Health and Safety in the Office – Protect Your UK Office
March 9th, 2023
Last updated: March 9th, 2023
A huge percentage of the UK’s workforce work in offices. There are 50,000 commercial premises in London alone, and a large number of these are offices.
While an office might not come with the same obvious dangers as some other buildings such as industrial units and factories, health and safety in the office in the UK is still absolutely crucial, and not something that should be ignored. Not only is it responsible to keep your staff and visitors safe, there are many legal restrictions and guidelines you have to meet.
In this guide, we’ve provided some of the key tips and principles you need to consider.
Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
When it comes to keeping everyone safe in your office building then the Health and Safety at Work Act needs to be a crucial part of your planning.
This is a key piece of legislation in the UK that outlines the responsibilities of employers and employees to ensure a safe and healthy working environment. The Act covers a wide range of workplace health and safety issues, including risk assessments, training, and providing protective equipment. The act is regularly updated which means that there are new regulations to consider.
In an office building, the Act is particularly important because it outlines the need for employers to identify and control potential hazards such as electrical equipment, trip hazards, and fire safety. It also requires employers to provide appropriate training and information to employees on how to work safely, and to take appropriate measures to prevent accidents or incidents from occurring.
This all plays a critical role in ensuring the safety and well-being of employees in the workplace. It is important for office buildings to comply with this Act to protect the health and safety of their employees and to prevent any potential accidents or incidents that could lead to injury or harm.
Whose Responsibility is Health and Safety?
In the UK, the responsibility for a business premises’ health and safety falls on the employer or business owner. This places a legal duty on employers to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of their employees and others who may be affected by their work.
This means that the employer must take appropriate measures to identify and control potential hazards, provide adequate training and information to employees on how to work safely, and ensure that all equipment and machinery is properly maintained and safe to use.
The employer must also appoint competent persons to assist in implementing health and safety measures, such as a health and safety officer or consultant, while some businesses choose to employ a health and safety officer, there are plenty of small offices where this isn’t necessarily required. A PPM contract such as those offered by Robinsons Facilities Services can be ideal.
In addition, employees also have a responsibility to follow the health and safety policies and procedures put in place by their employer and to report any hazards or concerns to their employer. Overall, it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that the business premises comply with health and safety regulations and to provide a safe and healthy working environment for their employees.
Let’s dive into some of the risks and how health and safety guidelines can help.
Asbestos is still a big risk in businesses, and office blocks built in a certain era might be more at risk. Non-domestic buildings should have an asbestos survey and potentially have the obligation to manage the threat of asbestos. A survey is first and foremost there to determine the existence of asbestos. The survey will pinpoint the locations where asbestos is present, evaluate its condition and the potential risks it poses.
In addition, the survey will also gauge the extent of staff’s knowledge about asbestos and provide suggestions on how to properly manage the substance to guarantee safety. Records must be kept in accordance with HSE.
There are so many facets to fire safety in an office. It is impossible to come up with a one-size-fits-all solution here which is why a risk assessment is required. Some businesses may have dry risers, others may have fire shutters.
All offices have a responsibility to practice fire safety. Ensuring fire safety in UK offices is critical for the protection of employees, visitors, and property.
Some key fire safety tips for UK offices include keeping escape routes clear of obstructions, providing adequate fire alarms and signage, regularly testing and maintaining fire safety equipment such as extinguishers and fire doors, having a fire evacuation plan and ensuring all staff are trained on it, limiting the use of electrical equipment and ensuring it is switched off at the end of the day, and conducting regular fire drills to test the effectiveness of fire safety measures. It is also important to appoint a competent person to oversee fire safety measures and to regularly review and update the office’s fire risk assessment to ensure it remains effective.
Electrical safety is crucial in UK offices to prevent accidents and protect employees from harm. Some methods of ensuring safety include regular inspection and testing of electrical equipment such as PAT testing, avoiding overloading electrical sockets and circuits, using the correct fuses and bulbs, not using damaged or frayed electrical cords, and ensuring that all electrical equipment is switched off when not in use.
Water safety is important in UK offices to prevent accidents and maintain a healthy working environment. Risks from your water system may include legionella and other waterborne diseases. Many businesses require training to understand legionella and may still need regular water testing. Even in small office spaces, water safety and hygiene should never be ignored, and form part of the employer’s responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
Other Office Safety Requirements
Every office is different, but you need to thoroughly consider all of your health and safety requirements. Getting your equipment such as boilers regularly serviced is one way to help, signage may also be required in certain instances, and your office safety may need to be uniquely tailored to your building.
Often, this is daunting for businesses. In a small office, it may not make sense to employ somebody specifically to take on your health and safety tasks, so a contract with an external company could be the perfect solution.