As a business owner, health and safety – especially that of your workers – should be at the forefront of your mind. In this guide, we’re going to take a look at all the different kinds of dangers that lurk in every office. No matter how strict your health and safety policy, these issues can always slip through the net. And, if you want to avoid the possibility of lawsuits or expensive payouts, you would do well to remember them. Let’s take a closer look at some of the many dangers that could turn a normal working day into a nightmare for business owners.
Slips, trips and falls are the number one source of accidents in the workplace. People tend to get comfortable with work – almost as if it was their own home. It’s no surprise. Employees spend so much of their lives at work that it is more like a second home than anything else. And, of course, when people get comfortable, they get sloppy. Make sure that your employees understand the importance of keeping walkways clear. They should never pile papers, boxes or files in inappropriate places. They are a tripping hazard, and can cause problems in the event of a fire or a different type of emergency. Watch out for cords lying on the floor, too. If anyone trips over one and a lawyer finds it is your responsibility, you could face a severe fine.
As a business owner, you should be well aware of the importance of putting out warnings when your floors are damp. But, you should also be aware that slippery surfaces can spring up anywhere, regardless of the absence of liquids. Carpets can run bare, which can decrease friction. And, if tiled surfaces are too shiny – after waxing, for example – you can expect a few tumbles. Make sure you are performing regular checks on the state of your floors to ensure any slippery areas are fixed or covered up.
Shelving units can be a nightmare for business owners if proper stacking procedures aren’t in place. Large, heavy objects are often stored away in shelves, and if they were to fall, it is almost guaranteed there will be a nasty injury. Blows to the head, broken bones – you can expect the lot. Make sure that all your employees with access to cupboards and shelves understand how to stack them safely. And, make regular checks. People do get slack after a while, and it’s at these moments when they are more likely to pile things up. It’s the same with any surface, too. Desks, for example, can become magnets for heavy files and paperwork.
Air conditioning units
Make sure that all your air con units have a service – at least twice a year. There are many nasty things that can come out of a faulty air con system, and it can have a severe impact on employees that have breathing conditions. As a business owner, you don’t want to face your staff recovering damages or settlement in a Legionnaires’ disease claim. So, get that maintenance contract up and running, and make sure you have all the protection you need in place. Twice a year should be more than enough, and make sure that your maintenance staff know how to clean them properly. You might be surprised at how ill your employees can get from a faulty air con system – so don’t ignore it.
There are two reasons why chairs can cause a problem. The first one is an ergonomics issue. You should give your employees comfortable chairs that help them keep a good posture while working. They should be adjustable, and all staff members should be able to sit in comfort, with a straight back. The second issue is less common, but can still cause enormous issues. Impress on your staff the importance of using a ladder or footstool to reach up to high shelves. If a member of staff uses their chair to reach up high, they are far more likely to suffer a serious injury.
It’s also important for your staff to be able to operate their equipment in the right way. In a normal office, you have to make sure that they are comfortable at their workstations. Repetitive strain injuries are a danger, and can lead to sick days and a loss of productivity. Try looking into keyboard and mouse rests to take the strain away from your employee’s wrists. And, make sure that their line of sight from chair to monitor is at the suitable height. No staff should be sitting with a bad posture while they are working. Also, you should allow them 10 minutes or so every two hours to stretch their legs. Of course, you can only provide for them so much, and it is up to them how they work. But, it is essential to include all these details in your health and safety training records if you want to avoid a claim at a later stage.
Behind the desks
When was the last time you had a peek behind your employees’ desks? The chances are, you will be shocked at what you see. With so much computer technology in every office, there is always a whole bunch of wires and leads that can make a terrible mess. And, not only is it untidy, but it’s dangerous, too. It doesn’t take much for an electrical fire to start, and with all those conductors lying around, it won’t take long to catch hold. So, make sure all your employees are aware of their responsibilities. They should keep their desks tidy – especially around the back. And, include checks in your health and safety schedule to make sure people are following your instructions.
If you have a busy workforce who like to keep productive, then make sure you teach them to clean their keyboards. There’s a good chance that hardworking folks will eat their lunch at their desks while they work. And, of course, there are the inevitable days when they come in with a cold and sneeze everywhere. All those germs and bacteria can build up astonishingly quickly, and it’s a health hazard that can cause further illness. Try placing hand sanitizers on the office walls, too. It will help prompt your employees to wash their hands at every available opportunity.
You should make sure that your fire sprinklers are often checked. In the event of a fire, it could be the difference between saving lives and losing them. There may be blockages to think about, too, especially in busy offices. Tall shelving units, for example, will block the path of the jets of water if they are more than 18 inches away from the sprinklers. It’s easy to forget about, too, and employees could put something on a top rack without thinking. So, make sure that your health and safety check involves a closer inspection of your sprinkler system. You should also make sure that all your fire hydrants are in-date, and working efficiently. Despite the average employee being a mature adult, extinguishers are still a large draw in the laughter stakes. And, if it were empty in the event of a fire, it could be catastrophic if it was a joke too far.
Of course, one of the biggest dangers to your employees might well be their colleagues. It’s important for employers to keep tabs on their staff and hold regular meetings where they can air any concerns. Sadly, bullying is still a common problem in many workplaces. And, of course, there are more mental health issues being reported every year. If someone in your workforce is having issues, there’s every chance they could explode. So, it is your responsibility to monitor your employees and make sure everyone is in good health. Talking to your employees can reveal plenty of interesting information, and if you are a welcoming boss, you will find they are more open to you. Be understanding, of course, but always keep your professionalism.
Finally, let’s take a look at something that many bosses might overlook. Office lighting can be terrible for your employees eyesight if it isn’t bright enough. It can lead to eyestrain and many other similar complaints. So, make sure that your office is bright enough so that your staff can work without squinting. However, it is too easy to go the other way and make it too bright. Harsh, fluorescent lighting can be equally damaging to eyesight, so think about removing some bulbs if it is noticeable. The light from their monitor screens can also be an issue. Screen glare is one of the biggest causes of eyestrain, and it can also cause nasty headaches. Again, this will affect your employee’s health, and also put a choke on office productivity levels.
So, is your office safe? Make sure that you use this guide the next time you go for our daily or weekly walk around. There might be something you missed before – so nip it in the bud before it causes you a problem.