Learn how to ensure safety and health in the office, why this is important and how to create a sustainable culture of safety at your workplace.
Compared to a construction site, production facility or chemical laboratory, most offices are considered a safe environment. However, some offices still have an overwhelming amount of incidents and accidents at their workplace, which is due to the lack of a strong safety culture in the office. For this reason, office workers should know the basics of safety and health in the office and understand their importance. As an employee, you will find all the important information about safety and health at work and ideas for implementation in this article.
Ideally, every office worker should return home healthily. Often, employees ignore poor ergonomic conditions in the office, exposing them to an increased risk of long-term injuries and illness - factors that threaten not only their livelihood but also the way they live in the years ahead. For this very reason, employers should be committed to maintaining adequate safety and health protocols in the office to ensure the long-term well-being of all employees as well as the company as a whole.
Every company should consider it their legal and moral duty, to ensure that employees are educated about the many hazards in the office that many workers may not be aware of, such as noise, poor ergonomics, damaged electrical wiring, non-functioning fire extinguishers and lack of emergency plans. Tens of thousands of office workers are already suffering from injuries or work-related health problems that could have been avoided if the employees had received proper training and education.
A safe and healthy office is beneficial to both the company and its employees by ensuring:
Companies that allocate resources for the job security of their employees helps to reduce absenteeism and staff turnover, which can have a major impact on productivity.
In the following section, we now highlight important information on the legal basis for workplace safety and health.
International and national regulatory authorities have been institutionalised to ensure that occupational safety and health policies and laws are developed and properly implemented. Together, these regulators help to monitor and supervise organisations as to how they respect statutory work requirements in practice and in principle.
For the monitoring of international labour standards, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) is responsible for bringing together the governments, employers and workers of its 187 member states to establish and promote decent and equal labour standards. As a specialized agency of the United Nations, its mission is to promote social justice and internationally recognized human and labour rights.
While there are internationally recognized safety and health practices of the agencies, laws and regulations may still vary at the national level, as each country has its approach to enforcement.
When President Richard Nixon enacted the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHAct) in 1970, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was established as the agency empowered to enforce occupational safety and health standards and regulate private employers in the 50 states, the District of Columbia and other areas.
In the United Kingdom, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is the national regulatory authority for health and safety at work. It enforces local health and safety regulations, such as the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA) 1974 and The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases, and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) 1995.
Safe Work Australia, a statutory agency established in 2009, leads the development of national health, safety and remuneration policies across Australia. However, unlike the US and UK, Safe Work Australia is not responsible for policy enforcement but is administered by the Commonwealth, States and Territories. The specific health and safety laws, regulations and codes of practice for each Australian state and territory can be found here.
The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS), with its main and subsidiary offices in Berlin and Bonn, is responsible for labour market policy, labour law and occupational health and safety as well as for pensions and social security. The BMAS creates solutions and measures for social integration and framework conditions for more employment. To this end, it cooperates above all with the Committee for Labour and Social Affairs.
EU-OSHA is a European Union agency that provides information on safety and health at work. The Agency's main aim is to make European workplaces safer, healthier and more productive. With a focus on risk prevention, it aims to improve working conditions in Europe.
EU Member States are obliged to transpose directives on labour law laid down by the European Union within a specified period. The directives deal with aspects of safety and health at work. Member States can set stricter rules for the protection of workers when transposing the directives, so there are variations from country to country.
Risk assessments in the office are an effective means of addressing health and safety issues within an office environment. This process begins with the identification of hazards, i.e. the identification of objects, situations or activities that could potentially harm employees.
There are various methods of risk assessment, such as comprehensive security inspections, review of historical data and analysis of occupational safety. However, to identify these hazards correctly, it is important to know the types of hazards that can endanger workplace safety.
In order to properly conduct risk assessment in the office, it is important that employees understand the basics of workplace hazard identification. The following is a breakdown of the main types of safety and health risks in the office and how to manage them.
A very common physical hazard in the office are temperature, air quality, ventilation, noise as well as slipping, tripping and falling. The risks associated with each of these physical hazards and ways to manage them are listed below:
Temperatures where employees feel uncomfortable can lead to low productivity and morale. Employers and managers have a responsibility to deal with this health risk in the office and to make sure that employees are as comfortable as possible.
How to manage the risk:
It is important for employers to pay more attention to indoor ventilation and air quality, because poor air conditions lead to fatigue, occupational asthma, allergies and other respiratory diseases. Overcrowding in offices in particular, but also restricted air circulation, poor housekeeping and inadequate ventilation lead to a deterioration in air quality.
How to manage the risk:
Noise affects health and safety at work by increasing stress levels, reducing concentration and causing hearing loss.
How to manage the risk:
Three of the typical workplace accidents are: slipping, tripping and falling. Slipping occurs when a person's foot loses contact with the ground; tripping occurs when a person unexpectedly touches an object or surface with their foot; and falls can be caused by a slip or trip, but many falls also occur through holes in the ground, ditches, and waterways in the work area.
How to deal with the risks:
Biological hazards or biohazards are organic substances that pose a threat to the health of an employee. These include:
Typically, biohazards are assumed to be limited to workplaces such as laboratories or factories, but they can also be found in apparently comfortable offices. Dealing with such hazards in an office environment is critical, as they can quickly get out of control, causing problems with local health and corporate regulators.
How to deal with the risk of biological hazards:
Office workers spend many hours a day sitting at their desks, often resulting in strains and other injuries due to unidentified ergonomic hazards. Ergonomic hazards are usually the hardest to identify because workers do not always immediately feel the effects of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). The most common injuries are muscle strains, rotator cuff injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) and tendonitis. Long-term exposure to ergonomic hazards can result in serious long-term consequences for the employee, and the employer loses hours of work and millions in insurance costs.
Some ergonomic hazards that can be seen in the office are:
How to counteract ergonomic dangers in the office:
Click here to download customisable ergonomics assessment checklists.
Fire protection is of utmost importance in every office. A fire in an office can be devastating not only for the employees but also for the public. It can lead to injuries and even death - not to mention costly property damage.
It's easy not to take the fire hazard in the office seriously, so fires often occur that could have been easily bypassed, but which can pose a serious threat to occupational safety and health. Here are the five most common fire hazards that employees should be aware of:
How to ensure fire safety in the office:
Click here to download the fire risk assessment checklists.
Almost all office work today is done with equipment that runs on electricity. Devices such as photocopiers, laptops, kettle cords and power switches can cause burns and electric shocks due to a defect or wetness. Office workers who are not adequately trained in electrical safety are at a higher risk of such injuries or worse, death.
Electrical workplace safety tips:
Click here to download the electrical inspection checklists.
Office housekeeping is a systematic process to make an office environment clean and tidy. An effective office budgeting program is an important element of occupational health and safety, as it promotes a clean and organized office, which in turn provides the following benefits to the company:
Click here to download the checklists for maintenance of workstations.
The measures taken in the first minutes of an emergency are crucial. An immediate warning to staff, for evacuation, can save lives. Public emergency services should be contacted immediately with complete and accurate information in case of an emergency. Therefore, an employee trained to perform first aid or CPR can save lives. Action by employees with knowledge of building and process systems can also help to control a leak and minimize damage to the facility, the environment and the people inside.
Things to consider in an office emergency:
The requirements for first aid may vary depending on the workplace. Attention should be paid to this:
Every office should have these emergency phone numbers handy:
Each office must have a contingency plan. This consists of:
It is also essential that all workers are familiar with emergency procedures, such as:
Although the risk of health and safety at work in the office is not as serious as in production plants or on construction sites, it is equally serious for the employee and the employer. However, office management should be aware that workplace safety in the office is not just about enforcing policies, but rather about building an effective and sustainable safety culture in the office. Below are 7 ways in which you can help develop a sustainable safety culture in the office:
Office workplaces that really want to solve the root cause of unsafe conditions should recognize that it is more than the "do's and don'ts" and safety conditions they build that will help to improve safety in the office in general. Managers need to develop a strategy to help employees understand the true value of safety and health in the office and motivate them to go beyond compliance.
When people in the office report hazards, give feedback to other employees on safe and dangerous behaviour, volunteer on safety committees and make suggestions for improvement, this is a sign of an effective culture-based strategy.
Safety champions in the workplace are the heart and soul of a strong safety culture in the office. They are passionate employees who are prepared to take initiatives and set a good example to their team colleagues.
Identifying and supporting champions helps management teams spread knowledge and enthusiasm throughout the office. They help involve other employees more in workplace health and safety discussions because they have people they can talk to easily and who they can see as role models.
Use all possible media, including email newsletters to communicate meetings and bulletin boards, to communicate safety and health objectives in the office on an ongoing basis. Top management must be visible and involved in communication (e.g. direct any communication with a safety message, comment or statement to the entire organisation).
Training is an effective means of informing employees about basic safety knowledge, e.g. correct identification of hazards, risk assessment and incident reporting. They are also a means of gaining real insight from employees and using this to further improve the training approach.
Motivate your employees to promote the desired behaviour for office safety and health. Rewarding employees who show know-how and initiative will, in the long run, encourage them to set an example and encourage others to do the same.
Celebrate successes, large and small, based on data improvement and office safety audits; communicate the results and praise those responsible. This strategy ensures that office incidents are reduced for the right reasons and encourages employees to go beyond mere compliance.
Managers and supervisors should encourage employees to bring in new or traditional ideas to improve workplace safety. Companies should not settle for decades of company policy that may no longer be relevant today. If safety policies are ineffective, employees tend to simply work around them, which can lead to risks.
The departure of experienced managers and security champions is unavoidable. In order to cope with this loss, it is important to plan the succession carefully, as this helps to close the competence and knowledge gap between the experienced and younger employees.
Office managers play a crucial role in creating a foundation for a sustainable safety and health culture in the office. Management should ensure that appropriate discussions about work are held regularly to ensure that the culture develops with useful insights from employees. With bottom-up efforts, offices can develop a health and safety culture that will endure.
Creating a working environment with a good safety culture in the office is a responsibility that must be shared by both employers and employees. Management should ensure that it complies with occupational health and safety regulations, while employees should work with their supervisors and always be aware of office hazards. These efforts will help to make your office a place where employees feel that their safety and health is a top priority.
Lumiform, the mobile inspection application, helps you optimize the safety culture in your office and move to a more modern, paperless environment. Here you will find some of the best digital checklist templates for a secure office that you can download and customize to suit your needs.
This general template is used for the evaluation of building and office workplaces. See template
This template is used to carry out a security inspection in the office. See template