Offices are generally considered low-risk environments, however, there still remains the potential for injury and ill health that need to be managed.
In the office, physical hazards may arise for example, from maintenance and alteration works, electrical equipment, trailing leads, space constraints and wet floors. Health hazards are a significant risk, in particular, stress and ergonomic factors.
As an employer or business owner, you have a primary duty of care for your staff and you are responsible for work health and safety in the workplace.
Duty of Care
As an employer, you have the main responsibility for the health and safety of everyone in your workplace, including visitors.
If you are self-employed, you have the primary duty of care for your own safety and the safety of others.
The model Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws require you to take care of the health, safety and welfare of your workers, including yourself and other staff, contractors and volunteers, and others (clients, customers, visitors) at your workplace.
Some practical ways of carrying out your duty of care responsibilities include ensuring:
- the work environment, systems of work, machinery and equipment are safe and properly maintained
- information, training, instruction and supervision are provided
- provide adequate workplace facilities such as (washrooms, toilets, lockers, dining areas, first aid, etc) are available for workers
- any accommodation you provide to your workers is safe
- workers’ health and workplace conditions are monitored
- chemicals are handled and stored safely.
Duties of employers to monitor health and conditions, etc
An employer must, so far as is reasonably practicable:
- monitor the health of the employees; and
- monitor the conditions at the workplace under their management and control (eg heat, cold, dust levels, fumes, and so on); and
- provide information to employees (including in appropriate other languages) on health and safety, including the names of who to take an ohs issue/enquiry to
- An employer must, so far as is reasonably practicable:
- keep information and records on the health and safety of employees; and
- employ experts (people who are 'suitably qualified') to provide advice
Duty to Workers relating to Covid-19
As an employer, you have a legal responsibility to protect workers and others from risk to their health and safety, including from the risks of COVID-19. You must do what you can to ensure the health and safety of your workers. You must eliminate the risk of exposure to COVID-19 if reasonably practicable.
If you are not able to eliminate the risk of exposure to COVID-19, you must minimise that risk, as far as is reasonably practicable.
Protect workers from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 by, for example:
- considering working from home arrangements
- requiring workers to practice physical distancing
- requiring workers to practice good hygiene (e.g., through workplace policies and ensuring access to adequate and well-stocked hygiene facilities)
- requiring workers to stay home when sick, and
- cleaning the workplace regularly and thoroughly.
Many employers fail to realise the extent of their duties when it comes to office safety.
What are the most common office safety hazards?
Within an office environment, there are some common categories of hazards that people are likely to encounter.
- Slips trips & falls - are the single most common cause of major injury in Australian workplaces.
- Display Screen Equipment (DSE) - a poorly-designed work station and/or bad work habits can result in serious health problems
- Manual handling is responsible for a third of all workplace injuries.
There are many elements of an office environment that invite the risk of accidents. Some further health and safety hazards that must be managed include:
- Electrical equipment;
- Falling objects (items falling off shelves, out of cupboards, off the wall or from the ceiling);
- temperature, lighting and ventilation
- Ill-maintained or broken furniture;
- Pinch injuries (getting fingers or hair caught in drawers and office machines);
- welfare facilities
- fire safety and other emergencies
- office chemicals
- first aid
- controlling contractors
- working at height
- artificial optical radiation (due to intense light or lasers)
- Work-related stress.
Fortunately, most office accidents and injuries are easily preventable through simple practical measures and a proactive approach to health and safety.
Straightforward Workplace Health Support
We understand that most owners of office-based businesses are not experts in health and safety, and knowing where to begin, and whether you’re doing enough, can be daunting. That’s why business large and small across Australia trust us to manage their occupational health issues.
As part of our service, you will have access to an experienced Injury Management Consultant who specialises in workplace injury treatment and management.
At HPOM our injury management consultants (IMCs) assist insurers, employers, business owners, lawyers, injured workers and nominated treating doctors to find solutions to problems in complex return to work plans, workplace injury management and workers compensation.