Managing slips, trips and falls through safe work design
Offices use electronic equipment with cables, which mean slips, trips and falls are all common hazards in the workplace. Slips, trips and falls are often preventable, but failing to manage these hazards can lead to serious claims or death. Safe Work Australia recommends employers use safe design principles at work to minimise these risks.
Electric cables, mats, unexpected steps and slippery or wet surfaces can increase the risk of slips, trips, and falls. Employees can suffer serious injuries as a result of these hazards, which is why you need to take special care to control them.
To start with, it’s important to identify and assess the current risks in your office. If these can be eliminated, employers should take every measure to do so. If they can’t be removed, you need to minimise the risk as much as possible. This could mean covering electric cables with electrical tape and marking them clearly, or marking slippery surfaces clearly.
Safe Work Australia also has a model code of practice to help employers manage the risk of falls at work.
Controlling the office environment
As well as safe design and ergonomic considerations, employers also need to consider the physical environment of the office. This includes temperature control and air quality control measures, such as:
maintaining a comfortable temperature in the workplace
providing adequate air conditioning if needed
monitoring and controlling air quality as much as possible
risk management of conditions such as Legionnaires’ disease
risk management of ‘sick building syndrome’, particularly because Australians spend more than 90% of their time indoors.
Other hazards or risks to keep in mind
In addition to these hazards and risks, there may be additional risks in your office.
Workplaces often use a range of electrical appliances. This can include photocopiers, printers, TVs, and office kitchens with kettles, microwaves and fridges. As an employer, you need to ensure that electrical equipment is well-maintained and not overloaded to prevent fire hazards.
Housekeeping is also a key consideration. Employees may leave storage boxes or personal items lying around on the floor, creating trip hazards or obstructions to the exits. In order to manage this, it’s important to ensure there’s enough storage space in your office. Employees should also be reminded regularly to clean their workspace.
Where to go for more information
Health and safety in the office is an important topic for employers, and there are plenty of resources out there to help.
Safe Work Australia and SafeWork NSW have guidelines and an office hazards checklist to help employers create a safe office space. There are also model codes of practice to help you comply with work health and safety regulations in your workplace.
In addition, if you need to speak to someone about workplace health and safety, WorkCover offers free advisory visits and workshops. These can help you identify hazards and maintain a safe workplace in order to meet your health and safety obligations.