Computer rooms in the workplace are secure rooms that house servers or mainframes and network equipment for data processing. The equipment generates large amounts of computing power -- but also a buildup of heat. Safety rules must address potential hazards, such as electrical discharge and fires, and physical concerns, such as cables that can be tripping hazards.
Computer room safety rules should address ways to protect employees who work amid high noise levels. Data centers commonly generate noise levels ranging from 70 to 80 decibels. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, anything beyond 85 decibels can introduce the risk of hearing loss for those exposed for extensive periods of time. This applies to employees working in noisy areas for up to eight hours a day, five days per week. While computer rooms typically fall below 85 decibels, employees may still suffer from conditions like tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. Employers can protect employees by providing ear plugs or noise-cancelling headphones.
National Fire Protection Association, or NFPA, safety standards require workplaces to properly label equipment that can introduce the risk of electrical arcing. The discharge of electricity is like a small burst of indoor lightning and can cause severe burns or even death. In a computer room, labels must warn employees about the associated risks and what to do to stay safe. Warnings may advise about the type of clothing material to avoid and what personal protective equipment to use when working directly with the equipment. Employees are generally prohibited from wearing jewelry around equipment to prevent the risk of electrical shock.
Fire safety rules start with the building design. The room must be separated from other rooms by fire-resistant walls, floors and ceilings. Additionally, computer rooms must have fire suppression systems, which are similar to sprinkler systems but use ozone-friendly gases that won't damage the equipment. These systems must include manual controls that are clearly labeled and instructions that employees can reference quickly. Well-marked and tested fire extinguishers placed at key locations in the room should be visible to employees when entering and exiting. Meanwhile, alarms must provide audio alerts for employees. Monitoring programs, meanwhile, allow workers to remotely check environmental levels.
Read More: Workplace Safety Requirements
Safety rules must address physical hazards. The room should be well-lit and include lighted exit signs. Cables should be routed overhead or underneath the computer room floor to minimize tripping hazards. Safety rules should take into account OSHA requirements and recommendations for heavy lifting and clearly designate methods to move equipment to prevent muscle strain or other musculoskeletal injuries.
- Oracle: Safety and Security
- PDU Cables: Tips on Achieving a Quieter Data Center
- Tech Republic: Data Centers May be Hazardous to Your Hearing
- Occupational Safety & Health Administration: Occupational Noise Exposure
- Data Center Knowledge: New NFPA Electrical Safety Rules Mean Changes for Data Centers
- Occupational Safety & Health Administration: Materials Handling -- Heavy Lifting
A careers content writer, Debra Kraft is a former English teacher whose 25-plus year corporate career includes training and mentoring. She holds a senior management position with a global automotive supplier and is a senior member of the American Society for Quality. Her areas of expertise include quality auditing, corporate compliance, Lean, ERP and IT business analysis.