Workplace hazards exist in every type of workplace. Yes, offices don’t pose the same risk as construction sites, however, health and safety risks still exist. These hazards need to be actively prevented and continuously monitored.
Occupational health and safety legislation (OH&S) exists across North America to protect workers from safety hazards. Although the details may vary between jurisdiction, the basic principles under this legislation remain the same.
Managerial positions, such as building managers or office managers, have a responsibility to ensure health and safety in their workplace.
Because managerial positions typically act on behalf of the employer, their legal obligation is to uphold the health and safety duties of the employer in the work environment.
Office buildings that lease office spaces to various companies employ building managers, also referred to as commercial property managers, to oversee smooth day-to-day operations, including the safety of the tenants.
Office managers, on the other hand, are responsible for the health and safety of the workers and company staff within their office.
Although their responsibilities are closely related, they work with slightly different challenges and safety hazards so we’ve provided a separate set of safety tips for each one.
- Main Areas Of Responsibility
- Common Safety Hazards In Office Buildings
- Office Safety Tips for Building Managers
- 9 Common Office Hazards
- A Health And Safety Policy For Offices
What Are the Safety Responsibilities Of A Commercial Property Manager?
Commercial property managers are legally obligated to keep the premises in a safe condition for the tenants. They are generally responsible for routine inspections, preventative maintenance of the premises and repairs to ensure a safe environment in tenant suites and common spaces.
Main Areas Of Responsibility
Most often, the five general areas that building managers are responsible for are:
- Physical Injury Prevention: Properties need to be well-maintained, inside and outside. All furniture, objects, and equipment should be placed on the property in a way that doesn’t present the risk of injury.
- Fire And Emergency Response: In commercial buildings, property managers are responsible for managing fire risk. This area of responsibility concerns fire alarms, fire extinguishers, and evacuation plans.
- Electrical Safety: Property managers have a duty to ensure that wiring and equipment are in working condition and electrical safety checks are performed prior to the commencement of a lease.
- HVAC: The property manager is responsible for inspecting, maintaining, and repairing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning units throughout the building.
- Security: Often the building manager in commercial buildings is responsible for taking proper security measures to ensure that the common spaces are secure for tenants and the public.
Common Safety Hazards In Office Buildings
Within those five areas, commercial property managers need to be aware of safety hazards and risks, including but not limited to:
- Fire hazards
- Electrical hazards
- Exposure to harmful chemicals
- Respiratory risks
- Slips, falls, and other physical injuries
- Robberies, vandalism, burglaries and other crimes (Click here for more info)
The best way to mitigate risk is to plan ahead, communicate the safety plans to all parties concerned, and update the plans often.
Office Safety Tips for Building Managers
Health and safety policies should be customized to your specific building but the following safety tips are a helpful starting point.
Work With Professional Contractors
Property managers are responsible for hiring electricians, landscaping services, painters, carpenters...etc. When these contractors are working on-site, they need to complete the job while prioritizing the health of their own works, the public, and the tenants of the building. Check for certifications, read their reviews, ensure that protective gear is worn when required, and make sure that they carry insurance. Upon hiring, go over the health and safety guidelines that they need to follow while on the job.
Prepare Health and Safety Procedures And Policies
Building managers need to have a working document that includes:
- A statement of intent for the health and safety on the property
- A risk assessment to identify potential safety hazards and their corresponding preventative measures
- Emergency response procedures and a drill schedule
- Roles and responsibilities along with contact information of the people who have specific health and safety responsibilities
- Routine inspection details
Maintain A Record Of Incidents
This is helpful for legal purposes, in the event of an incident. Recording incidents also helps to identify patterns and guide policy updates.
Hire Customized Security Services
Work with a company that is willing to customize the security solution to your building’s unique needs. Look for well-trained, security professionals who understand that security officers need to combine a friendly presence with security services that bring peace of mind to the tenants and property owners, alike.
Safety Responsibilities Of An Office Manager
According to Neuvoo, one of the primary responsibilities of an office manager is to ensure that “...projects are led in compliance with all company policies and procedures, including health and safety standards”. Office managers are legally responsible for maintaining a safe work environment, one that prevents injury and illness.
In cases where the company that owns the office, also owns the building, the office manager may also take on the duties and responsibilities of a building manager (see above).
9 Common Office Hazards
In addition to any hazards unique to your particular office, as an office manager, you need to be aware of these common workplace hazards.
- Inadequate Lighting: Poor lighting can result in workers slipping, falling and colliding. It can also cause eye damage due to strain.
- Ergonomic Hazards: workstations and chairs that aren’t ergonomically designed can result in musculoskeletal injuries. Additionally, duties that involve manual handling, frequent lifting, and awkward movements can cause injury.
- Lack Of Temperature Regulation: Office workers need to have consistent thermal comfort. In other words, the office environment needs to maintain a comfortable room temperature. There needs to be adequate humidity, heating, ventilation, as well as air conditioning, if required, to maintain optimal temperatures.
- Slip, Trip, And Fall Hazards: If placed irresponsibly, office furniture, equipment, decor, and other objects can easily cause a worker to get hurt.
- Electrical Hazards: Power sockets, wires, office equipment, appliances all pose a major safety risk.
- Spread Of Contagious Illnesses: When a group of people work in close quarters, contagious illnesses spread quickly.
- Fire Hazards: Overloaded electrical sockets, damaged power cords, obstructed walkways, and combustibles all present risk of an office fire.
- Chemical Hazards: Offices typically use heavy-duty, toxic-chemical laden cleaning products that could cause serious harm in an accident or improper handling.
- Employee Security: Just like every other workplace, offices are at risk for theft, vandalism, unauthorized access, violence..etc.
A Health And Safety Policy For Offices
In addition to employing the tips listed above for office building managers, an office manager would benefit from adding these office safety tips to their health and safety policy.
Keep A Clean, Tidy Office
The office environment needs to be clean, tidy and well-maintained to minimize the risk of illness, slips, trips, and falls. All furniture, objects, and equipment should be placed in a way that doesn’t present any risk of injury.
Communicate All Health and Safety Procedures
Keep up to date on the building’s emergency procedures and the company’s health and safety procedures. Communicate this information to all office staff at the start of their employment and whenever updates occur.
Maintain Office Equipment In Working Condition
Provide workers with an easy way to notify you of equipment issues. Note the general life cycle of each machine so that you can schedule maintenance and order replacements ahead of time.
Take Proper Security Measures
Educate employees on security protocols. Ensure that workers understand the rules for access control including physical access to the office as well as sensitive company information. Employ office security services to increase worker safety.
Organize A Health And Safety Committee
The safety of the office doesn’t have to solely depend on the office manager. Organize a committee of workers to take First Aid training, risk assessment training, and any other safety courses relevant to your workplace.
Train Staff in Safe Handling
All staff involved in manual handling, use of toxic chemicals, and combustible materials should be trained or certified.
Provide Ergonomic Workstations
Avoid musculoskeletal injuries with ergonomically designed desks and chairs and adequate lighting.
Office Safety For Your Business
Offices are certainly not immune to workplace hazards. An unsafe office space can result in costly repairs, unhappy employees, and lower productivity levels, affecting company revenue. Or worse, dangerous incidents can lead to serious injury or death.