Health and Safety - Office hazards
Welcome to the first of my hubs relating to health and safety in the Workplace and Office Hazards.
Firstly let me tell you a little about me and my knowledge within this area. Coming from a civil service background and working within an office environment as an Administration Manager I also took on the role of Health and Safety Representative.
Whilst taking on this role I found myself on many Health and Safety training courses enabling me to gain the knowledge to carry out Health and Safety inspections within the work place.
A first aid kit is a must in all working environments
Are you aware that thousands of serious injuries take place in offices every year. Many of them go unreported and often unrecorded. Office workers may not be in the same category as some other sectors and you could say the accidents may be less hazardous however that said millions of people work in offices and the health hazards can still leave people disabled for life.
Unventilated, cramped, badly lit offices are real office hazards.
Work pressures are also a major factor when it comes to risks.
Equipment and lack of space can be a big issue within an office environment if consideration for the people using it have not been consulted in connection with space, noise and the amount of heat that comes from it.
Cramped conditions not only cause discomfort but increase the hazards of office workers. Overcrowding normally becomes apparent when the building is unsuitable.
High on my agenda when I did Health and Safety inspections within the workplace is electrical safety Faulty electrical equipment can cause shock and may also cause a fire hazard. No one other than a trained mechanic should attempt to investigate the internal working of any equipment.
Fire precautions can also be very poor in many offices. Overcrowding increases the hazards, by making it more difficult to escape should a fire occur.
Some offices are too hot, too cold, draughty and have lack of air circulation and can cause members of staff to feel poorly, lethargic, have constant dry skin and dry throats. In some buildings this can be identified as sick building syndrome.
These offices may be identified as air conditioned and open plan with screens, partitions and a lot of filing cabinets blocking the flow of air, they are also likely to be overcrowded and dependant on artificial lighting. The type of jobs are normally repetitive clerical work.
Other hazards could include ultra violet light which can cause eye problems and burns, ultra violet light can be found in photocopiers and that is why the lid should be kept closed when the machine is not being used.
Excessive dust in electrical equipment will cause sparking and extinguishers of the carbon dioxide type should be kept close by the machines, this is essential.
I have heard of more than one incident whereby an individual has used a photocopier and has found that the machine has a jam. Instead of calling an engineer who is qualified or indeed switching off the machine, the individual has tried to get the paper out themselves. The machine must be turned off before attempting and removal of jammed paper.
A checklist for photocopiers could consist of the following:-
- Investigate - check the health effects by carrying out a survey on all staff to identify any symptoms relating to the chemicals that are used in the machine.
- Control - make sure copiers are regularly serviced and the filter replaced monthly, if the machine is old and faulty get it replaced.
- Siting and ventilation- the exhaust vent should be kept free of obstruction and no one should be sat within 3m of the machine.
- The Law - The Office, Shops and Railway Premises Act 1963 states that an adequate supply of fresh air must be circulated in all workrooms and rooms with no direct access to fresh air must be provided with mechanical ventilation. An assessment of all chemicals on the employers premises shoud be carried out to ensure that safety data sheets for all copier chemicals are obtained and all recommended precautions are taken.
A checklist for hazards in the office could look like this:-
Lack of Space
Is the amount of space adequate for people and machinery?
Could proper storage help to clear floorspace?
Could a better planned layout give more space?
Could office space be shared out more fairly?
Are floors clear of wires and small objects which may be a tripping hazard?
Are all wiring, sockets and electrical equipment regularly checked and serviced?
Is damaged or faulty equipment immediately taken out of service?
Is machinery properly guarded?
Is the noise level as low as possible?
Are chemical fumes removed by ventilation?
Do you have a fire certificate for the building?
Do you have fire extinguishers in place throughout the building that meet the relevant requirements?
Are fire escapes and exits clear and properly labelled?
Do you and your staff know what to do in an emergency and are regular drills carried out?
Is the temperature comfortable?
Is there enough air without draughts?
Does the atmosphere feel dry and stuffy?
Is the ventilation/air conditioning system in clean working order and serviced regularly?
Are stairs corridors and toilets/rest rooms also adequately lit?
Is different lighting provided for VDUs and paperwork?
Health & Safety in the workplace video
The importance of carrying out health and safety checks on a regular basis within the workplace
I cannot stress how important it is to ensure that workplace checks are carried out, working in a safe and hazardous free environment where both the employer and employee has taken responsibility for health and safety will prove to be advantageous for all.
Please leave any comments are questions you may have
If I can help I will.
This workplace inspection video may help you when you carry out your own assessment
Another area to keep an eye on is visitors in the workplace
Bear in mind that the Health and Safety at Work Act relates to visitors as well as employees in the workplace. Visitors may be more likely to have accidents than employees because they are unfamiliar with the are. For this reason, special fittings are often included in public areas such as reception to prevent accidents. These could include:-
- specially treated or covered floors so that people do not slip, even if the floor is wet
- specially toughened glass doors and windows or criss-crossed black wires in glass doors so that people do not walk into them by mistake
- swing doors marked push or pull and clear signs to show emergency exits
Obviously there should be no trailing wires or cables for people to fall over and furniture should be positioned safely, well away from swings doors.
If any large items are brought into reception, e.g. bags, cases or special parcels, they should be moved as quickly as possible. Delivery drivers with large quantities o goods should be directed to goods inwards or the specific department which ordered the goods. It is not usual practice to have large deliveries cluttering up the reception area, for appearance as well as safety reasons.
Please leave any comments or questions you may have
If I can help I will.
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© 2012 Trudy Cooper