Set up your small business office safely

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Date: 11 May 2021

Safety, health, and hygiene in the office. Protection employees, staff safety.

There are many things to consider when starting a business. In the hustle of launching and attracting customers, you could overlook things that might seem simple, but which could come back to bite you if not looked into properly. The most important of these are neglected safety issues in the office. But what issues could you be overlooking – and why does it matter?

Office-related safety issues

Sitting at a desk all day could be slowly causing issues that most people don't notice until it's too late. Back pain is the most common, as most office seating arrangements is not up to scratch. Other issues can include headaches or eye strain from staring at a screen without adequate breaks or repetitive strain injuries from using a keyboard and mouse. More recently, adequate cleaning of the office and providing COVID-safe measures such as social distancing and hand sanitiser stations have become an issue for small businesses.

However, this can all be easily remedied. Beginning with the desk set-up itself, employers should look to ensure the chair, monitor, keyboard, and mouse are all optimised. Ergonomic keyboards and mice can be purchased to alleviate any repetitive strain issues. Monitors and chairs can be replaced. Employees could even be taught techniques to limit eye strain and stretch their potentially problematic lower back areas.  

Why does workplace safety matter?

Office work as we know it - hunched over computers - is a modern phenomenon. As such, the potential health impact down the line isn't comprehensively understood. There has been extensive research into the lasting physical effects of office working without the necessary precautions, including a government study. So, for businesses, it's important to ensure you do right by employees.

Equally, employees should understand what they can reasonably be asked to do, especially if it causes pain, such as repetitive strain injuries. 

A safe working environment is crucial. If safety isn't adhered to in the workplace, then employers could face personal injury claims. If an employee injures themselves in an accident at work, then the employer and business could be found responsible.

There were around 27,000 personal injury claims made in 2019 alone, showing just how important it is to remain vigilant when it comes to protecting people. The types of injury claims span from injuries to specific body parts (such as neck and spinal injuries) to accidents on the road while using workplace vehicles and transport. If an employer hasn't completed an adequate risk assessment and an employee injures themselves, they could be liable.

That's why it's imperative that risk assessments take place. You must carry out a suitable health and safety risk assessment and keep a written record (unless you employ fewer than five people).

Most offices have health and safety representatives who handle things such as monitors and chairs, preventing long-term issues. But for one-off events, such as building work on the premises, a thorough risk assessment should be conducted to identify specific risks and should be communicated to staff. For example, if there are trip hazards due to an uneven worksurface during the building works, these should be highlighted to staff the minimise the risk of injury and any resulting personal injury claim.

Small businesses have a lot of things to consider, but safety should be high on your list of priorities. In the same way that you'd consider customer safety, your office safety should also be a priority. Ultimately, these issues may never come to anything. But as the statistics show, if they escalate into a more serious issue, they can be extremely costly – and could spell the end of your small business.

Copyright 2021. Article made possible by site supporter Nadia Farrow.

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