By Rebecca D’Souza
We spend a significant amount of time in our lives at work. It is therefore essential for employers to provide their staff a comfortable and safe office to work in. This in turn will benefit the business as it will lead to a happy and productive workforce.
While every business is different, the importance of the health and safety of their employees is undoubtedly one of the top priorities. Here are some general guidelines for employers to take into consideration for today’s modern workforce, to make their office safer.
A safe and secure building
One of the most sensible places to start is to review the security of the building the office is in. When owning a business, the health and safety of an employer’s staff within the working environment is one of the key areas to review to ensure it meets all necessary requirements.
Particularly before moving into a new office, many businesses will request professional help to audit the structural integrity of a building. To ensure the office is safe and secure, a building diagnostics will reveal if there are any weaknesses in the structure of the building that can potentially mean burglars or intruders can break in, thus posing a risk of theft and more importantly to the safety of staff. Resolving these defects will significantly improve the security of the office.
As a further safeguard to protect the workforce, it is now a common feature for modern offices to have security cameras to patrol against and identify intruders.
In regard to a staff’s immediate vicinity such as with the day to day equipment they use like computers and phones, it is now generally standard practice for businesses to test and ensure electrical equipment is safe to use. Typically, this is done by professionals on a yearly basis using PAT testing equipment who will test all electricals in the office and ensure there are no defects.
Providing an organized environment to work in
If someone was to be asked which setting would be more hazardous, a construction site with heavy machinery or a typical office with a desk, chair and computer, most would say the construction site. But in actual fact, many work related accidents occur within an office environment.
Dangers such as trailing and dangling wires or equipment that has not been stored away correctly and pose a trip hazard are common causes of accidents. Let your staff know about designated areas to store certain equipment to avoid placement and crowding in inappropriate places. This is particularly important if you find yourself in an office that is lacking in space or if you start seeing crowding happening around areas that should be open and clear for fire safety purposes.
Dangling or loose wires and cables that cause trips can lead to serious injuries. Thankfully this is easily avoidable and resolvable. If there are loose wires on the floor that cannot be repositioned into a safer place and be out of the way, be sure to tape them down so they no longer pose a trip hazard. With dangling wires tie them together with a plastic tie. This is also useful in terms of organisation as a person’s workstation’s computer, monitor, printer and other electronics with wires can be bundled together so they can easily identify which wires are theirs.
Looking after the well-being of employees
It is not natural for our bodies to be sitting at our desks for long stretches of time. Unfortunately, due to the modern office of working at a computer this is what occurs and it is not uncommon for employee’s now to experience for example, repetitive stress injuries, eye strains, neck aches and back pains. Fortunately, many employers’ have recognised this issue and have invested in equipment to resolve this, as well as encourage staff to take regular breaks away from their desk and screens.
It is now a common feature to see offices with more ergonomic equipment such as monitor stands, adjustable chairs and wrist rests, so staff can adjust equipment to their requirements that encourages a comfortable and healthy posture and positioning of the body whilst working. Many in recent times have also adopted the use of standing desks for employees.
Though this equipment can be expensive, for many it is seen as an investment as a healthy workforce means an increase in productivity and a reduction in absenteeism.
Another very positive area employers are taking more consideration into is the mental well-being of their employees. Though it can be appreciated in certain circumstances it can be unavoidable, employees are generally not encouraged to work overtime and have the opportunity to relax and unwind. It can be more difficult in today’s modern society where we are always connected to our emails with our smartphones, but managers should be able to identify overworked staff and help them manage their workload to be more achievable to avoid stress and burnout of staff in the workplace.
In addition, employees should feel safe in the knowledge that should it be required, that they are in a working relationship where they will feel comfortable and have people available speak to, to voice and express any concerns about their mental well-being and feel supported.
This is a subject area that has become very prominent in recent times in the wake of cyber threats and hacks. Theft in the office does not only come in physical form because now it also comes in the form of online theft, such as having private files and databases stored on computers hacked and accessed, whether that be from someone in the business or outside of it.
Procedures to protect against this from a company level will be ask to staff to periodically (such as once every three months) change their passwords to gain access into their computers.
With the cloud, there is now so much data stored online. For employees that may hold confidential information such as client details or at a company level where sensitive data such as financial and employee records is held, to lose these or have them unlawfully accessed can be disastrous for a business.
To protect employees and the business from such circumstances, ensure the office’s I.T has the appropriate level of security software that will reliably safeguard against online threats. It is generally recommended to acquire the services of an I.T security professional to ensure the correct setup of this and for peace of mind you are operating online safely.
Rebecca D’Souza is the former editor of Manufacturing Global and has worked as a journalist for Retail Digital and Business Review Europe. She now works as a Freelance Writer and enjoys writing about small business trends.