Under UK law, employers have a duty to ensure the safety of their employees. What this means in practice will vary depending on the working environment. Construction workers might be provided with hard hats, while those working on motorways at night time might be protected with high-vis, warm clothing.
We might not think of office work as particularly risky, from a physical perspective. But the fact is that the risks are present – except they’re just not as visible, and for that reason, they can be more insidious.
So, how can office managers abide by their legal responsibilities, and protect the welfare of their workers in the long term?
Workplace injuries can range from mild to severe and can have a significant impact on an individual’s career, health and overall quality of life. From minor sprains and strains to serious accidents, these incidents are both costly and dangerous for employees.
Workplace injuries can occur in any setting, but the most common are found in industrial and manufacturing environments. Understanding the causes of workplace injuries is important in order to create a safe working environment.
Office Risk Assessment
The first step of any attempt to limit risk in the office should be an office risk assessment. After all, you can’t solve a problem if you don’t first understand exactly what’s causing it, and to what extent. In many cases, the problems uncovered by a risk assessment will be easily soluble.
It’s good practice to record a written risk assessment, even if your business comprises less than five employees, and is legally exempt. You should include details about how the assessment was conducted, and what hazards were identified.
While this process might be intimidating if you don’t know where to begin, you’ll find a wealth of resources online to support you. After all, it’s in everyone’s interest that your business is made as safe as possible.
Back and Neck Pain
If your workers are forced to sit in substandard chairs, or their work environment isn’t set up according to ergonomic principles, then it’s more or less assured that they’re going to suffer back and neck pains. Allowing (or even mandating) regular breaks for physical relief and exercise will also reduce the rate of absenteeism, and bolster productivity in the long term. Orthopaedic injury claims may be pursued by office workers whose employees haven’t made the appropriate effort to limit the damage.
Spending hours every day looking at a computer monitor can lead to problems with eye strain. Make sure that workers know how to adjust the display to fit their needs, and that they’re not being forced to cope with substandard equipment.
Repetitive Strain Injury
By the same token, spending a lot of time performing the same few repetitive actions can lead to injury, which can lead to a range of other complications. Repetitive strain injury is something that has to be managed, and will often lead to a significant decline in output.
It’s harder to type, after all, when doing so causes significant pain. A better solution is to prevent the problem in the first place.
An office environment can provide a huge amount of mental stress, especially if deadlines are arriving constantly, and there’s limited time for decompression. Encourage your workers to look after themselves mentally, and try to cultivate a culture of mutual support in your office.