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Office Hazards and Health and Safety Training for Office Workers

Office Hazards Versus Other Workplace Hazards

Two female colleagues working together in an office

Whilst an office may not be thought of as one of the most dangerous places of work, and although it is true that it does not contain the same risks as a chemical or heavy-duty manufacturing plant for example, there are a number of health and safety issues to take into consideration, as there are still risks present in an office.

With regards to health and safety, office hazards are likely to vary considerably from hazards faced by workers in other environments such as factories. Whilst there are still hazards facing office workers, it is usually fair to say that manual work involving heavy duty machinery is more dangerous, with hazards being more numerous and potentially more damaging. For example, a worker on the assembly line at a car production plant will encounter machinery which could sever a limb or crush, noise which could cause loss of hearing, dust and fumes which could choke etc, whereas an office worker sitting at a desk is extremely unlikely to encounter such risks.

For this reason, office hazards and office health and safety is often overlooked or not given the attention it deserves because it is considered low risk. However, when a thorough risk assessment is conducted, the results will show that there are indeed many hazards which can be encountered by office workers, and that sufficient controls and risk management procedures need to be in place.

Potential office hazards include:

  • Electricity - In the form of electric shocks or electrical fires through faulty wiring.
  • Strain injuries - Such as eye strain through using Display Screen Equipment (DSE) or Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) from using computer keyboards and mice for long periods without adequate wrist support.
  • Slips, trips and falls - Wet floors or items left on stairs pose a hazard.
  • Manual handling - Lifting heavy items such as boxes can cause back problems if lifted incorrectly (See: Manual Handling Training).
  • Conflict - Office workers dealing with the public may need training in conflict management.
  • COSHH - Whilst they may not deal with chemicals used in the manufacturing process, office workers will still use certain substances which are hazardous to health and store them on the premises. The most likely of these for an office is cleaning products and printer ink toner (See: COSHH Training).

The Dangers of a Paper Shredder

Even a machine such as a document shredder can pose numerous risks to a person's health and well being, such as:

  • Risk of fire or electric shock through faulty wiring or overload if adaptors are being used to run many electrical appliances off one socket. If the shredder has been purchased from overseas, it may also be designed to run at a different voltage than the mains supply in a different country.
  • Shredding the paper will create dust, which is a COSHH risk if it is inhaled. Although it will likely be confined to the shredded paper collecting bin, if this is damaged or not present then there will be the risk of dust inhalation.
  • Shredders produce noise as a result of their operation. A noise assessment may be required, particularly if the device will be operated for long periods of time by a person.

The most dangerous component of an office paper shredder is the cutting mechanism itself. To prevent serious injury, care must be taken not to come into contact with the sharp cutters. It is also important to keep long hair or loose clothing such as ties away from the shredder to avoid it being drawn in. The machine should also be switched off, unplugged and completely stopped before it is emptied, cleaned or repaired to avoid unintended activation of the cutters.

This is just one example of how health and safety training is vital for all workers regardless of their particular industry or place of work. Even low-risk workplaces will have health and safety areas of consideration such as COSHH, manual handling, fire risks etc.

Related Page: Health and Safety Risks From a Paper Shredder

Health and Safety Courses on Office Hazards

Effective health and safety training, combined with a well-written health and safety policy and an in-depth risk assessment is essential for those who take the safety and welfare of their office workers seriously, and wish to reduce the likelihood of office hazards causing injury. At the BCF Group, we offer a number of health and safety training courses which focus on specific hazards such as DSE and manual handling, as well as our Office Safety course which covers the specific risks to office workers, as well as looking at relevant health and safety legislation and accident investigation for an office accident.

Delegates get the most out of these training courses when they are run as bespoke courses for a group of employees from the same company, which is tailored to their organisation's specific working practices and potential hazards. For more information and to discuss your requirements with one of our health and safety consultants, please call us on 0844 800 3295 or contact us online by clicking the "Contact" tab at the top of the page.

Selected Courses

Please see below for a selection of health and safety courses and qualifications which you may be interested in:

NEBOSH National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety

The NEBOSH National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety is the flagship NEBOSH qualification, and is the first UK vocational qualification to be developed specifically for health and safety professionals.

The NEBOSH National Diploma provides the core health and safety knowledge (transferable across industry, commerce and the public sector) which, combined with understanding and appropriate application, underpins the competent performance of an occupational health and safety practitioner.

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NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety

The NEBOSH General Certificate is one of the most popular and widely-held health and safety qualifications in the UK. It is intended to be taken by managers, supervisors and any other employees who require an understanding of general health and safety issues.

The NEBOSH General Certificate covers the main legal requirements for health and safety in the UK, along with the identification and control of workplace hazards, and the practical application of this knowledge. The general content of the NEBOSH General Certificate syllabus means it is suitable and relevant for those working in virtually any industry, and is often used as a solid foundation for those going on to further study and specialising in a particular area such as construction site health and safety or fire safety.

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IOSH Managing Safely Course

The IOSH Managing Safely course is designed for managers and supervisors of organisations in virtually all industry sectors, in order to give them all they need to know to effectively manage health and safety in the workplace.

Recently updated, the new high impact programme covers key health and safety issues, and includes references to international case studies.

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CITB Site Management SMSTS Course

The Site Management Safety Training Scheme (SMSTS) is one of the most popular health and safety training courses, and is intended for construction site managers, project managers and senior supervisors, as well as proprietors of smaller companies.

Client-based personnel would also benefit from attending the SMSTS course.

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