It’s certainly true that offices generally present low risk working environments but it certainly isn’t true that they present no risks. In reality, some of the ergonomic risks associated with sitting at a desk all day can lead to long term health issues including musculoskeletal disorders if they are not managed properly. Office health and safety should (and must!) be taken seriously.
Employers also legally have a duty of care to protect the health and safety of their employees. The HSE states:
“It is an employer’s duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees and other people who might be affected by their business. Employers must do whatever is reasonably practicable to achieve this. This means making sure that workers and others are protected from anything that may cause harm, effectively controlling any risks to injury or health that could arise in the workplace.”
Every office environment is different and will present different risks however, there are several common office health and safety risks to consider.
Slips and trips
Slips and trips are the most common type of workplace injury accounting for around 40% of all reported major injuries. In an office environment this can be caused by loose or trailing electrical cables, storage boxes left blocking pathways, open filing cabinet drawers, loose flooring or simply crowded and cluttered spaces.
Whilst sitting down all day may not sound particularly hazardous, sitting for prolonged periods of time working at a computer can cause eye strain, repetitive strain injuries, musculoskeletal problems as well as bad backs and sore necks. Identifying the correct seating position to counteract these risks is imperative.
Both fire risks and fire procedures need to be carefully considered and managed. Electrical cables, heaters, water boilers and electrical equipment are all common office fire risks. In the unlikely event of a fire, a clear fire procedure needs to be in place encompassing escape routes, clearly signposted and lit fire exits and fire drills.
Manual handling does not just encompass the lifting of heavy or awkward objects but also considers awkward positions, repetitive movements and how previous injuries may impact on the employee. Risk management and staff training needs to be in place to effectively reduce these risks.
Over 11 million days are lost at work each year due to workplace stress. The most effective way for employers to manage their employee’s potential workplace stress is by careful consideration through risk assessments and implementing all control measures.
It is important to remember that employees also have a responsibility to manage their own health and safety. As an employer, you can help them manage these risks by completing office risk assessments, communicating risks to them, providing training and encouraging a collaborative and open health and safety policy.
Let Atlas Safety Management help you
As health and safety expert consultants we have extensive experience in identifying and managing office health and safety risks. From health and safety audits to creating risk assessments to fire risk assessments we can ensure your office is fully compliant.