As an entrepreneur, the collective safety of all the employees in the office is your responsibility. This is not just a legal requirement but also your ethical duty as a human being. Negligence and greed are common obstacles on the path to employee safety but so is ignorance. In order to be able to protect their employees, entrepreneurs and office managers need to become aware of where the danger is coming from. With that in mind and without further ado, here are the top 10 common office hazards that you need to prevent.
In order to keep your employees safe, you need to start by changing your perspective on the phenomenon of office safety, to begin with. First of all, you need to understand that factors endangering them aren’t always looming disasters but sometimes even the most benign of their work habits. For instance, by outfitting the office with improper furniture can cause a lot of health issues for your employees. A bad office chair and an improper height of their desks can cause harm to their posture, causing chronic back pain. This is a problem that you can easily avoid by doing a bit more research when buying office furniture.
The office layout can be quite inconvenient if developed without a specific plan in mind. For instance, every single one of your employees needs a certain amount of private space. According to some studies, in order to feel comfortable in their workplace, each employee needs about 11 square feet of personal space. Depriving them of this private area might cause a no small amount of distress in your employees, thus deteriorating their mental health over the course of years. It will also cause noise, commotion and make traffic across the office floor quite difficult. Lastly, it may make an efficient emergency evacuation nearly impossible.
Poor quality of air in a crowded office is a proper safety hazard. First of all, in their breathing process, people inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, which shouldn’t be a problem in a room with proper ventilation. Keep in mind that the more crowded the office is, the bigger the problem this becomes. In the case where you have a cubicle system in place, the flow of air through the office will be somewhat more difficult. The cleanliness of the room in question will also play a major part here. Particles of dust or a residue of the previous cleaning process (commercial cleaning chemicals) used can make this situation even worse. So, pay close attention to who you hire to clean your office space.
Previously, we’ve already talked about the problem of stress in the work environment and one of the things that contribute to this problem the most is the noise level. Once you put a lot of people in the same office space, everything that they do might be seen as a distraction. Their breathing, typing on the keyboard, mouse-clicking patterns or the sound of their footsteps across the office floor. Not to mention the fact that a lot of people don’t even try to lower these noise levels and might speak out loud. To solve this, you have several methods. You can start by implementing stricter policies. You can also add runner rugs to lower the noise caused by foot traffic. Lastly, you can invest in silent peripherals like noise-cancelling earphones and silent keyboards.
Every office in the world depends on electrical equipment. Now, where there’s electrical equipment, there’s a risk of electrocution or fire. The best way to solve this problem is to watch out for the state and quality of your office appliances. Second, you need to learn how to recognize early signs of a malfunctioning electrical appliance. For instance, odd noises coming from a piece of office equipment, discolouration on cords or around outlets are usually signs that something’s afoot. Strange odors and flickering of lights are another two symptoms that you should worry about. It’s always worth checking if it’s a problem with the appliance in question or if the entire electrical grid is in danger.
Slip, trip and fall
Slipping and falling is, by far, the most common and the most likely accident that might happen in your workplace. In fact, chances are that it was the first thing that has crossed your mind when trying to guess what this post was all about. Now, there are many ways in which a slip, trip and fall might take place and it’s quite easy to categorize these potentially problematic areas.
First, a disorganized workplace is the one where a risk of tripping on a cord, or an item on a floor that’s not supposed to be there, is the likeliest. Second, while cleaning the office some of the parts of the office floor will get wet. The simplest way to avoid this problem is to A) clean the floor when the office is empty and B) mark a wet floor with a warning sign. A coarse surface of an anti-slip tape, strategically placed in a particularly slippery area can also make a world of difference.
The lighting scheme within the workplace affects the health of your employees in more than one way. First, the influx of natural light is crucial to one’s motivation and mental health. This is why it’s mandatory for the majority of office spaces to have workstations placed so that they are in view of the window. Needless to say, this is increasingly difficult with the cubicle system in place.
Then, there’s the issue of functional visibility in the workplace. What we mean by this is the scenario where your employees need a certain illumination in order not to harm their eyesight. The default illumination of the monitor can also be inadequate, which is why you need tools like f.lux installed everywhere. This app adjusts the brightness of the monitor to the sunlight level in your home region.
The issue of storage tends to be a complex one and it can cause a series of other, related, problems when handled inefficiently. Not having enough storage capacities may cause people to lay boxes on the ground, which can increase the slip and fall risk that your staff is exposed to. Second, by placing your storage next to a faulty appliance or outlet, you risk giving any potential office fire enough fuel to escalate rapidly and put lives in danger. Lastly, inadequately installed shelves and material handling equipment are a potential hazard of their own.
A fire hazard is a problem that every office manager needs to be concerned with. In order to deal with it properly, you need to develop a plan in several steps. First, you need to have fully functioning fire extinguishers and working smoke alarms. Appointing the right person on the position of the fire safety officer is also an important thing. Lastly, keep in mind that you need to do regular fire emergency drills so that every single one of your employees knows what to do in case of a potential disaster.
A natural disaster
Speaking of the disaster, it is always possible that, no matter what you do, things might blow up on a global scale. Sure, hurricanes can be anticipated and announced but earthquakes may go undetected. When this happens, a full-fledged panic will ensue. This is why it’s even more important to properly exercise your fire drill, seeing as how these rules may apply to this situation, as well. A major flood, a major fire or a disastrous explosion, like the one that occurred in Lebanon this year, is something that you just can’t affect. Still, in order to save lives, you will have to adjust.
While you can never create a 100 per cent hazard-free environment, while trying to do so, you will achieve far greater results than if you just ignored this issue altogether. Remember, being aware of a potential hazard and choosing to do nothing about it will make you partially guilty for any subsequent accident that happens as a result of this. This is a risk that you shouldn’t take.