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Designing an Office: Your Responsibilities as an Employer

designing an office

Designing an Office: Your Responsibilities as an Employer

There are many facets to office design that you need to consider when advising your design team.  The aim of any new office should always be on the future of your business. Have you considered the current technology, is there enough space to expand /grow the team in the necessary areas? Have the expanding teams been positioned/located correctly on the floorplate to allow for this process to take place easily. This includes the power, data and communications (which are most likely positioned under the raised access floor). You don’t want to start ripping floor tiles up in a new office!!

Aesthetics and function are important, Safety comes first – EVERYTIME! Safety doesn’t just cover the design, it covers every single aspect of the business. The key is to be systematic and have experience of testing to make sure you are asking the right questions such as:

  • Carry out suitable and sufficient risk assessments to ensure the safety of employees and visitors.
  • Provide information, instruction, training and supervision for employees to ensure risks are controlled so far as reasonably practicable

It seems more complicated now doesn’t it!!

As the employer, it is your responsibility to ensure that your workplace meets all necessary health and safety requirements, enabling staff to work in a hygienic, safe habitable workplace that is free from risks and hazards.

We’ve compiled a few top things to bear in mind when designing your office to meet health and safety standards without compromising on style.

  • Health and Safety legislation
  • Lighting Fire safety Layout
  • Hygienic Washrooms
  • Health and safety legislation

Your Responsibility as an Employer

The Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) specifies that it is ‘the duty of every employer to ensure so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety, and welfare at work of all his employees’. The steps taken to guarantee this safety include providing systems of work that are free from health risks, training, proper storage of articles and substances, and reasonable maintenance of the workplace to ensure employees have access to the environment in a safe manner without risks to their health.

All workplaces are required to have a risk assessment carried out to identify and remove any fire or risk hazards found. A good starting point is to take a tour of the workplace and record any hazards that you find – categorising these into high or low risk will also enable you to identify which areas should be tackled as a priority to make the workplace safer.

Office lighting

One area that needs to be considered when designing your workplace is the lighting. The team at Aztec have an in-house electrical department who can advise on aesthetics, specification and regulation. So, from a health and safety perspective you have the right material, performing in the right environment with a design to suit the overall look and feel of the office. Poorly lit rooms or flickering light can contribute to poor health, as well as increasing the risk of accidents occurring. Designing your office so that the major light source is natural lighting through windows can improve employee morale but also, there are green benefits to. This can come in the form of LED light installations, to the management of the lighting systems throughout the building so that you are not wasting natural resources unnecessarily. When a room is not in use, the lights are not on – makes sense doesn’t it. With Aztec undertaking the install as well, you have the knowledge that the work has been undertaken by fully certified professionals.

Fire Safety

A First Strategy within the workplace is a legal document – it is crucial that your office space is assessed, and a plan has been commissioned by a fire officer. It is essential that the necessary steps are taken to minimise if not eliminate all fire hazards where possible in the workplace. As an employer who are required to provide adequate fire safety systems to allow all employees to evacuate the building safely without obstruction.

You should ensure that fire doors have the correct seals and closers are installed. You need to ensure that you have the correct signage and emergency lighting in place should there be a power outage. Landlords need to take this one step further and ensure that all doors and common area walls are a minimum of 30 min fire rated throughout the building and provide the appropriate fire safety equipment such as fire extinguishers (which need to be mounted) where necessary. If you store anything hazardous on-site, the rules become much more detailed. So be warned, Aztec should pick up this topic on your behalf to ensure that all the materials used are to the right specification.

Office Layout

 The layout of your office is one of the most important considerations to make in your design, with a direct impact on the productivity of your employees as well as the overall aesthetics of your workplace. To ensure your office layout is in accordance with health and safety regulations, make sure the flow of the office is unobstructed, and that every area has easy access to a fire door or escape route should employees need to evacuate. One of the first steps to minimising ergonomic hazards in the workplace is by having a properly designed and functional work-space.

Office Furniture

Workplace hazards are hard to spot, because employees don’t always immediately notice the strain on their bodies, or the harm that they can pose. While short-term damages from working in a poorly designed work-space can be something as minimal as ‘sore muscles’ for a day or two, prolonged exposure to such workspace can result in much more damaging illnesses. Aztec will help you select the right furniture for your office. If you have existing furniture, we will find a way to upcycle or environmentally dispose of the furniture having no detrimental effect on the environment.

Hygienic Office Washrooms

To maintain a hygienic workplace, enough washrooms should be provided to meet the needs of the number of employees in the building. Bathrooms should be frequently cleaned to ensure they are free from bacteria, with hand washing facilities equipped with soap and a hand-dryer.

 Health in the Workplace

 Maintaining a reasonable temperature in the office is important but do take into consideration your carbon footprint. Simple fixes such as providing facilities for fresh drinking water, a clean area to prep and enjoy your food and a good ventilation system that provides fresh, clean air throughout the day. Do make all the difference and have a dramatic effect of your employee’s health and well-being.

At Aztec, we’re accustomed to helping our customers achieve a safe, high specification of design in accordance with the Health and Safety Executive. Using only the highest quality materials, we can transform your office space with to a predefined budget.

To discuss any health and safety concerns you may have, simply contact our pre-contracts team on Tel: 0151 255 0850 or directly via E-mail: paul.ashmore@aztec-limited.co.uk. We will put the right foundations in place so you can do what you do best.

 

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