You and your employees may spend more than half your waking hours in the workplace. Creating a work environment that is as comfortable as possible can boost morale and productivity while reducing sickness absence. It will also ensure your business is compliant with health and safety legislation.
1. Carry out a risk assessment. Walk around your premises and note any hazards you encounter, such as clutter, trailing cables and machinery with sharp edges. Consider the risk each presents and the steps you could take to minimise it.
2. Continue by listing all the processes and activities that take place in your business, such as lifting or driving, and identify the hazards associated with each. Again, work out the steps you will need to take to minimise risk.
3. Look at your machinery. Check that it is fit for purpose and well-maintained. Check also that employees working at machinery are physically comfortable, have appropriate protective equipment and sufficient space in which to operate. Be sure not to overlook people working at computers.
4. Consult everybody in the business. Employees can often identify areas of health and safety concern that you might miss.
5. Create a written health and safety policy which sets out how you manage health and safety in your workplace. Share it with staff, emphasising key points on posters and make plans to review the policy regularly. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) provides a policy template on their website: www.hse.gov.uk/business/policy-statement.pdf.
6. Organise health and safety training for staff and appoint a staff representative to implement and review your policy.
7. Pay attention to the work environment: employees are entitled to a well-ventilated, clean, well-lit workspace. Ensure cleaning is undertaken, waste removed regularly and poor or flickering lighting is dealt with promptly.
8. Take steps to ensure the temperature in your premises is 'reasonable'. In most industries, this means a minimum temperature of 16 degrees Celsius; if there are particularly warm or cold spots in your premises, consider moving employees or providing air conditioning or warm workwear.
9. Look at your washing and toilet areas. Is there hot as well as cold water, and are the facilities regularly cleaned? Showers are essential if your employees are involved in dirty work but they are also welcomed by staff who cycle or run to work, or exercise in their lunch break.
10. A rest area where staff can enjoy their breaks can make a big difference to working lives. Providing drinking water is a legal requirement, but supplying other hot and cold drinks, even kitchen facilities, can make the workplace much more comfortable.
11. Look after employees' mental health by monitoring working hours to ensure no one is overworking. Holding regular staff forums in which feedback is welcome can also help keep a check on stress levels.
12. Take steps to minimise conflict by implementing anti-bullying, anti-harassment and anti-discrimination measures. Ensure your staff understand these and feel able to raise problems with you.