Workplace safety has been brought under increased scrutiny during the pandemic. Almost half of those in employment in the UK worked from home in April 2020 while businesses had to adjust, with many of their staff working remotely ever since.
In normal times, the office is an environment in which it’s perhaps easier to be a little lax about worker safety. There are fewer obvious threats such as ladders, machines, and harsh or heavy materials – yet many risks remain.
Below we expand on what workplace safety means in an office context and we have outlined some key best practices.
What do we mean by workplace safety?
All office-based businesses still have a legal duty to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their employees. This responsibility extends to temporary workers, contractors, clients, and members of the public too.
Key duties set out for employers under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 include:
- Designing and maintaining workplaces that are safe
- Defining and implementing safe working policies and procedures
- Educating workers in relation to office safety
- Ensuring appropriate work equipment is provided and properly used
- Appointing competent safety officers to ensure business compliance
- Keeping records of accidents and injuries
Office safety best practices
Carrying out a risk assessment involves observing all actual or potential hazards and taking steps to eliminate or reduce any possible risks.
In an office environment, trailing electrical wires can be tidied up by using hole saws to keep them out of the way and keep them organized. Other obvious threats include spillages or wet floors in communal areas, loose carpeting, and poorly placed bags. The pandemic also highlighted the importance of disinfection and sanitary measures in order to prevent health risks; companies should guarantee the proper cleanliness of the workplace.
Ergonomic risks range from computer screens to lighting and back support, making individual workstation assessments essential. That’s why it is important to equip every employee with all the things they need, from computers, to screen protecting glasses, office chairs, and desks.
Defined safety policies
With a thorough assessment in place, safety policies and procedures should clearly outline the steps and systems a business has in place to manage all real risks. These policies should then be made readily available for employees to refer to, whether in physical or digital form.
It’s not enough to simply create these policies, however – businesses must routinely remind employees of their existence and importance to ensure their compliance. It’s also important for these policies to be updated regularly in order to prevent any unexpected or sudden risk.
Education and training
Maintaining a safe workplace requires buy-in from employees at all levels, from leadership through to part-time staff. It’s also important for employees to understand the importance of these policies: these employees will make it a priority to follow the guidelines and protect themselves. Securing this will demand clear communication across multiple channels, as well as regular training opportunities such as safety workshops.
Encouraging practical employee feedback is another way to foster a positive safety culture in an office.
When working from home
It’s also important to remember that the extent of these policies does not end in the corporate office. Now, with more people than ever working from their home office, it’s important to remember that companies should ensure their employees are safe at all times. Homes are not free from hazards. Setting up a comfortable workstation, stretching regularly, or being careful when walking down the stairs are just a few of the many steps employees should take in order to prevent injury while working from home.
Providing medical check-ups regularly is something you need to include in order for your employees to have health support from the company. Making sure your employees have some sports activities covered by your company, even though they are working from home. If your best employee sits all day to meet the deadline, working on your most important project, you absolutely want to treat him with some aerobic online class, which will recover his spine from sitting too much. When we talk about their overall health, let’s not forget their mental health as it should be equally treated. Working from their homes in a time of pandemic can influence employees’ minds and make them less productive. Make regular fun meetings to hang out with your employees until this situation turns on better. Socializing is essential, especially when new members are becoming part of your company and they want to be treated well from the first beginning.
Workplace safety can help businesses retain talent, boost productivity and save money. There is nothing worse than an employee who feels unsafe while at work and if that happens unintentionally, there is always a chance to make it better. Is your office taking safety seriously?