As a business owner, you have a responsibility to your employees to provide them with safe conditions and equipment with which to do their job. It can seem like there are endless amounts of red tape to go through, but with the right systems in place, you will find it easier to keep on top of things.
If your office space is leased, then the building owners or their management company will be responsible. They will ensure the building is structurally sound and conforms to all the necessary building regs. They will also be able to deal with things like roof repair and commercial gutter installation when required.
If you do own your own building, check who is responsible for the roads and pavements directly outside your premises
Trips and falls
Injuries due to tripping and falling in the workplace are one of the most common injuries sustained by employees. Ways to minimize the risk of tripping and falling include:
- Keep things tidy – disorganized, cluttered spaces can create many hazards. Ensure that you have enough storage for all of your office materials and keep all walkways clear.
- Reduce trip hazards – electrical cords and improperly fitted rugs and carpets can be very dangerous.
- Make sure that all surfaces have non-slip coverings, especially in places that can become slippery due to water being brought in from outside, such as doorways.
Working at height
If your employees need to reach above shoulder height to store or retrieve something, they should be provided with a stepladder, otherwise, they could injure themselves reaching up or try and use an unsafe piece of furniture to balance on.
All employees should have training on how to lift, carry and store materials in a safe way. They should know how to protect themselves from injury and store things safely so that they don’t fall or cause another hazard.
Desk-based conditions and injuries
You might think that sitting at a desk all day, using a computer is one of the easiest jobs, with less chance of injury. But there are many conditions that can affect these types of workers, including:
- Aches and pains related to poor posture
- Repetitive strain injury – from keyboards and mice
- Eye strain and headaches
To make employees more comfortable you need to provide them with the correct equipment to do the job.
- A good quality, ergonomic chair that is adjustable
- A suitable desk where the keyboard and mouse can be placed in the correct positions
- A monitor/or monitors that are large enough with anti-glare coating or a separate anti-glare screen cover
- Document holders
- Desk lamps
It’s not enough to have a good fire alarm system. Every year, the firefighters attend almost 4,000 instances of workplace fires. To reduce the chance of a fire starting or spreading:
- Ensure all electrical equipment is in good repair and has been tested
- Do not plug too many things into one outlet or use multiple extension cords plugged into one another
- Have all space heaters inspected annually
- Don’t store combustible materials near sources of heat or ignition
- Empty trash regularly so that paper and other flammable materials are not available to spread the fire
Of course, if a fire does start within your building, then there are things that you can do to minimize the spread of the fire and provide a safe evacuation for employees.
- Don’t keep fire doors propped open
- Don’t block sprinklers – avoid placing tall furniture near them so that if they are needed, then they can spray water on a wider area
- Keep all walkways clear, especially if they are a route out of the building
Conduct a health and safety audit
You should conduct an audit of your premises and equipment regularly to ensure that you’re doing all you can to promote safe working practices. There are many companies or freelance consultants that you can use to do this for you as you may not have the time or the expertise to do this in house.
If you have large premises and a lot of employees, you should have someone responsible for health and safety at your company.
Train and educate staff
Conducting an audit and drafting health and safety policies is one thing, but it will be a huge waste of time if employees aren’t following guidelines. While you might think a lot of it is common sense, you should still treat health and safety training as an ongoing professional development issue, not just a quick part of an induction plan. Have the policies stored where they are easy to find and refer to.
Teach people how to set up their workstations correctly and learn to recognize the symptoms of RSI and other types of injury. Empower staff to be responsible for health and safety throughout the business.
Have a robust reporting procedure
Companies are required to keep an accurate record of health and safety incidents for legal and insurance purposes. Having a robust but easy to use reporting procedure is necessary. If you make it too complicated or begin to move towards a blame culture, you will deter employees from reporting potential concerns.
Incorporate health and safety into everyday business
The most efficient way to keep on top of any issues is to encourage employees to talk about their concerns in an open environment. You might have online suggestions box or a standing agenda item at team meetings devoted to it. It’s a great way to catch problems before they become bigger issues.
The safety of your employees and customers is of paramount importance when running a business. Failing to take the necessary steps can leave you open to financial penalties and criminal prosecution.
Having the correct procedures in place and providing ongoing training to employees can embed health and safety into your company culture.
If you feel that you don’t have the skills to do this, then outsource it to a third party or hiring someone to take care of it for you.