When we think of hazardous working environments, we tend to think of construction and industry, but offices can be hazardous working environments too. As well as the risk of injuries like Repetitive Stress, you could suffer from a fall or trip, injuries that occur from heavy lifting, objects falling from cupboards or shelves, or even electrical accidents. It is an employer’s responsibility to do everything possible to ensure a safe working environment for employees. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune to maintain a healthy and safe working environment.
The following infographic, from Garratts Solicitors, highlights some of the most common causes of accidents, and you can also find 8 helpful steps to improve your health and safety record below.
1 – Conduct A Risk Assessment
Effective business processes start with careful and researched planning, and health and safety is no exception.
Before you think about implementing health and safety improvements, you need to create a risk assessment. A risk assessment includes details of all the potential hazards in the office, how likely those hazards are to cause accidents, and what can be done to mitigate potential incidents.
In a lot of countries and provinces, it is a legal requirement to have conducted a risk assessment, and a business insurance company is likely to demand one. If an employee ever becomes injured following a workplace accident, a risk assessment will show whether an employer took appropriate action.
A risk assessment also makes it easier to identify potential problems and act on them. A business can continuously provide a safe workplace for its most important asset.
2 – Identify And Prioritise Potential Hazards
As part of your risk assessment, you first need to identify potential hazards. In an office, this includes everything from the structure of the building itself (are there low ceilings or damaged areas of flooring?) to electrical outlets and even the desks and workstations.
Once hazards have been identified, the risk assessment should include the likelihood of a risk threat actually leading to an accident. Some threats will be so negligible, and the costs to rectify them so great, that it might not be necessary to make any changes.
Prioritise the hazards that carry the greatest risk and are most likely to lead to accidents.
3 – Create And Share Policies
The risk assessment is used to formulate business health and safety policies. These policies will highlight hazards and provide information on how individuals can overcome them, as well as offering best practices to avoid injuries.
The policy should also include information on what steps and action to take in the event of an accident, and according to accident type.
Policies should be readily and easily available. They should be handed to all employees along with a company handbook. Employees should carefully read the policies, sign them, and return a signed copy.
4 – Train
Every employee should undergo some health and safety training. Whether it is how to safely use keyboards and workstations, minimising the risk of repetitive stress, or how to safely operate machinery within the working environment, training should be targeted towards the risks that are inherent within the building.
First aid trained employees can also prove invaluable to an office, as they can to any working environment. They should undergo regular training, and all employees should be made aware of who the first aid and health and safety representatives are; information that can be stored in the health and safety handbook, accident book, and company intranet.
5 – Equip Employees
Employees should always have access to appropriate equipment, including safety gear. Office workers might not need to wear hard hats and work boots, but safety equipment also includes items like proper chairs and desks. Machinery should also include any required safety equipment, such as ear protectors to protect against continuous loud noise, or other protective equipment.
View the hazards identified during risk analysis and identify those that can benefit from the provision of safety equipment. Safety equipment needs to be as well maintained as the machinery and other equipment that employees have to use to complete their work.
6 – Ensure Staffing Levels
Inadequate staffing levels are a common cause of problems within business. With too few staff, employees often find themselves rushing, taking on jobs that they aren’t necessarily trained or experienced to complete, and corners get cut. Being shorthanded also means that there won’t be an adequate number of people to conduct certain tasks and carry out specific roles.
All of these symptoms of understaffing can have serious consequences on health and safety, although they are less common in offices compared to construction sites and other high-risk environments. Companies need to ensure that they have adequate numbers of people on site at all times to help avoid potential problems.
7 – Maintain All Equipment And Machinery
Poorly maintained machinery is more likely to suffer faults and poor performance, but poorly maintained machinery is also more likely to cause accidents that lead to injuries and illnesses.
Manufacturers have their own maintenance recommendations in most cases but will typically require that equipment is maintained at least every year, but the frequency of maintenance should also be determined by workload, environmental conditions, and machinery age. Older machines and those that are used in especially dusty or difficult environments will require more frequent maintenance and repairs to ensure their safety.
As well as industrial machinery, it is important to maintain all equipment that is used. Even items like printers and PCs, which are commonplace in an office working environment, need to be properly maintained and tested. Electrical testing should be an integral part of your maintenance plan.
8 – Monitor And Update Safety Measures
Everything from the risk assessment to safety equipment and machinery maintenance needs to be regularly updated. Accidents may still happen, and it is important that policies and procedures are updated as a result of these.
Offices, like any workplace, also change over time. Whether it is the small hole in the car park that is expanding, office machinery that is getting older and more temperamental, or the fact that a business is downsizing or upscaling, all of these changes will have an impact on health and safety in the workplace. Ensure that policies and guidelines are updated in line with the changes, to ensure continued safety. Produce an updated policy booklet, and have employees sign it to show that they’ve read it. Make sure that you, or your employees, have had the proper and most recent training to be able to safely complete your daily routine.
Health and safety is a much maligned topic in the workplace. Most people scoff at its rules and seemingly petty guidelines, but they existing for a reason. Policies help keep employees safe, and prevent accidents in the workplace that can also have a detrimental effect on the business.