ergonimics

Health and Safety for a Small Office

Health and safety can be a daunting topic for small businesses where budgets are small and time is a precious commodity. Risk assessments and insurance policies are often pushed back in favour of the day to day demands of securing new contracts and keeping customers happy. However, small businesses must ensure that they have the right health & safety measures in place to safeguard their employees and ultimately, the future of their organisation.

Draw Up a Health & Safety Policy

A health & safety policy is essentially a written statement detailing your unique approach and commitment to managing health and safety in your office. Companies with 5 or more employees must have a written policy. It should state who is responsible for things like ensuring employees are properly trained to use equipment and who co-ordinates emergency procedure’s etc. It should also list the details of your designated health and safety executive (in small businesses this is normally the business owner) as well as how often you plan to conduct a health and safety review. HSE.gov.uk has put together a policy template and policy example to help get you started.

Companies with 5 or more employees must also maintain a written risk assessment. A risk assessment will help you to identify any health and safety problem areas within your office. It should list the possible risk, the action you are going to take and when this action will be completed by. Use this online risk assessment tool to guide you through the process. At the end you will be able to print the assessment form for your records.

Breaking Down Risks

Clutter & Cables

Not only does office clutter undermine productivity and motivation but it can also pose a physical threat. Floors laden with boxes and trailing cables are a tripping hazard and should be addressed immediately. You should also ensure that you have enough storage space and that your employees are placing materials back in the correct place and are not over stacking shelves or leaving items lying around. If you lack space then consider an off-site storage solution for documents and files which take up a lot of much needed room.

Electrical Equipment

The Electricity at Work Regulations state that any electrical equipment which has the potential to cause injury must be ‘maintained in a safe condition’. This can be done through portable appliance testing (PAT) or manual inspection. Whilst you are not legally obliged to label your tested items or keep a record of testing dates it is beneficial to do so. Items that are used regularly or pose a high risk to workers should be tested more frequently than low risk items rarely used. See this free booklet for more advice on ‘maintaining portable electrical equipment in low risk environments’.

Poor Housekeeping

Housekeeping at work is more than just about cleanliness. Poor housekeeping can make the workplace more dangerous by hiding hazards from plain sight. Dusty, greasy floors post a slip risk, dirty toilet and kitchen areas promote the spread of infection and poorly lit areas can lead to bumps and trips. Ensure that your employees know who to contact to report spillages and equipment breakages.

Ergonomics

Conditions such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Repetitive Strain Injury and a range of back problems can be caused by poorly set up workstations. Applying ergonomic principles to your office will help to prevent injury, reduce staff absence and improve productivity.  Simple desk tweaks such as ensuring that items used frequently are within easy reach, adjusting workstation height and providing wrist supports can make a huge difference. This illustrated ergonomics guide provides details on the correct way to set a desk up as well as advice on posture.

Stress

Stress in the workplace is one of the most overlooked health and safety issues at work. Employers have an obligation to minimise stress related illness for employees. Certain metrics such as staff turnover, absenteeism and reduced performance can indicate possible stress problems in the workplace.  You should monitor these figures regularly and ensure that stress related factors form part of your risk assessment. Regularly encourage employee feedback through forms as well as during appraisals, making sure that all issues are taken seriously and quickly actioned. This booklet provides advice for employers on how to tackle work related stress and there is a great stress management policy example here.