Many people have a misconception that health and safety isn’t an issue in an office - but unfortunately, this isn’t the case.
Although office environments may not be as hazardous as building sites, some hazards could result in injuries and even fatalities.
From dodgy display equipment to slips and trips, it is an employers duty to ensure all employees are safe from harm.
Keep reading to learn more about health and safety considerations for offices.
Office-type jobs typically involve a lot of sitting at a desk and working on a computer. However, if the desk and display aren’t set up in the right way, then it can cause some health issues further down the line.
DSE stands for display screen equipment, which includes computers, laptops, tablets, TVs, and even smartphones.
Sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day 5 days a week can cause posture issues, but if the desk isn’t set up correctly, it can lead to much worse health issues.
A poor desk setup can cause physical problems that affect the bones, joints, and muscles.
Spending too much time staring at a screen can cause problems with vision - for example, blurred vision and eye fatigue. It can also cause headaches, which can affect the mood and cause mental stress.
Mental stress can impact a person’s ability to complete their job and negatively affect their mental health, as well as causing reduced memory, poor concentration, and even dizziness.
Because of this, health and safety regulations cover DSE - so employers should take relevant steps to protect employees who regularly use display screen equipment (for an hour or more at a time).
It’s an employer’s legal obligation to complete a risk assessment for each employee’s workstation to identify any risks.
Risk assessments should also be completed whenever a new workstation is set up, or when a new employee begins working at the company.
Once they have been identified, they should be dealt with accordingly and measures should be put in place to reduce the risks levels.
Employees should also be trained on the risks related to DSE, and be made aware of how they can avoid the risks, and what to do in the event of a safety issue.
Employers should ensure that employees take regular breaks from screens to prevent safety issues from occurring - whether it be by allowing regular 5-minute breaks or switching up their tasks.
Another way that employers could appropriately deal with DSE risk is by providing free eye tests when requested and required, and funding the basic costs of corrective eyewear.
However, it’s much easier for employers to simply provide anti-glare screens or blue-light glasses for employees to prevent eye damage from occurring in the first place.
They could also install blinds if the natural light is too bright outside, as this can contribute to DSE-related eye issues.
Although a little bit of stress now and then can work as a motivator, long-term work-related stress can cause both physical and mental health issues.
Some things that can contribute to or be a cause of work-related stress include pressure at work, a heavy workload, tight deadlines, not taking enough breaks, workplace bullying, and changes within the organisation.
Where stress may be identified as an issue, employers must deal with it effectively using a risk assessment.
An effective risk assessment in regards to stress could include surveys, open communication with employees, creating an action plan with employee input, and regularly reviewing the situation.
Slips and Trips
In the UK, slips and trips are one of the most common causes of major injuries in the workplace, responsible for 33% of all non-fatal accidents at work.
Slips are typically caused by spillages, wet floors, poor footwear, and loose floor mats. Trips are typically caused by loose carpeting, clutter and objects lying around, and wires across the floor.
Slips and trips often result in falls - falls from a height can cause injury and even be deadly - in fact, falls from a height are the most common cause of workplace fatalities in the UK.
Risk assessments should be completed and reviewed regularly to identify any slip or trip hazards, and relevant precautions should be taken - for example, wet floor signs or removing objects from walkways.