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Office health and safety: Five ways to keep the office free of hazards

by , 07 April 2015
There are several ways you can use to keep your office and your team protected from hazards. Probably the most important rule is to never forget about the periodic inspection you should perform and to make sure your team understands the importance of the health and safety training.

Their actions influence anyone in the workplace and this is something no one should forget.

Here's how you can protect your office agains hazards using five efficient safety methods:


1. Do safety inspections at least once a month

2. Implement your plan of action.

• Look at your completed checklist. You should have a plan of action for every answer in the shaded area of the checklist.

Here is an example of a checklist:

Use a checklist to make sure you identified and removed the common hazards. Here are some examples that should be included in your list together with boxes for Yes/No/Not Available:

1. Are floor surfaces chipped and uneven? Does carpeting show worn spots or holes?

2. Are aisles wide enough so people can move easily?

3. Are electric, computer, printer and telephone cords where people might trip?

4. Do electrical cords look frayed or damaged? Are they hanging our hooks or sharp edges? Do people step on them?

5. Do electric outlet boxes on the floor placed so people can trip over them?

6. Do you allow employees to stand on chairs, desks, etc?

7. Are the paper cutter, shredder and binder in a place where there is enough room to work safely?

8. Are pencils placed in pencil holder with the points facing upwards?

9. Are employees wearing dangling jewellery or floppy clothing when using moving machinery? For example, ties hanging down when using the shredder

10. Do employees run in the office?

11. Do employees lean far back in their chairs?

12. If an employee spills liquid (e.g. tea or water) while carrying it through the offices, do they clean up the spills properly?

13. Are scissors, knives and other sharp
objects safely stored and used?

14. Are stairs well lit?

15. Are stair handrails secure, easy to hold and at a comfortable height?

16. Are there non-slip surfaces on the stairs?

17. Are the stairways free of litter?

18. Are desk or file drawers left open?

19. Are furniture and fixtures free of splinters or sharp edges?

20. Is furniture with castors easy to move?

21. Is more than one file drawer open at once?

22. Are files top heavy, with empty drawers at the bottom and full drawers on top?

23. Are boxes, papers and books stored safely on top of files and storage cabinet?

24. Are boxes, papers and books stored less than 45 cms from the ceiling?

25. Is there adequate space under the desk or workstation for an employee to take cover in the event of an emergency?

26. Are glass doors marked so they can be seen?

27. Are fire exits clearly marked and free of obstructions?

28. Are all smoking restrictions followed?

29. Do employees know where the fire exits are?

30. Are designated employees trained to use fire extinguishers?

31. Are employees instructed in fire reporting and emergency duties?

32. Are flammable materials stored in metal cabinets?

33. Are storage areas kept clean and tidy?

34. Are heating elements (coffee makers, urns, kettles, heaters) safely placed and inspected regularly?

35. Are fire drills conducted twice a year?

36. Are multiplugs plugged into other multiplugs?

37. Have employees been shown how to lift things properly?

38. Are all accidents reported promptly?

39. Do employees know to whom to report accidents?

40. Is the first aid box adequately stocked?

41. Is there a trained first aider on duty at all times?

42.Do people know what to do if they are stuck in the lift?

43. Do people know not to use lifts during an emergency?

44. Are there notices on lift landing advising people not to use lifts during an emergency?

45. Are evacuation maps placed at strategic points in the office?

Make sure you include a check box for the following question: If your answer is in shaded area,
what is your ACTION plan?

• Place these action plans on the agenda for your health and safety committee meeting in order of priority. Your priority order should reflect the risk of the problem identified.
For example:

The risk is much higher for a serious injury if people walk into a glass door and cut themselves than if they prick their finger on a pencil-placed point upwards in a pencil holder. You then need to work this list and correct all the problems you've identified.

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3. Your health and safety committee should be doing the inspections, but in practice we sometimes find that the health and safety officer does them to save time. Don't do this! These inspections are the responsibility of the health and safety committee. If they don't do the inspections themselves, they won't be committed to rectifying problems identified during an inspection.

4. In case you work in a unionised office, you have to make sure you get buy-in from the union. You have a legal responsibility to involve the unions in who you appoint as health and safety representatives (General Administrative Regulation Section 6.1, OHSA).
5. Place safety slogans in prominent places in the office.

Here are eight examples of safety slogans you can put in your office:

• If you open it, close it
• If you turn it on, turn it off
• If you break it, fix it. If you can't fix it call someone who can
• If you make a mess, clean it up
• If you move it, put it back
• If you don't know how to operate it, ask someone who knows how
• If you open a filing cabinet drawer, close it before opening another drawer
• If you need to lift or move heavy objects, ask for help

We hope this is useful and remember to pay attention to the importance of the health and safety system in your office!


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