Essential Health and Safety for the Office Environment
Health and safety is a never a hugely popular topic of discussion in the workplace, particularly in offices where there are few perceived risks. However, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t an essential part of business life. With that in mind, we’re going to take a quick look at a few of the most important things that any business should consider if they have an office.
Probably the biggest health and safety consideration in any workplace is fire safety. It’s a life and business threatening issue, which means it must be dealt with seriously. All offices should have at least one person responsible for fire safety, and it’s their job to identify all potential fire hazards in the workplace, take steps to reduce the likelihood of a fire starting, and then put measures in place that reduce the severity of the situation if a fire does occur. In an office environment, this will generally mean providing things like fire extinguishers that can tackle paper and electrical fires, and providing the correct signage to help people get out of a burning building. All employees should be familiar with the fire safety procedures, and fire alarms and smoke detectors should be checked and tested regularly.
Electrical risks should be fairly minimal in an office, but they are nonetheless something that needs to be considered. All equipment must be tested by law to ensure that it’s safe to use in the workplace. Poorly maintained equipment can cause electric shocks, which can in turn be very severe. In addition, many fires are started in offices each year as the result of poorly maintained electrical equipment. Testing is of course only part of electrical safety – other precautions should also be taken, such as keeping liquids away from electrical objects, and not overloading power sockets with excessive plugs.
Everyone has heard the phrase ‘lift with your legs, not with your back’, and it’s something that’s said with good reason. Even in offices, manual handling is something that’s encountered on a semi-regular basis. Whether it’s lifting desks and monitors when you’re having an office move-around, or you’re lifting heavy boxes of old archives, there’s always potential to do yourself an injury. Always follow manual handling best practice guidelines, and ensure that everyone else does the same. This means getting as close to an object as possible before picking it up, keeping it close to your body, ensuring you’ve got a good grip, and of course using your legs and knees to do the lifting, not your back.
Injuries, both minor and severe, need to be considered in any office. There should always be a designated first aider to deal with serious situations, who needs to have formal and accredited training. Accidents can happen at any time, so you should always be prepared. Most offices will have kitchens, which have plenty of hazards in particular. The first aid kit is therefore a necessary inclusion in any office, and it should be large enough to deal with a wide range of potential issues, depending on how many people are in the office. Take a look at our health and safety courses here for more information about physical safety at work.
And finally, a note should be made of general office housekeeping. Trailing wires, stacked boxes, uneven floors, damaged carpets and more, can all cause accidents in the office. Seemingly innocuous things can lead to a first aid situation, and even minor ones can be easily avoided by just having some common sense and making sure there aren’t any avoidable hazards.
The Virtual College Health and Safety in the Workplace course may be of particular use to businesses looking to ensure that they have a good understanding of their obligations and a good approach to keeping their employees safe. Click here to be taken to the course page.