A lot of business owners roll their eyes when they hear the phrase health and safety because they see it as something that just gets in the way. This is especially true of office based businesses because we don’t always consider them to be dangerous places.
It makes sense that there are strict health and safety regulations in place on a construction site, but do you really need them in an office?
The short answer is, yes, you do. You might not realize it, but health and safety in the office is incredibly important because there are a lot of potential hazards that could put your employees in danger.
As an employer, it’s up to you to make sure that you are compliant with health and safety regulations so you can remove any dangers. Most business owners accept this, even if they are not particularly happy about it, and they take care of the obvious health and safety concerns.
Things like fire safety procedures, for example, are rarely ignored by businesses. However, there are a lot of lesser known hazards around the office that businesses miss, and this can lead to a lot of problems for them further down the line.
If an employee is injured and you are found to be ignoring certain health and safety procedures, you might find yourself on the receiving end of a big fine, and that employee may take legal action against you. If you are a new business with fragile finances, a health and safety breach could cripple you.
The health and safety inspector will not care if it was an accident or an oversight either because it is your responsibility as an employer to keep on top of health and safety concerns. That’s why it’s important that you don’t forget some of the lesser known hazards.
These are some of the office health and safety concerns that are often forgotten about.
Faulty Electrical Equipment
When you install any new electrical equipment, you are required to get it safety checked to ensure that it is not going to cause a fire or shock somebody. Most business owners are pretty good at following these rules, but what about your older equipment?
If you have old computers or printers, they need to be checked on a regular basis, not just when you first get them. You also need to check the wiring in the building itself, and this is something that a lot of businesses forget about.
Faulty wiring can be so dangerous and can cause a lot of damage to equipment and to the building, so you need electricians to come in and assess the wiring once a year or so.
You also need to have the wiring checked if you are expanding the number of employees that you have and adding more devices. Whenever your electrical needs change, you need to check that the wiring can handle more devices without becoming a fire risk.
Keeping walkways clear is important because you need to remove any trip hazards, but this doesn’t just apply to furniture and storage. It also applies to general clutter, which can quickly build up in an office.
If you have boxes lying around and lots of junk piled up on all of the desks, it’s a lot easier for people to trip over. You need to be particularly careful about clutter around power outlets because that can be a fire hazard as well.
If you encourage all of your employees to keep their own areas clean, it will be a lot easier to stay on top of clutter, which could cause a health and safety issue.
Poor Quality Office Furniture
Working at a desk all day long is not great for your health, and it can lead to a lot of issues, like neck and back pain. It’s important that employees get up and stay active as much as possible, but it’s also up to you as an employer to provide good quality office furniture.
If your employees are all sitting on cheap chairs and desks that are not adjustable, they are far more likely to suffer the physical effects of a desk job.
A cheap chair will not offer the right back support, and employees will not be able to adjust their sitting position to help them avoid repetitive strain injury from using a computer.
If your employees are constantly uncomfortable and in pain, they may develop more serious health problems and productivity will take a big hit. That’s why it’s important that you invest in some good quality office furniture.
You could even consider installing some standing desks. Studies show that it is much better for your spine if you work while standing, and it also burns more calories, so employees will be healthier in general.
You can get some great adjustable desks that allow for sitting or standing, so your employees can always find the best position for them. It is a bit of an investment, but you will notice a big increase in productivity if you upgrade all of your office furniture.
Dirty Kitchen Areas
Keeping your office clean is so important because a dirty office is a breeding ground for bacteria, and employee illness will become a big problem. All areas of the office need to be kept clean, but the kitchen is one area that you need to pay extra attention to.
If you have old food in the refrigerators and the kitchen area is left dirty, your employees will start to get sick. Even if you have a cleaner come into the office every day, bacteria can still grow during the day.
It’s important that all of your employees take responsibility for their own mess and clean up after themselves in the kitchen area.
Office temperature is a constant source of debate because everybody likes a slightly different temperature. If people are uncomfortable, they are not going to be as productive, so you need to find a good middle ground that keeps everybody happy.
You also need to make sure that you avoid extreme temperatures because they can be a health risk. In the winter, if people are freezing cold all day, they are far more likely to get sick. In the summer, if the temperature is too high, people may be at risk of heatstroke.
When it comes to finding the perfect temperature, there is no right answer. However, the recommended temperature range is somewhere between 68 and 76 Fahrenheit. You need to experiment and find a temperature that works for everybody, just make sure that it is not too cold or too warm.
In the summer, you need to use an air conditioning system to keep the office cool, and it is important that you maintain it properly.
The filters in old air conditioning systems can get clogged up with dirt and dust, and when you run them, all of that will be pumped out into the air again. If you don’t clean the filters on a regular basis, and have your air conditioning units serviced, they can have a big impact on the air quality and make people sick.
When you are looking for dangers around the office, it is not just the physical health of your employees that you need to consider. It is your responsibility as an employer to make sure that you take care of your employee’s mental health as well, which is why you need to be careful of heavy workloads.
If you give your employees a huge workload and set them unrealistic targets, they will end up staying in the office late at night and working themselves too hard. When people do not have enough downtime, their stress levels will go through the roof and their risk of mental health issues will increase.
There are a few simple ways that you can get around this and make sure that your employees are happy and healthy. Firstly, you need to be realistic about the workload and if you find that all of your employees are overworked, that is a sign that you may need to hire some more people.
Secondly, you should make sure to offer a good amount of vacation days and encourage people to use them all. You will find that productivity goes up if people are well rested and have time to unwind, even if they are working fewer hours overall.
It is also a good idea to ask employees about their workload and their stress levels when you do employee reviews so if there is a problem, you are aware of it and you can make changes.
So many business owners make the mistake of thinking that they have health and safety in the office covered, but they don’t.
If you are missing any of these health and safety problems in your business, you put your employee’s health at risk and open yourself up to a lot of legal problems if you fail an inspection. It’s important that you cover every base, so make sure that you do a health and safety audit right away, and watch out for these things.