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The health and welfare of your employees is not only a basic human right, it is essential for the future success of your company. A healthy environment is required by law, with certain requirements you have to comply with, but it is also vital to have a happy, secure workforce in order for them to be productive and loyal.
There are four main categories of health and safety in the office which are work environment, welfare, workplace safety and general housekeeping.
Firstly, make sure you are familiar with the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and ensure your company is compliant.
Let us take a look at each of the aspects in a healthy environment.
- Working Environment
Temperature: Indoor temperatures need to be maintained at a safe and comfortable level in the workplace. For a normal office environment, 16ºC is considered optimal and about 13ºC if the environment involves more physical activity. Obviously, you will need to factor ventilation and humidity into the equation as well. Try to demonstrate common sense; you will be able to see if people are uncomfortable.
Lighting: Adequate lighting should available for the required task. Wherever possible, make use of natural light and supplement with quality electric lighting where necessary. Emergency backup lights should be in place in case of an outage.
Ventilation: Good and sufficient fresh air should be available. Where doors and windows do not provide enough fresh air, a mechanical ventilation unit will need to be installed.
Other important factors to consider are working space and room dimensions, seating and desks/work stations as well as cleanliness and waste disposal.
Ergonomics has come under the spotlight recently and is a very important factor to bear in mind. The height, shape and design of offices desks and chairs can have a major effect on the health and wellbeing of employees. This is particularly so for those that spend the best part of their day at a desk.
Neglecting ergonomics will lead to headaches, back and neck pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and a host of other negative issues. Get it right and your staff will be more comfortable, less prone to pain and headaches and thus able to produce more and concentrate better.
- Welfare Facilities
Drinking Water: Sufficient, clean drinking water and cups must be provided.
Toilets: A reasonable number of toilets should be available, depending on staff numbers. There are recommended guidelines if you are unsure. They should be separated for males and females.
Rest and Eating Areas: A designated place should be provided for meals and breaks, preferably with a microwave and kettle.
It is important for staff to have a pleasant, entertaining place to take a break and relax away from their work every now and then. This will boost morale and improve performance.
Changing Facilities and Clothing Accommodation: When special clothing is needed for work purpose, changing facilities must be provided.
- Workplace Safety
Maintenance: All aspects of the workplace, including equipment, must be safe to use and well maintained at all times.
Floors: Routes and floor surfaces must be clean, clear and non-slippery. Staircases must be fitted with adequate rails and protection.
Vehicle Traffic Routes: Driveways, loading and parking areas need to be safe, well-marked and accessible.
Clothing: Where necessary, the appropriate safety clothing must be provided by the company.
Falls and Falling Objects: Care must be taken that there is no risk of staff falling or objects falling on them. Where there is a risk of falling objects, hard hats must be worn.
Hazardous substances must be clearly marked and cordoned off to prevent accidental injury.
As previously stated, many of the rules for a healthy office environment are legislated so ensure you adhere to those rules. A lot of the rest is just common sense and decency. The more that you can do to ensure the workplace is safe, the less injuries and time off you will have and your staff will be happier and thus more productive.