By Louis White 26 October 2017

Is your company about to move into a new office? Or, has your existing Work Health Safety routine become a little ad hoc? Here’s how to keep everyone safe.

Moving into a new office means many tasks have to be undertaken to ensure everything is up and running as quickly as possible. It’s natural for those in charge to focus on the IT infrastructure or team locations; the priority is for staff to start work from the moment they walk in. 

Office environments need to be safe, and there needs to be ongoing safety maintenance procedures in place. A good safety plan will include consultation with workers, and the nomination of someone in the workplace to be the key person for questions. Crucially, all workers must be aware of the response plan in case of an emergency. 

There are apps available that will send blast SMS messages and emails to workers asking them to confirm they are safe.

Here are some safety management tips for your workplace:

  1. Is there a minimum clearance of 500mm between sprinklers and other objects? Anything placed too close to sprinkler heads will inhibit the effectiveness of sprinklers in the event of fire. If the sprinklers don’t work properly, fires can quickly get out of hand. Remember that a fire can take lives, as well as destroy fixtures and fittings.

  2. Are emergency exits, fire extinguishers and hoses available and unobstructed? The exits should always be clear and easy to access. Companies should make sure that fire blankets are readily available, especially in kitchens. Ensure that kitchens are fitted with working smoke detectors – but discourage staff from accidentally testing them with smoky toast or burnt food in microwaves or other cooking devices! 

  3. Is there adequate lighting in all office areas? Appropriate lighting is essential for workers to be able to perform their duties. Dim lighting can be a hazard from an evacuation perspective, as well as from a basic workplace health and safety perspective. You don’t want workers straining their eyes at work all day, or tripping over as they exit the office in the evening.  

  4. Are hazardous chemicals on the premises correctly labelled, and are appropriate safety data sheets maintained? Should a spill or contamination occur, a current safety data sheet becomes an integral part of incident management. 

  5. Are the non-slip treatments/treads in good condition? People are often injured at the workplace due to slips and trips. Floors and stair cases should be slip resistant and cleaned on a regular basis. It’s important to ensure that floor surfaces in every part of the office are safe for all workers to walk on at all times. Any spills of food, liquid or rubbish should be cleaned up immediately. 

  6. Is a first aid kit available and adequately signposted? Companies often overlook the contents of their first aid kits.  Remember that first aid supplies are subject to use-by dates.  Again, someone needs to be responsible for confirming that the first aid kit is always appropriately stocked. 

  7. Is there an emergency evacuation diagram displayed? People need to know how to evacuate their floor or building, and where to go after exiting. It is important for all workers to participate in the building’s annual evacuation exercises. Companies should also make sure they are able to quickly account for all workers in the event of an emergency. There are several apps available that will send blast SMS messages and emails to workers asking them to confirm they are safe. A practice evacuation test run should be carried out at least once every 12 months.  

  8. Are power points free of obvious defects and is electrical equipment inspected, tested and tagged in accordance with Australian Standards? Overloading power boards and not maintaining office equipment runs the risk of fire. Electrical equipment should be “tagged and tested” on a regular basis. Again, it is a good idea to delegate one person in the office to check and confirm that all power points are safe to use. 

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