The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) covers all areas of workplace safety and it’s thanks to their diligence and experience that we benefit from safer working environments than many countries in the developed world. Although the HSE was born out of a need to improve the workplace for people involved in manufacturing, the need for regulation has not subsided with our transition to a service-based nation. The only thing that has changed is people’s attitudes to health and safety at work.
Office Based Health and Safety
Keeping an office safe from danger, involved more than having the electrics certified annually. Good housekeeping is essential in our modern working environments. Unfortunately, many small businesses are badly affected when a negligence claim is filed and that’s why prevention is always better than cure. The use of computer and even could-based filing systems has all but done away with risks of file boxes and strewn around the office, but there are much less obvious risks to the workforce.
Proper Cleaning and General Cleanliness
Most people have a good standard of hygiene and pose no threat to anyone else in the workplace, but complacency is an office manager’s worst enemy. If someone catches a common cold simply by picking up someone else’s phone in the office, it is unlikely to result in a claim being placed against your business, but consistent failures to maintain a clean environment are definite causes for concern.
A common cold is not the end of the world, but if it means half of your workforce being home from the office then your business is losing money. Run a telesales department and experience an impetigo outbreak and things could be a lot worse. How often do you check on your office cleaning company to see they are doing their job properly? Most office managers are only concerned with empty bins and vacuumed carpets with little attention paid to the desks. Something as simple as supplying anti-bacterial wipes to your office staff and stating you expect them to maintain their workstation can make all the difference.
Additional Office Cleaning Requirements
When you have the actual office area as clean as humanly possible without being obsessive, you should then consider the rest of your workplace environments. Most office workplaces have breakout areas with a simple kitchen and tables or lounge chairs where staff can mingle and relax away from their screen, but if your staff are expected to clean up after themselves, are they trained on how to do that properly?
For example, your cleaning staff may arrive at your office long before anyone who works at a desk or after everyone has left for the day. The question is, how does your staff know which is the correct cleaning mops and buckets or cloths and cleaning fluids for each particular area? Using the same mop on both restrooms and kitchen areas is a serious health and safety issue and one that can result in many illnesses.
Train Before Rather than After Problems Arise
Office staff rarely respond well when they are taught how to clean, but sadly, that’s exactly what you need to do in every office. Someone with good intentions can put other members of staff at risk by simply failing to understand how the cross-contamination of germs when using the same tools in different areas can affect people.
Regardless of how big or small your business and whether you work in a managed/serviced office or not, you are responsible for the safety of your employees and visitors or the general public. All businesses in the UK with five or more employees need a health and safety policy and all members of staff need to be aware of it. It should include risk assessments and named persons that are responsible for adherence to any health and safety procedures necessary. You can download a template from the Health and Safety Executive by clicking here.
Claire Somers has been office cleaning without complaint for more than twenty years and has many satisfied customers. She often blogs about her experiences and has delivered many training sessions to staff of her clients.