September 2019: Re-visiting Employee Work Areas

Posted on - Wednesday, September 4th, 2019
I am still getting questions about work areas. So in honor of Labor day, let’s revisit what is required. I think one of the things that confuse people is what is a work area.
This newsletter will  give an overview of what requirements exist in the ADA and TAS about work areas and when the ADA Standards apply.
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Work Areas

According to the ADA the definition of an employee work area is:
Employee Work Area. All or any portion of a space used only by employees and used only for work. Corridors, toilet rooms, kitchenettes and break rooms are not employee work areas.
 
Work Area Equipment. Any machine, instrument, engine, motor, pump, conveyor, or other apparatus used to perform work. As used in this document, this term shall apply only to equipment that is permanently installed or built-in in employee work areas. Work area equipment does not include passenger elevators and other accessible means of vertical transportation.
 
Per the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design:
203.9 Employee Work Areas. Spaces and elements within employee work areas shall be designed and constructed so that individuals with disabilities can approach, enter, and exit the employee work area.
An example of a work area that only requires an approach, enter and exit would be a janitor’s closet.  Elements within the janitor’s closet such as the faucet for the mop sink will not be required to comply.
An exam room is partially a “work” area and partially a “patient” area.  The area that is only used by the doctor (the sink) will be exempted from having to comply.
Employee work areas, or portions of employee work areas, other than raised courtroom stations, that are less than 300 square feet and elevated 7 inches or more above the finish floor or ground where the elevation is essential to the function of the space shall not be required to comply with these requirements or to be on an accessible route.
This toll booth is less than 300 s.f. and elevated more than 7″ a.f.f. and therefore do not require an accessible route to it or the ability to approach it and enter it.

What happens when an employee is disabled?

The Standards sometimes provide additional guidance through “advisories”.  These are NOT requirements, but they are suggestions that might make your design a better one.  Below are some of the advisories on work areas:
Advisory 203.9 Employee Work Areas. Although areas used exclusively by employees for work are not required to be fully accessible, consider designing such areas to include non-required turning spaces, and provide accessible elements whenever possible. 
Under the Title I of the ADA, employees with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations in the workplace; accommodations can include alterations to spaces within the facility. Designing employee work areas to be more accessible at the outset will avoid more costly retrofits when current employees become temporarily or permanently disabled, or when new employees with disabilities are hired.
 

Circulation within a work area

In addition to approach, enter and exit, if the employee work area is larger than 1,000 s.f.. then a common path within the work area to common use spaces shall be provided

206.2.8 Employee Work Areas. Common use circulation paths within employee work areas shall comply with 402.
 

 

Section 402 states that a minimum 36″ width shall be provided along the circulation path.
EXCEPTIONS: 
1. Common use circulation paths located within employee work areas that are less than 1000 square feet (93 m2) and defined by permanently installed partitions, counters, casework, or furnishings shall not be required to comply with 402.2.
This employee work area is less than 1,000 s.f. and therefore the step is allowed 
If the path is around work area equipment, then it will not have to comply with the 36″ clear width.
This commercial kitchen has equipment that is an integral part of the work area.  The 36″ min. circulation path in this space is not required to comply due to the location of the work area equipment.
Common use circulation paths located within exterior employee work areas that are fully exposed to the weather shall not be required to comply with 402.
A dumpster is considered an extension of a work area.  Although a circulation path within the work area might be required, because the dumpster is located on the exterior and fully exposed to the weather, a circulation path will not be required.

Modular furniture that is not permanently installed are not required to comply. This is for any furniture in general.  They also do not require knee clearances, heights of counters etc. (according to Advisory 206.2.8 Employee Work Areas Exception 1)

The modular furniture in an open office is not required to be installed so that there is a minimum 36″ width is provided.  They are essentially exempted from having to comply (unless they are permanently attached to the ground or wall)

Employee areas that are not work related

The requirements thus far have been for areas that are considered part of the “work” areas in a space.  But there are other areas that are also part of an employee area, but are not related to the work they perform.  Those areas that are NOT related to their job description will not be exempted and must comply.  Below are a few examples of areas that might be for employees only, but must be fully compliant with the Standards:
Break Rooms
The sink in this break room and the height of the counter are required to comply.  The microwave shown in this photo is not permanently attached and therefore the reach range is not required to comply.  

LEED Showers for employees

Some showers that are accessed through a private office have less requirements.  But if it is a common use shower for all employees to use, then they must comply with section 608

Employee Restrooms

All restrooms including employee restrooms must comply with the requirements in Sections 603-606

 

Employee Locker Rooms

The lockers as well as the bench in this locker/dressing room must comply with the Standards

 

Employee dining counters

5% of the dining counter is required to be between 28″-34″ a.f.f. and provide a knee space like the photo above.

Employee parking

after
Parking that is designated for employees should have accessible spaces as well.

Vocational or Professional schools

Vocational schools and professional school, such as nursing school, dental school, or medical schools,  and culinary schools, where they teach how to use certain “work area equipment” is not exempted.  Because it is considered a “public accommodation” , the equipment or access to it will have to be provided.
One example that I have encountered lately is a nursing school with “Exam” rooms that they use to simulate being in a Dr. office examination room.  In the real work area the sinks and counter and equipment in those rooms would be exempted.  But in a school setting, because you cannot discriminate against a student who might be disabled, and must provide the opportunity to attend the course, accommodations will have to be available.
The number of exam rooms that must be accessible is not scoped.  So in escense all teaching exam rooms would require that everything within be accessible.  Sometimes that is not reasonable, and at that situation, the school will have to get a variance from TDLR or provide reasonable accommodations for the students with disabilities
medical equipment in a nursing school will have to be within reach
Equipment in a teaching mechanic shop would have to comply