HSE Officewise

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      T here are and too
     'regulationstoo manymuch form     are low. The guiding principle
                                       for much of our health and
     filling. If I read everything     safety law is that there is a
     put out by government I           balance to be struck between
     wouldn’t have time to run my      the risk and the cost of
     business’.                        prevention. Where the risks
                                       are low, for example in small
     Sound familiar? To help you,      offices it shouldn’t cost much
     this booklet sets out what you    to make sure that you keep
     have to do in office premises     within the law. Let’s look at
     where health and safety risks     five examples:

    Common myths about
     Management of Health              Electricity at Work
     and Safety at Work                Regulations
                                       ‘I’ve been told that I have to
     ‘I need a written assessment of   have my desk lamp tested
     risk even though I only employ    every six months.’
     a part-time secretary.’
                                                True or False?
              True False?
                                       False. The law requires it to
     False.  Written assessments       be maintained. It does not
     are only required where five or   require an elaborate and
     more people are employed and      frequent system of electrical
     even then only significant        testing.
     findings have to be recorded.

Control of Substances
Hazardous to Health                        True or False?
(COSHH for short)                 False.  The regulations do not
                                  set limits. Their objective is
‘You need a COSHH                 to reduce the large number of
assessment for every substance    lifting injuries which are very
you use, including floor          costly to employers and the
polish.’                          country.

         True or False?
False.   Assessments are only     Display Screen
needed for hazardous              Equipment Regulations
substances. For products used
in offices this means those       ‘Screen filters to reduce
with labels carrying a specific   radiation are now mandatory.’
health warning. The result will
normally be a decision to                  True or False?
follow the manufacturer’s
instructions.                     False.  The levels of radiation
                                  emitted from VDUs are well
Manual Handling                   below the safe levels set out in
Regulations                       international recommendations.
                                  You do not need to provide
‘No-one can be asked to lift
                                  screen filters.
more than 25 kg.’
                                  This booklet will help you to
                                  understand the aspects of
                                  health and safety law which
                                  you need to know and explains
                                  which aspects do not apply to
                                  low-risk workplaces.

      People who work in small
      offices do not figure
                                         employed in the office sector
                                         compared to 216 per 100 000 in
      prominently in national            the manufacturing sector.
      accident statistics. In 1997/98,
      only 21 major accidents took       Accidents do happen in offices
      place per 100 000 people           but the health and safety

    The office perspective

 measures need to be matched                    Whatever the size of your
 to the levels of risk.                         business you ought to
                                                understand the basic legal
 Advice is given at the end of                  framework. You have duties
 the booklet on how to obtain                   to:
 more details on specific topics
 but you can ask your local                     3 your employees (including
 health and safety inspector if                   trainees), wherever they
 you are unsure about                             are working;
                                                3 visitors to your office;
 The booklet also gives                         3 those affected by your work
 information on further HSE                       (neighbours or the public);
 leaflets which you may find
 helpful.                                       3 people who use products
                                                  you supply;

                                                3 users of your services, for
                                                  example if you design

                                                3 those who use your
                                                  equipment or work at a
                                                  workplace you provide (for
                                                  example contractors and
                                                  agency staff).

                                                Put simply, you have to take
                                                care of the people who may be
                                                affected by what you do.

1 The injury rate quoted covers all sizes of offices not just small ones.
2 Source: HELA National Picture 1999 (office rate)
  Health and Safety Statistics 1998/99 (manufacturing rate)

    Paperwork                          - what you need to do and why

     O wners and managers of               and how many people you
     small, low-risk office premises       employ and only has to be
     should be aware of the                filled in once. It allows the
     following requirements which          enforcing authority to know
     may apply:                            who you are and what you do.

     Registration                          Information for
     Offices where people are
     employed have a duty to               You are required to give
     register using an official form       certain information to your
     OSR1. It can be obtained from         staff on health and safety law.
     your enforcing authority (this        The easiest way to do this is to
     will generally be your local          provide a poster containing
     Environmental Health                  this information. The poster is
     Department). The form only            called Health and Safety Law:
     asks for very basic details,          What you should know, and is
     such as your correct address          available from HSE Books.

An individual leaflet called       Employers Liability
Health and safety regulations:     (Compulsory Insurance)
A short guide is also available.   Certificate

Accident reporting                 Your certificate of insurance
                                   has to be displayed.
If a reportable accident occurs
you are required to report it to   Assessments
the enforcing authority and
complete a form F2508. These       The Management of Health
forms can be obtained from         and Safety at Work
HSE Books but to be reportable     Regulations includes a duty to
the accident has to be connected   carry out assessments of risk,
with a work activity. A free       but you do not have to record
leaflet RIDDOR explained           an assessment if:
gives further details of those
incidents and occurrences          3 you employ less than five
which are reportable.                people;

                                   3 the findings of the
Written safety policy                assessment are not
You have a duty to make              significant, that is there
adequate arrangements for            are no special measures
health and safety, but a             required;
written policy is only required    3 the risk can easily be
if you employ five or more           described/controlled; or
people. If you do need to write
one make it short and              3 it concerns an activity
relevant. Guidance on                which is subject to a
drafting a simple policy can be      specific assessment under
found in the HSE publication         other regulations (for
Stating your business:               example COSHH).
Guidance on preparing a health
                                   A leaflet giving more
and safety policy document for
                                   information on the do’s and
small firms
                                   don’ts of assessing the risk is
                                   available - Five steps to risk

      D efective plugs, sockets and
      leads cause more electrical
                                       3 do test the residual current
                                         device, if fitted. This only
      accidents than the appliances      involves pushing a test
      themselves. Office                 button and can help to
      environments are generally         maintain the effectiveness
      less dangerous than other          of the device. Advice on
      workplaces but:                    how often to do this is
                                         normally given in the
      3 do provide sufficient socket     manufacturer’s
        outlets and avoid or             instructions;
        minimise the use of
                                       3 do not use taped joints to
        adapters. Overloaded
                                         connect cables since they
        sockets can lead to fire
                                         have neither the
                                         mechanical strength needed
                                         nor sufficient insulation or

   protection from liquids.      3 do not ignore obvious tell-
   Damaged cables should be        tale signs such as faulty
   replaced completely but if      switching or intermittent
   cables have to be joined,       stopping. These may
   proper connectors should        indicate an internal fault
   be used;                        such as a loose wire which
                                   could cause external
3 do carry out your own            metalwork to become live;
  visual inspections of plugs
  and leads and get them         3 do switch off equipment
  repaired as necessary.           before unplugging and
  Faults to look out for           before cleaning;
  include physical damage to
  the cable, failure of the      3 do find out how to deal
  cord grip at the plug and        with an electric shock
  signs of overheating. If         incident;
  faults are found the repair    3 do encourage staff to
  should be carried out by         report electrical equipment
  someone who has the              which is not working
  necessary skill and              properly;
  knowledge to complete the
  task safely;                   3 do ensure that staff are
                                   aware of these safety
3 do consider whether you          precautions;
  have equipment which
  needs a more detailed          3 do keep vigilant on
  inspection and test or           electrical safety because
  whether the installation         the consequences can lead
  itself has reached a stage       to tragedy.
  where it is likely to need a
                                 Further advice is given in the
  test. For example,
                                 HSE leaflet Maintaining
  equipment in offices which
                                 portable electrical equipment in
  is frequently moved or
                                 offices and other low-risk
  which has a lead which is
  subject to a lot of twisting
  may develop an internal

     T hese Regulations make sure
     the risks from hazardous
                                       the precautions fit your
                                       circumstances and that they
     substances are properly           are understood and followed
     controlled. As far as offices     by your staff.
     are concerned hazardous
     substances are those with a       For proprietary substances
     warning label - if in doubt the   sold by office equipment
     supplier should be able to tell   suppliers this is all there is to
     you. The supplier must also       COSHH. Ask for advice,
     tell you what precautions to      starting with the supplier, if
     take with the substance. This     you use more sophisticated
     information is normally           substances.
     provided by a label or data
     sheet. COSHH makes it your        Further information on
     job to see if the use of the      COSHH is given in the HSE
     substance is really necessary.    booklet COSHH: A brief guide
     If it is, you must check that     to the regulations.

  S lips, trips the accidents in
  for most of
                and falls account   3 do not allow trailing leads
                                      to create tripping hazards;
  offices many of them when
                                    3 do clear up spillages
  staff are moving or carrying
  loads. They happen because of
  the condition of floors, poor     3 do replace or repair torn
  lighting or untidiness. Such        floor coverings etc;
  accidents can easily be
  prevented by remembering the      3 do provide handrails on
  following points:                   stairways and ensure stairs
                                      are well lit;

                                    3 do not block passageways
                                      or corridors.

     S mall offices are unlikely to
     require air monitoring or
                                       3 do keep your first-aid box
                                         fully stocked and appoint
     health checks for staff but you     someone to take charge in
     should consider the following:      an emergency and call an
                                         ambulance. If you have
     3 do make workstations              part-time workers arrange
       comfortable with seating          for the duty to be shared;
       where necessary. Seats
                                       3 you do not require a
       may need to be adjustable
                                         trained first aider by law in
       to suit the height of the
                                         a small office but many
       work table and footrests
                                         businesses recognise the
       can reduce muscular
                                         value of having one;

 Ill health

3 do make arrangements so                        HSE booklet Legionnaires'
  that staff can use rest                        disease: The control of
  areas/rooms without                            legionella bacteria in water
  experiencing discomfort                        systems. Approved Code of
  from tobacco smoke. The                        Practice and guidance;
  HSE leaflet Passive
                                             3 The main problems which
  smoking at work gives
                                               can occur with the use of
  further information;
                                               VDUs are related to the
3 handling, lifting and                        design of the job or
  carrying are another major                   workstation. If there is
  cause of injuries. If                        intensive or continuous use
  cabinets, desks or other                     in your office, make sure
  heavy or bulky items have                    that there are adequate
  to be moved then do take                     breaks and that users know
  steps, for example                           how to arrange their work
  providing a trolley or                       and workstation to avoid
  castors, for the move to                     awkward movements,
  take place without the risk                  reflections, aches and
  of a back injury;                            pains. Further advice is
                                               given in the HSE booklets
3 do notify your local                         If the task fits: Ergonomics
  authority1 if you have an                    at work and Working with
  air conditioning system                      VDUs;
  which has a water cooling
  tower. Do remember that                    3 do consider whether your
  the system will require                      staff are at risk from
  routine checks and                           violence when transporting
  maintenance to prevent the                   cash or dealing with the
  growth of legionella                         public. Guidance is
  bacteria. Hot water                          available in the HSE
  services are also a possible                 booklet Violence at work.
  source of legionella
  bacteria and further
  information is given in the

1 Notification is required to your local district council, London Borough Council or,
  in relation to Scotland an islands or district council.

     T he basic requirements are
     given below:
                                      adequate light (preferably
                                      natural light) to avoid
                                      problems of visual fatigue.
     Toilets - provide enough
     toilets for employees and keep   Space - provide a minimum of
     them clean and in good order.    11 cubic metres for each
                                      person permanently occupying
     Washing - provide hot and
                                      a workplace.
     cold (or warm) running water,
     soap and towels or other         Ventilation - for most offices
     means of drying.                 opening windows will provide
                                      adequate ventilation.
     Drinking water - provide a
     supply of wholesome drinking     Information on all these points
     water.                           is given in HSE’s Approved
                                      Code of Practice and guidance
     Temperature - the room
                                      Workplace health, safety and
     temperature should be at least
     16 OC where people work
     sitting down.                    If you have a lift, make sure it
                                      is examined every six months
     Cleanliness - keep the
                                      by a competent person (for
     workplace in a clean state.
                                      example your insurance
     Lighting - make sure there is    company).

Relevant books/leaflets
  Priced publications                 Health Regulations 1999
                                      (COSHH) INDG136(rev1)
  Essentials of health and safety
                                      Leaflet HSE Books 2001
  at work (rev3) HSE Books 2000
                                      (single copy free or priced
  ISBN 0 7176 0716 X
                                      packs of 10 ISBN 0 7176 2444 7)
  Legionnaires’ disease: The
                                      If the task fits: Ergonomics at
  control of legionella bacteria in
  water systems. Approved Code        work Leaflet INDG90(rev) HSE
  of Practice and guidance L8         Books 2000 (single copy free or
  HSE Books 2001                      priced packs of 20
  ISBN 0 7176 1772 6                  ISBN 0 7176 1379 8)

  Health and safety law: What         First aid at work: Your
  you should know (poster)            questions answered Leaflet
  HSE Books 1999                      INDG214 HSE Books 2000
  ISBN 0 7176 2493 5                  (single copy free or priced
                                      packs of 15 ISBN 0 7176 1074 8)
  Workplace health, safety and
  welfare. Workplace (Health,         Five steps to risk assessment
  Safety and Welfare)                 Leaflet INDG163(rev1) HSE
  Regulations 1992 (as amended        Books 1998 (single copy free or
  by the Quarries Miscellaneous       priced packs of 10
  Health and Safety Provisions        ISBN 0 7176 1565 0)
  Regulations 1995): Approved         Getting to grips with manual
  Code of Practice and guidance       handling: A short guide for
  L24 (Ninth edition) HSE Books       employers Leaflet
  2001 ISBN 0 7176 0413 6             INDG143(rev1) HSE Books
                                      2001 (single copy free or priced
  Report of an injury, or
                                      packs of 15 ISBN 0 7176 1754 8)
  dangerous occurrence/Report of
  a case of disease F2508/2508A       Health and safety regulation: A
  HSE Books 1996 Combined pad         short guide HSC13 HSE
  of forms ISBN 0 7176 1078 0         Books 1995
  Free leaflets                       Maintaining portable electrical
                                      equipment in offices and other
  COSHH: A brief guide to the         low-risk environments INDG236
  regulations. What you need to       HSE Books 2001 (single copy
  know about the Control of           free or priced packs of 10
  Substances Hazardous to             ISBN 0 7176 1272 4)
     Legionnaires’ disease: A guide      Further information
     for employers Leaflet
     IAC27(rev2) HSE Books 2001          Free advice can be obtained by
     (single copy free or priced         contacting the health and
     packs of 15 ISBN 0 7176 1773 4)     safety inspector at the local
                                         council, usually located in the
     Passive smoking at work             Environmental Health
     Leaflet INDG63(rev1) HSE            Department, or from HSE.
     Books 1992 (single copy free
     or priced packs of 10               If your office is attached to or
     ISBN 0 7176 0882 4)                 part of a factory then the
                                         Health and Safety Executive
     RIDDOR explained Leaflet            will be your enforcing
     HSE31(rev1) HSE Books 2001          authority.
     (single copy free or priced
     packs of 10 ISBN 0 7176 2441 2)     If you need advice on fire
                                         precautions, you should get in
     Violence at work: A guide for       touch with the fire prevention
     employers Leaflet INDG69(rev)       officer of your local authority.
     HSE Books 2000 (single copy
     free or priced packs of 10          HSE priced and free
     ISBN 0 7176 1271 6)                 publications are available by
                                         mail order from HSE Books,
     Working with VDUs Leaflet           PO Box 1999, Sudbury, Suffolk
     INDG36(rev1) HSE Books 1998         CO10 2WA Tel: 01787 881165
     (single copy free or priced         Fax: 01787 313995 Website:
     packs of 10 ISBN 0 7176 1504 9) (HSE
                                         priced publications are also
     Stating your business:              available from bookshops.)
     Guidance on preparing a health
     and safety policy document for      For information about health
     small firms INDG324 HSE             and safety ring HSE's
     Books 2000 ISBN 0 7176 1799 8       InfoLine Tel: 08701 545500
     While every effort has been         Fax: 02920 859260 e-mail:
     made to ensure the accuracy of      hseinformationservices@
     the references listed in this or write to HSE
     publication, their future           Information Services,
     availability cannot be              Caerphilly Business Park,
     guaranteed.                         Caerphilly CF83 3GG. You can
                                         also visit HSE’s website:
     HSE produce a large number
     of guidance booklets. If the
     subject which interests you is      This publication may be freely
     not shown, a full list of           reproduced, except for
     current priced publications is      advertising, endorsement or
     available from HSE Books.           commercial purposes. The
                                         information is current at 5/00.
                                         Please acknowledge the source
                                         as HSE.

          Printed and published by the Health and Safety Executive
                      INDG173         C500         3/02

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