Office and facilities managers, human resources officers, safety representatives, and other job roles, listen up. You’ve been appointed (or let’s be real) you’ve been told that you’re now responsible for health and safety in the office. If you’re a health and safety professional then this is expected, but the reality is that most SMEs are not big enough to employ a full-time health and safety professional and therefore someone in the business will be operationally responsible for instigating and putting in place health and safety arrangements.
Let’s be clear, the employer is and will always be responsible for ensuring that health and safety arrangements are in place within the workplace – what you’re doing is assisting the employer in meeting this duty. The question is, where do you start? What are the key tasks that must be undertaken to start to show compliance with health and safety requirements.
The office is often seen as a low-risk working environment – as compared to, say, a building site or a manufacturing site – but that doesn’t mean that safety in this workplace environment is something that can be ignored.
Let’s just run through a scenario quickly – hear me out.
If Peter puts his back out trying to move the monolithic printer in the print room, but you haven’t provided manual handling training and a safe system of work procedure for those employees at risk, then the employer would have contravened, health and safety Regulations and therefore could be prosecuted for this failure. Peter might be off work or placed on reduced duties for days, weeks, even months – awful for him, especially when his injury could have been prevented.
We can generally avoid these types of situations if we know the types of hazards to look for, and the health and safety arrangements to put in place within an office environment.
At Howlett Health and Safety Services, we have worked with many SMEs who work within an office environment and have helped then to put in place proportionate health and safety arrangements that demonstrate legal compliance. That’s why we’ve nailed down 20 Tasks You Can’t Ignore if You’re Responsible for Office Safety, a comprehensive guide for those in charge either to check over and make sure that you’re doing the right thing or a good place to start.
But if you’re looking for some quick insight, we thought we’d share some highlights.
Were you aware that if your business has five or more employees that you need a documented Health & Safety Policy at work? This is a legal requirement of all workplaces, under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and you risk fines and sanctions for non-compliance. If you have 5 or more employees and haven’t yet written this up, then it’s time to get on the case.
We’ve all heard people mention that their workplace is either stifling hot in summer or freezing cold any time of year. But did you know that a minimum temperature is dictated in the Approved Code of Practice to the Workplace Health Saftey and Welfare Regulations 1992 (as amended) as 16 degrees Celsius? If your temperature is falling below this level, then it will need to be addressed. What’s more, the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) guidance suggests that a comfortable range for office temperatures is between 21 and 24 degrees. Let’s keep those employees happy and comfortable.
Did you know that you need to do a risk assessment before changing a lightbulb? That’s right, if it needs a step ladder to do the job, you’ll need to risk assess it first. There is nothing extensive or complex here, this includes outlining the right equipment to do the job safely and ensure you have capable and trained staff to do it properly – and the risk assessment and risk minimisation strategy need to be documented. It’s all about applying proportionate measures commensurate to the size and complexity of your operations.
For the full scope, make sure to download our free 20 Tasks You Can’t Ignore if You’re Responsible for Office Safety guide.