Health & safety considerations when designing a new office
Designing a new office can be both exciting and energy draining at once. While health and safety might not be the most exciting aspect of the design, it is an important consideration.
As an employer, it is your responsibility and legal requirement to ensure the health and safety of not only your employees but everyone in the building. There are health and safety requirements that every employer needs to make including hygiene, space, fire safety and more.
While it’s important to consider asking for health and safety advice from professionals, this piece will put you on the right track in terms of health and safety considerations.
The first and most important considerations for a new office design should be fire safety. It doesn’t matter how up-to-date your new building is, if it doesn’t meet certain criteria set in-place by the government then it’s not usable.
You should install a sturdy fire safety system to warn people of a fire when necessary. Fire doors should also be fitted throughout the office. This is to prevent the spread of fire to other areas of the building. You should also remember to have working fire extinguishers mounted in areas with high risk of fires like the kitchen or cafeteria.
While the office layout can have a direct impact on the productivity of your employees, it also plays an important role in ensuring health and safety. The flow of the office needs to be unobstructed with easy and clear access to the fire exits in case of emergencies. Once you’ve complied with the legal requirements, you can then focus on the ascetics of the workplace.
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 requires employers to provide suitable and sanitary conveniences for their employees. Toilets are not deemed to be suitable unless they’re well ventilated, adequately lit and properly cleaned. You should also have separate bathrooms for your male and female employees. The number of toilets and washbasins required depends on the number of employees in the building at a given time.
It should go without saying but your office should be adequately lit. Flickering lights and poorly lit rooms encourages eye straining which could cost you in the long run. To reduce utility bills, you should consider designing the office around the natural lighting from windows. Natural light also contributes to increasing employee morale as they’re able to look outside instead of feeling trapped in the office.
Although we can’t eliminate them from an office altogether, we should try to minimise them. All equipment must be tested by law to determine if they’re safe for use in the workplace. This is important because faulty electrical can cause severe electric shocks or even fires. Remember to advise employees on the proper use of electrical equipment to avoid accidents.
Employers are encouraged to identify areas of the job where employees’ health and safety are at risk and take steps to prevent it. They should also provide the necessary information and training required to carry out tasks safely and efficiently.
Guest blog by Paul Holcroft, Associate Director at Croner. Croner are expert consultants in Employment Law, HR, and Health & Safety.