COMPANY CULTURE / DEC. 15, 2014
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The Importance of Health and Safety in the Modern Office

While it may be deemed as an unnecessary expense by some business owners, health and safety represents an extremely important aspect of any commercial venture. Not only does this protect hard working employees, for example, but it also ensures that customers and clients are able to visit your premises in safety.

This not only applies to manufacturing or warehouse facilities, either as it is important that office managers also create a compliant workspace for their employees. Statistics published by the HSE support this, with an estimated 1.2 million workers suffering from work related illnesses in the last twelve months.

How to Create a Safe and Compliant Office Space

Theory dictates that you should operate a safe and compliant office space, however, it is often difficult to translate this vision into reality.

Consider the following steps towards achieving this:

Respect Hidden Dangers such as those Posed by Asbestos

Asbestos is one of the most silent and unheralded killers in the UK, with an estimated 2,535 mesothelioma deaths caused by past exposure being reported in 2012 alone. This issue also hit the news recently in the UK, after the widow of a man who died due to previous asbestos exposure began to ask questions of his previous employers. In the prelude to a potential work-related injury claim, the issue revolves around whether or not he was allowed to work in conditions that left him at risk of contracting mesothelioma.

This is a major issue, and one that some businesses may not think applies directly to them. Your office space may be at risk, however, as the use of asbestos as a construction material was commonplace throughout the 19 century and it was not until 1999 that it was banned entirely. So even though your commercial office space may be unlikely to contain high volumes of asbestos, those constructed before 1999 pose a slight risk and should, therefore, be inspected either before or after the initial survey. While this will require investment, it could potentially save lives and huge amounts of money in the future.

Create a Viable, Individual Working Space for your Employees

Busy offices are often a hive of activity, with a large number of people gathering in a single space on a daily basis. This can create an immediate health and safety risk, as while individuals should have their own carefully measured and strategically placed workstation they must also be able to navigate freely around the office. The presence of exposed wires also provides an issue, as this can cause a significant tripping hazard and potentially debilitating injuries.

To avoid these issues, you will need to understand the concept of working space and how it impacts on employees. This requires numerous considerations, including the physical dimensions of the space, the positioning of furniture and the ease of accessibility. You will also need to ensure that each employee has the opportunity to personalise their individual space in a bid to achieve comfort, without encroaching on their colleagues. To begin with, however, ensure that you have a clear floor space and consult with industry experts who can help to appraise the layout of your office.

Prevent Trips and Falls in the Workplace

Seemingly innocuous trips and falls are commonplace in the typical office space, but they have the potential to keep employees off work and cost your company thousands of pounds annually. This means that you must be extremely proactive when attempting to prevent falls, paying particular attention to main entrances and the types of surface that you lay throughout your office. You must also consider the footwear that your staff members wear on a daily basis, and how this will react with individual surfaces.

As a general rule, smooth and aesthetically pleasing materials such as marble and tile should be avoided in your office. This is because they can become particularly slippery when subjected to a build-up of moisture, whether this is in the form of condensation or rain water from the outside. The National Safety Council advises that you avoid using these materials, especially in high traffic areas or spaces that are located close to an entrance or exit. With this in mind, lay carpets where possible and prioritise function over style.

 

Image: iStock

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