What Health and Safety looks like in the modern office environment
Health and Safety has become an increasingly important aspect of life within the office in recent years; and as people return to the office after Covid, Health and Safety considerations have changed in the modern environment, or we are no longer used to dealing with the common health and safety problems working in an office used to bring. Here we will cover how to deal with these challenges, both new and old.
Basic occupational health
The building block of health and safety within a modern office is its approach towards occupational health. You as an employer are required by health, safety and welfare legislation to be able to provide a safe workplace and assess the risks that your workers experience whilst they are working for you. Most people focus on limiting accidents, which is of course important; but there is far more to health and safety than avoiding accidents.
New health and safety regulations
In the years before the pandemic, where people in a number of sectors were forced to work from home, new health and safety regulations were put in place. The aim was that this regulation would improve occupational health and safety within the workplace; and ISO 45001, the leading piece of health and safety legislation, also had positive effects on productivity as a secondary benefit.
This legislation was put in place in 2018, but many companies have understandably focussed on returning to work and dealing with the pandemic; so unless you were early adopters of ISO 45001, you most likely have just tried to adjust your workplace’s old health and safety regime to the new challenges your company is facing, rather than adopting this new legislation.
Health and Safety problems within the office
Whilst an office may seem like a rather mundane and safe place to be in comparison to a warzone or some other workplace, it is so important to always take Office health and safety seriously.
Some of the problems that office workers may face if health and safety is disregarded include worsening health due to poor job design, mental exhaustion due to prolonged repetitive work, or injury from moving heavy loads within the office.
One of the risks that often gets overlooked is the fire hazard’s that many offices are faced with. In recent occupational health assessments, many of the reports talk about how employees have brought in their own domestic appliances such as coffee makers, kettles, fans or chargers into the workplace and these have not been accounted for in the office’s mitigations of fire risks.
Building a Health and Safety culture within the office
Whilst legislation and policies are a part of keeping your workers safe, the central pillar of your office’s health and safety approach should be building an effective and sustainable office safety culture. There are a number of different ways you can create this within your company.
Culture over instruction
Whilst there is a need for instructing workers with "do’s and don’ts" and signs that highlight important safety concerns; on the whole to truly keep a workforce safe, health and safety must form part of a company’s culture. A culture like this will help employees understand the importance of office safety and health; and rather than people grumbling about the need to follow regulations, they will enthusiastically go beyond the bare minimum when it comes to protecting people’s safety.
A culture like this would encourage workers to look for and report hazards, give honest feedback to employers about behaviour within the office, have safety committees, employees can make suggestions for improvement, as well as other unique features.
Mark out leaders within the office
Whilst you as an employer can implement regulations and try to create a positive health and safety culture; you will need leaders within the office who can act as points of reference for other workers.These leaders are passionate employees who take initiatives and lead by example when it comes to health and safety considerations. If you can identify and empower certain people within the office, it can help you manage your office and spread important knowledge about health and safety.
Train employees properly
Whilst it is important for employees to treat health and safety with the importance that it deserves, they will only do so if they are properly trained. As an employer, it is your responsibility to offer training programmes. These programs can help teach workers about basic safety skills, how to identify hazards within the workplace and reporting incidents properly.
Positive reinforcement rather than punishment
Whilst there are certain situations where punishments are needed, the carrot is much more powerful than the stick when it comes to making sure health and safety is being properly considered within the office. You should reward workers who take health and safety seriously and show initiative. This encourages positive behaviour and empowers your employees.