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Five common office health and safety hazards

When it comes to health and safety hazards in the workplace, the first thoughts that might spring to your mind could be those at building sites, industrial plants and factories. But there are risks to be wary of in the comparative safety of an office too.

All good health and safety starts with a risk assessment. These are carried out by, or on behalf of, employers to recognise and help prevent hazards. Every business should be carrying out a risk assessment and documenting it. Here are five of the more common risks that you may encounter when undertaking an office risk assessment.

Hazard 1: Slips, trips, and falls

Slips, trips, and falls are one of the most common hazards across all workplaces, not just office environments. They account for around 30% of workplace injuries as reported by the HSE (Health and Safety Executive).

Anything from exposed wires, to loose flooring, to cluttered areas can result in a trip or fall. The HSE provides a useful hazard-spotting checklist for slips and trips, as well as a ‘slips and trips mapping tool’. These are great resources to help employers recognise where these hazards can occur and how to tackle them.

Any cables that are exposed should be securely taped and if across walkways, should be marked clearly. Workspaces should be kept clean and tidy, removing any obstructing objects. Slips can be caused by unattended spillages as well as some floor surfaces. All spills should be cleaned up immediately, and signs placed out to indicate wet floors.

Hazard 2: Ergonomic injuries

Sitting down for hours a day may not sound hazardous to most, but there is a growing awareness that it can cause serious strains and other injuries, if not sat correctly or using the right equipment. There are many types of ergonomic equipment (including desks, chairs, computer keyboards) that can prevent these types of injuries. If a specific risk here is identified, these could be one effective way of mitigating it.

If relevant you could provide training or guidance to employees on the correct posture – sitting straight, and positioned in a straight line with their chair, keyboard and monitor.

Hazard 3: Stress

Stress can be a real hazard in the workplace, with the HSE reporting over 11 million days of work being lost a year because of it.

Workplace stress can be caused when employees are over-loaded and can’t cope with pressures. Employers can tackle this by adjusting workloads to match employees’ rate of work and skills. Employers can also conduct stress risk assessments as well as being open to employees talking about their issues.

Hazard 4: Eye strain

Working with DSE (display screen equipment) such as laptops or computers for long periods of time can result in employees experiencing eye strain or other similar problems such as CVS (computer vision syndrome). This is a group of vision-related problems that include headaches, blurred vision and neck/shoulder pain. It is good practice to place computer monitors 20 to 26 inches away from the eyes and slightly below eye level. If employees who use display screen equipment require an eye test you are obliged to pay for it. This will help to identify any issues.

Hazard 5: Fire safety

Fire safety is an essential part of any workplace environment. And whilst fires are not necessarily common, fire safety is a serious subject and precautions must be taken by all businesses. These precautions include checking all power cords are in good condition, power outlets are not overloaded, and electric heaters are monitored closely.

It is also vital to ensure that emergency lighting is installed and that employees know where fire extinguishers are located, where their nearest fire exit is. And that emergency exits are clear at all times.

How The HS Dept can help

The HS Dept specialise in helping businesses comply with health and safety law. This adds value to you by reducing absence and contributing to a safe pleasant working environment for your employees. For a professional risk assessment service, or advice on how to mitigate specific risks, call The HS Dept on 0345 208 1120.