Introduction:

As part of managing the health and safety of your business, you must routinely assess and control the risks in your workplace.

The purpose of a risk assessment is to ensure that the correct precautions are in place to address risks posed by potential hazards. This could be anything from electrical equipment defects to poor posture that impacts the health of office employees.

A good rule of thumb is to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment once a year, though risks should also be assessed every time a new machine, substance or procedure is put in place, as they could lead to new hazards.

Run this checklist at least once a year to perform a full risk assessment of an entire office workspace. By doing so, you will create a safe environment for happy and productive employees.

Let’s get going!

First step:

Records office's basic details

Before beginning the risk assessment, record a few basic details regarding the office.

Slips and trips:

Inspect the flooring

Take a slow walk all around the office, carefully examining the flooring. Pay particular attention to busy walkways as they are more likely to be damaged and pose safety risks. 

Below is a list of safety concerns to look out for. Check each item off once you have inspected all areas. If there are some that are present, note them down in the form field below and have them addressed upon completion of the checklist. 

  • 1
    Slip hazards
  • 2
    Obstructions (mainly in hallways and exits)
  • 3
    Loose material/debris
  • 4
    Worn carpeting
  • 5
    Cracked tiles

If there are wet surfaces without hazard signs or spills that haven't been cleared up, this is due to poor housekeeping and should be addressed immediately by consulting the cleaning service. 

Check for sufficient lighting

Ensure that every room in the office is well lit and that employees are comfortable with the level of brightness. 

If there are defective lightbulbs or panels, or if employees are complaining that the lighting gives them headaches, make a note and evaluate if any changes should be made once the checklist has been completed. 

Ensure that there are no trailing leads or cables

Check all around desks and common areas, making sure that cables are well grounded and hidden away as best as possible.

Trailing leads and cables create trip hazards that can be easily avoided if neatly organized. 

Check stairways and corridors for obstructions

All stairways and corridors must be free of obstructions.

Confirm the office is cleaned every evening

Daily cleaning is essential to maintaining a healthy and safe working environment. 

Check that the office is being cleaned every evening, either by employed cleaners or by a contracted cleaning service.

Equipment handling:

Check high shelves for heavy items

Large and heavy items should not be stored on high shelves. They should be stored on low shelves or on the ground to prevent the risk of falling and causing serious injury.

If there are any heavy items that need to be lowered, make a note of them below and have them addressed when you review the assessment with other members of staff.

This is particularly important if you are in a state that is prone to earthquakes such as California, Oregon or Nevada.

Check all mechanical safeguards

Check that all mechanical safeguards are in place and functioning properly (e.g. paper cutter guards). 

Ensure deliveries are handled appropriately

Boxes of paper and other heavy items should be handled with care when delivered to the office.

There should be an easily accessible trolley to transport heavy items upon collection. This is to prevent the risk of back pain or injury from handling bulky objects. 

Employees should be reminded that they should not try to lift objects that look or appear too heavy to handle. 

Ergonomics:

Check all employees have fully adjustable chairs

All employees who work at a desk should have a fully adjustable chair so they can sit comfortably and with good posture. 

This is becoming a very important aspect of office health and safety as many workers are experiencing neck and back pain due to poor alignment while working at their desks for long periods of time.

Monitor employee posture

A diagram illustrating the characteristics of good posture

Providing a fully adjustable chair is just half of the work. Employees should be encouraged to get in the habit of sitting with good posture that keeps their spine straight throughout the working day.  

Take half an hour or so to monitor employees and make a note of individuals that are sitting in a way that is clearly harmful in the long-term and should be addressed.

Check out these 7 simple ways to improve your posture at work

An animated guide to why office posture matters

Assess display screen equipment

When evaluating display screen equipment, here is a list of what needs to be considered:

  • 1
    Workstation and equipment are set to ensure good posture
  • 2
    Work is planned to include regular breaks or change of activity
  • 3
    Adjustable blinds at windows to control natural light on screens
  • 4
    Glare and reflections on screen are avoided
  • 5
    Eye tests are provided for those who need them
  • 6
    Employees are encouraged to inform staff of any pain linked to computer use

Electrical safety:

Inspect cables and plugs for damage

Check that all cables and plugs are in good condition. Any signs of damage should be noted down and addressed immediately.

Defective electrical equipment could cause electrical shocks, burns, or lead to fires. 

Staff should be trained to spot and report any defective plugs, discolored sockets or damaged cables to the office manager or administrator.

Inspect placement of extension cords

All extension cords should be well grounded and hidden away as best as possible. 

If there are any cords running through doors, walkways, or loosely attached to walls/ceilings, see to it that they are removed. 

Review reporting procedure for defective equipment

As mentioned earlier, all staff should be trained to identify and report any defective plugs, faulty sockets or damaged cables as they pose a potentially serious safety hazard. 

By reviewing the reporting procedure, ensure that employees are aware of their responsibility to report faulty electrical equipment and are provided with open communication channels to do so quickly and efficiently. 

Fire prevention:

Check exit signs are well lit

Check that exit signs are well lit and in clear line of sight for all employees. 

Check fire alarms for testing within last six months

All fire alarms in the office should be tested at least every 6 months. 

Find out more about inspection and testing requirements of fire alarm systems.

Check fire extinguishers are in working order

Check that all fire extinguishers in the office are in good condition and received up-to-date servicing to ensure they are in working order. 

Employee awareness:

Ensure workers know how to report a hazard

There are 3 main ways to report a hazard:

  • A verbal report to a supervisor
  • Completing a hazard report form (sample attached below)
  • Raising the issue at a staff meeting

Be clear about the consequences of failing to report a hazard and the positive incentives to report a hazard as soon as possible. 

Hazards that pose an acute threat should, of course, be reported immediately to an office manager, administrator or delegated workplace health and safety officer. 

Hazards that are less urgent may simply require filling out a hazard report form and forwarding it to the appropriate person.

A hazard report form should be emailed to all employees and stored on their desktop for easy access.  

Check out this article on how to encourage employees to report hazards.

Ensure workers know the emergency evacuation procedure

All employees must be familiar with the emergency evacuation procedure. 

You can attach your specific procedure below and email it to all workers.

For more details, check out OSHA's official guide on how to plan for workplace emergencies and evacuations

Ensure workers know who to contact for first aid assistance

All members of staff must know who to contact for first aid assistance. 

A contact number should be available on every phone in the office.

Assessment review:

Review information gathered from the inspection

Now that the risk assessment has been completed, it's time to review all of the information that has been gathered so that it can be presented to other members of staff along with specific action items.

Safety concerns - Flooring: {{form.Safety_concerns_-_Flooring}}

Safety concerns - Lighting: {{form.Concerns_regarding_lighting_(repair_needs,_employee_complaints_etc.)}}

Safety concerns - Heavy objects: {{form.Heavy_items_that_need_to_be_moved_to_lower_storage}}

Safety concerns - Cables and plugs: {{form.Safety_concerns_-_Cables_and_plugs}}

Safety concerns - Fire equipment: {{form.Safety_concerns_-_Fire_equipment}}

Safety concerns - Employee posture: {{form.Employees_with_particularly_bad_posture}}

Schedule review meeting with other members of staff

Schedule a meeting with other key members of staff to discuss the assessment in more detail and create an action plan for how to move forward.

Be sure to hand out copies of the assessment to all meeting attendees and consider sending the report to all employees for them to look through in their own time.

Sources:

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