How to Create a Health and Safety Environment in Your Workplace


Many people forget that The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HASAWA) applies just as much in the office as it does in any other workplace. If you are on your own, health and safety in the office is important because you cannot afford to have accidents. If you are employing others, you have a legal obligation to make their working conditions healthy and safe.

Health and Safety in the office is really common sense, but there are a few DOs and don’ts.

DO

  • Make sure the electrical wiring is in good condition
  • Route wires and cables through conduit

Workplace

  • Have the right fire extinguishers handy and topped up – and know how to use them
  • Have sensible arrangements for making hot drinks
  • Observe the precautions for unjamming paper in the photocopier – some parts of the machine get very hot
  • Lift heavy items (e.g. boxes of paper) properly
  • Keep fire exits clear at all times
  • Know what to do in the event of a fire
  • Ensure any staff know the fire drill
  • Have the first aid box in a handy place

DON’T

  • Leave cabinet and cupboard doors open
  • Open more than one drawer of a filing cabinet at a time
  • Leave cables trailing
  • Leave piles of papers and files where people can trip over them
  • Let jewellery and ties or scarves dangle in moving parts of equipment
  • Carry things which are too heavy for you; get help, or use a trolley
  • Stand on chairs – use steps
  • Use adhesive sprays (like Spray Mount) in confined spaces without ventilation.

What about VDUs?

Prolonged use of VDUs can cause many aches, pains and even permanent damage. There are various Health and Safety Executive publications on this issue, giving the latest research findings, advice and guidance. Call the Health & Safety Executive Infoline on 0845 345 0055. They publish a leaflet called ‘Working with VDUs’, available as an HSE publication which you can download off the internet from www.hse.gov.uk.

Pregnancy

There is a fear of birth abnormalities, but there is no firm evidence that VDUs are a health hazard to pregnant women. Radiation from VDUs (the equivalent to that from a hair dryer or an electric blanket) does not appear to be a cause of birth abnormalities.

Stress through fear of working with VDUs can cause problems, as can badly-designed workstations. If you are pregnant and worried about working with VDUs, try to arrange for someone else to do the VDU work. If a member of your staff is similarly concerned, treat the matter sympathetically and make alternative arrangements.

Eyestrain

People do complain of eyestrain and headaches after prolonged use of VDUs, but there is no evidence that VDU use damages the eyes. It is much more likely that spectacles are not worn when they are needed, or that incorrect spectacles are worn (bi-focals can be a particular problem), or that workstation design and job content is at fault. If in any doubt at all:

  • have your eyes tested by an optician
  • check the workstation design, particularly for glare
  • consider the job rotation and whether you are spending too long at the VDU without a break. VDU work is very concentrated, which in itself can cause stress and fatigue. The HSE recommend 10 minutes break from the screen (i.e. doing something else) every hour.

Design of workstations

Badly designed workstations are the most likely cause of aches and pains. Check the following:

  • Sufficient space on the worktop, with document holders if required
  • The worktop is at the right height

Workplace Safety

  • The printer is at the right height
  • The chair is comfortable and adjustable for height and angle
  • Lighting is sufficient to illuminate surfaces from which work is being copied
  • Lighting should not be directed straight onto the screen whether it is sunlight or artificial light – it can cause glare
  • Ambient lighting should not be too harsh
  • Daylight needs extra directional lighting for dull days and blinds for very sunny days
  • A comfortable working temperature is required
  • Use anti-static mats, sprays, etc. if necessary
  • A pleasing decor is helpful – if working towards a wall, make sure you look at something unobtrusive and restful
  • Do not work facing a window
  • Make sure you sit up straight with your back supported and with your hands at the right angle to the keyboard
  • Adjust the brightness of the screen to suit your requirements

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About the Author: Marie Mayle is a contributor to the MegaHowTo team, writer, and entrepreneur based in California USA. She holds a degree in Business Administration. She loves to write about business and finance issues and how to tackle them.

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