Improving safety and efficiency in the office

Improving safety and efficiency in the office

All workplaces have hazards, and the office is no exception. Although a risk assessment of the typical office is likely to find fewer threats and problem areas than in a manufacturing unit or workshop, this is no reason for employers to be lax. Poor housekeeping in an office environment can lead to both everyday health concerns and increased risk of a major incident such as a fire. Additionally, following best practice can lead to increased efficiency and productivity and as such is extremely cost-effective.

Fire safety

With any office, the first thing to check is that it meets all fire safety requirements. This means ensuring that effective fire exits are kept clear and that all staff are familiar with the evacuation procedure. A full fire drill should be carried out regularly. Proper fire doors should be fitted, while alarms and smoke detectors should be checked and tested weekly.

Removing obstructions

Offices are often cramped spaces that can quickly become full to overflowing with equipment, documentation, files and records, much of which needs to be permanently stored and indexed. In many cases, these documents are on paper, which increases the risk of a fire spreading. Although many offices and businesses now claim to have gone over to a paper-free model, many legacy documents and vital legal paperwork still need to be maintained as hard copy for the foreseeable future.

Storage solutions

One way to tackle this hazard is to move important paperwork and business documentation off-site. This has the advantage of securely storing important information in a specially designated space where it will not get mixed up with other items, lost, damaged or otherwise mishandled. Keeping confidential business documentation in a rented storage unit also reduces the risk of it being seen, copied or stolen by unauthorised parties. Finally, this removes a major potential fire hazard from the office, as well as a general obstruction to healthy and effective work practices.

Using technology

Moving older paper documentation off-site should go hand in hand with a computerised filing system that moves as far as possible towards a paper-free clerical system. The main impetus towards this approach has been the fact that using less paper is more environmentally friendly and less wasteful. This is certainly one benefit, but the reduction is paper, and by extension, bulky filing cabinets, photocopiers and high, dusty shelving, which will also impact positively on employee health and morale.

When bringing in new technology, it’s important to make sure that all relevant staff are fully trained and briefed on the use of the IT systems in question. Sending them on an outside training course may be money well spent. As well as assisting them in making sure that they are able to do their job properly, full training and transparency will reduce suspicion that the new machines will result in job losses, or are overcomplicating an existing way of working that may have been in place for years.

Long-standing employees may feel threatened by radical change, and including them in the process will help to overcome this. It’s important that computerisation is not used as a way to reduce costs by reducing the number of employees. Instead, technology should be used to help your existing team do their jobs more efficiently, with new team members also being brought on board if needed.

Clean air

Offices are notorious breeding grounds for germs and bacteria, as well as harbouring dust, insects, chemical fumes and other hazards that can spread disease or damage the respiratory system. One way to tackle this is to ensure a flow of fresh air. Open windows or other forms of natural ventilation are the best way to achieve this, but make sure that employees are not working in a draught. Access to daylight can also improve morale and overall health, leading to greater productivity and less absenteeism.

A healthy office is an efficient office, in more ways than one. It’s not always necessary to have a large open-plan space in order to make the most of your immediate environment. Simply decluttering and making full use of modern technology’s capabilities for reducing the amount of physical space needed can result in a streamlined office that gives your employees room to breathe.

Along with these solutions, allowing flexible and remote working, and using cloud storage and video conferencing to connect and collaborate, has many advantages both for employees and the company. Health and safety should be your prime consideration, but working towards these goals may very well also improve productivity and lower costs, which has to be a welcome bonus in anyone’s book.

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