Here in the UK, nearly one in three employees work in an office of some description – around 10 million of us in total. While work related fatalities might not be as common amongst ‘desk jockeys’ as they are in other industries (see our shocking safety statistics infographic for more info) far too many people are still being injured or suffering accidents in the office – with work related stress, musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and injuries caused by slips, trips and falls being some of the worst offenders.
With that in mind, RoSPA has produced a short guide to provide you, and your boss, with some suggestions to make your office safer right now…
1. Don’t be a slouch!
According to the NHS, back pain is responsible for 7.6 million lost work days every year. One of the major causes of back pain is poor posture – a real problem for those of us who spend our days stuck behind desks. Factors that can affect your back include:
- seating posture
- computer screen position
- chair height
- keyboard position
- mouse position
- desk equipment layout
Training to assess these factors can help employers meet their legal requirements, as well as combating the musculoskeletal disorders, reduced concentration levels and other ill-health effects that are symptomatic of time spent at poorly-designed workstations.
2. Watch those water bottles
The other major cause of back injury is caused by lifting and moving objects in the workplace. What might surprise you is that a large proportion of these injuries are caused not by the weight of the objects, but by poor manual handling techniques. Even everyday tasks – such as changing the water cooler or refilling the printer – can occasionally lead to serious injury.
The TILEO acronym (which stands for TASK, INDIVIDUAL, LOAD, ENVIRONMENT and OTHER FACTORS), has been designed to help you conduct on the spot risk assessments to help ensure you are employing the correct manual handling technique – helping protect your back.
For more information see our post, What is manual handling?
3. Remember to breathe
Offices can be a stressful environment on the best of days. Add to this a pressing deadline, a ‘difficult’ boss and lack of sleep and you have the potential for a Chernobyl-style melt down!
Now of course, a little bit of stress can be a positive thing – it’s only when that stress becomes excessive and prolonged that it can lead to serious mental and physical illness. In fact, according to the Chartered Institute of Professional Development, workplace stress is one of the biggest causes of employee absence – and also one of the more difficult issues to manage.
Taking regular breaks, stretching and practicing breathing exercises can all help when you’re feeling the pressure. We’ve also produced a comprehensive guide to managing work related stress – meaning you can take a deep breath and step away from the staple gun!
4. Risky business?
How many times have you been at your desk and spotted a trailing wire, spillage or open drawer that could cause a slip, trip or fall? Learning to spot these potential hazards by performing adequate risk assessments is vitally important for creating a safer working environment. Not only that, but it’s a legal requirement too.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) describes five steps to carrying out an effective risk assessment. These are:
- Identify the hazards
- Decide who might be harmed and how
- Evaluate the risks and decide on control measures
- Record your findings and implement them
- Review your assessment and update if necessary
We have produced a handy risk assessment guide, explaining these steps further and providing you with the information you need to take to keep you and your colleagues safe and on the right side of the law. However, the most important thing to remember is to that if you see a hazard, don’t walk on by – have the confidence to report unsafe acts and environments – your colleagues, and your boss, will thank you in the long run!
5. Think of Goldilocks
The eternal battle for control of the office thermostat is so common that it’s become an easy joke for lazy sit-com writers. However, maintaining a safe temperature at work is no laughing matter, as there are serious health – and legal – implications for working in an environment that is either too hot or too cold.
While many of us might be more used to donning a hat and scarf to work, the recent heat wave has shown that extremes of temperature are becoming more common in the UK. Our tips on Managing workplace risks in a heat wave reminds us that under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, employers must provide drinking water and adequate ventilation, as well as other tips on how to keep cool.
Research shows that the ideal office temperature lies somewhere between 21°C and 23°C – though like goldilocks it’s down to the individual to decide what feels ‘just right’!
6. The dog ate it
If you do get sick, it’s important to understand the correct procedures to follow – for example, do you know the difference between a ‘sick-note’ and a ‘fit-note’?
Following an independent review of the sickness absence system in Britain, the government has introduced a number of changes aimed at keeping people in work and reducing costs for employers and the State. This will particularly affect absences lasting longer than four weeks, so it’s well worth making yourself aware of the rules.
We have a full breakdown of the changes here.
And finally, if all else fails….
7. Get a new job!
If all else fails and you just can’t take it anymore, maybe it’s time to consider a new job altogether?
A career in health and safety can be a rich and rewarding journey. However, despite the enormous range of opportunities available, some people are still unsure of the types of qualifications they need to make the switch. In response, we’ve created a simple guide explaining everything you need to know about getting a job in health in safety – and who knows, you might become the next health and safety star!
The law at a glance: http://www.rospa.com/occupationalsafety/adviceandinformation/smallfirmshealthandsafety/advicepack/sheet4.aspx
Stress in the workplace: http://www.rospa.com/occupationalsafety/adviceandinformation/occupationalhealth/stress.aspx
RoSPA Consultancy Services: Stress & Violence: http://www.rospa.com/consultancy/managinghealthsafetywelfare/stress-and-violence.aspx
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