document for use in the field.
The results of the design and renovation measures for the model children's daycare facility with regard to room acoustics, climate, ergonomics and lighting have been published in IFA Report 4/2017 (in German). The results for the discrete areas of stress/exposure are as follows:
The comparative measurements revealed a significant improvement in the climatic conditions following completion of the construction measure. The engineered ventilation produces a very homogeneous climate irrespective of the season. Retrofitting of ventilation installations in an existing building was shown to be as readily achievable as their installation in a new building. In addition to comprehensive climate measurements, measurements were performed of hazardous substances: these revealed a normal decline in concentration following completion of the construction phase.
Should an engineered ventilation solution be selected, consideration must be given to the need for assurance of ongoing maintenance and technical support. An engineered ventilation solution is recommended only as a supplement to natural ventilation. The scope for the use of natural ventilation should therefore also be considered for new buildings. Ventilation cross-sections should be observed and ideally cross-ventilation implemented at the planning stage. Preference should always be given to construction materials and furniture with low concentrations of hazardous substances.
The acoustics met the normative provisions of DIN 18041 and the workers were correspondingly satisfied with the result. The use of specially matched acoustic ceilings, in particular, improved speech comprehensibility and reduced the disturbance sound pressure level. An environment that has been acoustically optimized in this way gives rise to lower noise stress upon the workers and enhances the children's learning processes.
The lighting situation in the children's daycare facility satisfies the statutory requirements. During the design of facilities of this type, particular attention should always be paid to the planning from the outset of natural lighting by means of adequately dimensioned glazed areas and greater illumination at selected points, for example by the use of supplementary floor-standing lamps, for certain visual tasks such as painting or work involving scissors. Rooms in which children sleep or rest should be fitted with dimmable lighting. Warm white light, possibly with a red component, should be used in this case.
For all tasks (play/educational work, catering, changing clothing, documentation, midday sleep, cleaning and hygiene/WC), concrete measures for ergonomic optimization that had already been evaluated in the ErgoKita project were implemented. These measures have led to measurable reductions in musculoskeletal stresses (in particular upon the spinal column and knee). Training of the personnel in their behaviour during work is particularly important with regard to use of the ergonomic furniture. The measures taken can be applied to any children's daycare facility. It is important for the staff of the facility to be involved in these measures and for attention to be paid to the educational concept in place.
All results were taken into account during production of a new DGUV informative publication on the ergonomic design of workplaces in children's daycare facilities. These recommendations for action in the field are currently being agreed with the DGUV's Subcommittee Children's daycare facilities.
education, scienceType of hazard:
muliple exposures multiple strain, design of work and technology, handling of loadsCatchwords:
ergonomics, workplace designDescription, key words:
children's daycare facilities, ergonomic design, musculoskeletal stresses, noise, ventilation, lighting, childcare professionals, CUELA, multiple stresses