While professional services firms are generally office based and clerically run, some – for example, veterinary surgeons and architects – undertake other types of work on and off site. Here’s an overview of the legislation affecting companies offering professional services.
Hazardous substances in the office typically include cleaning chemicals and reagents. The regulations require manufacturers to provide the correct information about potential harm from the chemicals, protective equipment needed to use them, and what to do if something goes wrong.
In the office these relate to obvious risks such as exposed wires, but also common risks such as the wiring of plugs, using adapters and testing portable appliances.
These require employers to reduce the risk to employees from noise exposure as far as is reasonably practicable. It’s rarely an issue in offices, but you’ll need to consider staff who work close to machinery.
Work equipment that poses risks in the office usually refers to paper cutting and stapling equipment, shredders etc. As with all assessments, you’ll need to identify the risks to health and safety, and provide employees with appropriate information, training, instruction and supervision.
This covers any transporting or supporting of a load (including lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving) by hand or bodily force (not mechanised). Make sure your employees avoid hazardous manual handling operations wherever possible, and carry out a risk assessment if manual handling is unavoidable.
The guidance states that you need to reorganise the workplace to prevent people working at an unguarded edge or in temperatures that may induce stress. Ventilation, temperature and lighting are factors affecting the health of employees. You also need to take into account maintenance of the buildings and environment. This includes the condition of floors, windows, doors, and lifts, along with staff welfare issues such as sanitary conveniences, washing facilities, and drinking water.
Make sure you perform a suitable and sufficient assessment of computer workstations and their immediate environment to ensure the comfort and safety of users.
What to look out for
In offices, the principal enforcement authority is the Health and Safety Executive.
Typical risks and hazards include:
• Fire exits and doors obstructed and damaged.
• Fire doors not kept closed.
• Fire alarm call points obstructed.
• Fire extinguishers not in place, obstructed, or out of date.
• Damaged cables, trailing cables or over-loaded sockets.
• Portable appliances not inspected or tested routinely.
• Furniture, desks, chairs not fit for purpose.
• Missing, damaged or illegible safety signs.
• Poor general lighting, faulty lights, missing bulbs.
• Floors, floor coverings and ceilings in poor repair.
• Noisy environments in specific areas; lack of use of head-sets in call centres.