Written by Brent Rogers
Keeping Safe in the Workplace (WHS Training)
Like many Australians across the country, your workplace may consist of an office. Many Australians are working within the technology field like data processing, communication or information technology and as such, the once traditional office space has turned into a flexible workplace including off-site locations, vehicles and work from home schemes. The newly harmonised occupational health and safety laws and regulations implemented across the nation are bringing changes to certain areas of OHS.
Proving a workplace free from occupational health and safety hazards is not only a requirement but is also a part of ethical employment. Effective management of safety issues also has huge impact on employees and has been proven to lead to reduced cost, increased productivity, higher moral, better employee relations and lower workers compensation claims.
OH&S Courses and Work
It is important to raise awareness of OH&S within the workplace as well as bring to light potential hazards and issues, encourage OHS consultation and promote a health work environment. Employers are striving more than ever to meet their legal responsibilities in relation to occupational health and safety.
Who is Responsible for OHS Course Training?
Many employees, regardless of job type, are left asking the question, “Well exactly who is responsible?” It is the employers who have the duty of care to provide a safe and health working environment under OH&S legislation and regulation. Employers also have the responsibility to ensure all staff are aware of their own safety responsibilities. Most of the time a companies dedicated safety representative or safety officer will take charge of these duties.
Hazards in the Workplace
There are a variety of hazards that employees, employers and safety officers will come across during their time in the workplace. It is the responsibility of everyone to report these hazards in order to keep the workplace safe for all. I have complied a list of some hazards you might find in your workplace below. These hazards can be greatly minimized by undertaking adequate oh&s course training like the Cert IV OHS.
OH&S Courses: Mechanical Hazards:
– Unsteady filing cabinets
– Tripping hazards
– Sharp edges
OH&S Courses: Physical Hazards:
– Glare from computer screens and windows
– Reflections from computer screens and windows
– Overheating of technological equipment including photocopies, computers, printers ect.
– Inappropriate chairs
– Jobs and tasks that encourage prolonged work (and little movement)
– Poor lighting
– Poor ventilation
– Temperature variations (particularly with air conditioning)
– Trip hazards like loose cables
OH&S Courses: Chemical Hazards:
– Vapors in the air
– Paint (particularly when renovations are being done in the office, as many barriers to stop paint fumes entering the work stations of employees as possible should be taken)
– Solvents and particles like ink from printers and photocopies should be monitored
OH&S Courses: Psychological Hazards:
– These can come down to how a person is treated in the workplace (employer and employee relationships)
– Bullying in the workplace
– Excessive work hours
– Lack of satisfaction leading to a lack of employee engagement
– Repetitive work
– Limited task variety
– Staff unaware of emergency procedures
OH&S Courses: Electrical Hazards:
– Damaged electricity cords
– Overloaded power points
– Christmas decorations in the workplace can be a fire hazard (see last weeks article Available Here for more info)
How to Combat Against These OH&S Hazards in the Workplace
While both employers and employees face many OHS hazards within the workplace, there are certain things you can do as an employer or safety representative, to safeguard against this. All Cert IV OHS trained officers will explain you must:
– Ensure you have a safety officer or safety representative check all electrical equipment for hazards and warranty
– Have a safety rep. check all the power cords for fraying or exposure of wires and general damage
– Minimize power boards and double adapters for the control of electrical risk
– Ensure all flooring, walkways and stairs are free from obstruction
– Ensure all emergency exits are not blocked
– Before moving in (if possible) ensure your office floor plan is compliant with OHS building requirements
– Have a safety officer check all flooring for proper maintenance
– Give staff access to appropriate safety equipment (if needed), like a small ladder for reaching things at a height (as opposed to using a desk or office chair)
– Provide adequate lighting in all areas
– Stabilize heavy items like bookshelves or filing cabinets
– Have a safety representative or officer maintain all office equipment for safety
– If air-conditioning is not available, ensure employees have adequate access to a ran or heater depending on the season
– Ensure the human resources manager or safety representative have been appropriately trained to complete the task they are employed to do
It is also important to ensure all staff have been trained for emergencies. This is one of the most essential parts of OHS training. Events such as a fire, bomb threat or health issue should be set out in company policy and need to include the emergency evacuation procedures. Coordination during these events should be lead by the manager or occupational health and safety representative or OHS officer of the company. It is also a good idea to regularly hold practice evacuations so everyone is briefed on what to do in a fire situation. This is good practice particularly if there are new staff coming into the company on a regular basis.
Ergonomic Office Chairs and OH&S
The term ergonomic is used to describe furniture that is design to support correct posture and prevent discomfort. Office chairs that support ergonomic functions are ideal for the workplace – particularly those who are in sedentary jobs all day. These chairs cater to a large majority of workers due to the differing range of chair models available.
What is an Ergonomic Chair?
Ergonomic chairs have the following characteristics:
– 5 supportive base prongs for stability;
– A weight limit which should be strictly adhered to for OHS reasons;
– Preferably without arm rests to allow the chair to fit appropriately under the desk. If the chair has arm rests then these need to be user-adjustable and changed to the users correct height by a safety representative;
– Both the back height and angle should be adjusted to enable both waist support and back support whilst sitting.
– The entire chair itself should be moveable so that the user can adjust the height to have their thighs close to the top of the desk. If the chair user is short an elevated foot rest may be appropriate to ensure their is no pressure behind the knees of backs of the thighs;
– When positioning the chair at a computer desk, the users shoulders should be relaxed and the desk surface around elbow height. Wrists should not be bent in any way and the keyboard should be as close to the body as possible to prevent wrist and arm strain. The users eye focus should be meeting the middle to top of the computer screen. They should not be leaning forward or straining their neck either up or down.
Regardless of the equipment available in your office, for adequate occupational health and safety procedures, you should be moving around every 20 minutes. Take the chance to walk around the office and perform exercises to relieve tension and stretch the muscles. If you are doing a great amount of computer based work you should also practice eye exercises and focus on an object in the distance to prevent short-sightedness.
And remember, if you are working within an office where you feel occupational health and safety procedures are inadequate, its always the best idea to speak up about this, because even short term injury can equate to long term pain.
Australian Government. (2008). Officewise: A Guide to Health and Safety in the Office. Retrieved from Here.
University of New South Wales. (2011). Health and Safety: Harm 2 Zero. Retrieved from Here.
If you are interested in finding out more about ergonomic chairs Click Here.* Images courtesy of stock.xchng at http://www.sxc.hu/.
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