Office Kitchen Reception Photocopy First Aid Meeting Bathroom Carer's Storage Car park
Workplace conflict Harassment Tablets and laptops Power outlets and cables Workstation Air conditioning (thermal comfort and air quality) Lighting Noise in the office Bullying in the office Office floor Phones and mobile communication devices

Introduction

Nearly half the people employed in clerical and administration type work in the jurisdiction had a claim for a body stressing injury in 2015/16. Many others go unreported.

To provide a high standard of health and safety protection to all workers, all the things that might go wrong during work activities need to be identified, assessed and where practical, remedied. This revolves around identifying hazards in the workplace and as a result of work activity.

X

Workplace conflict

There are broadly two kinds of workplace conflict: when people’s ideas, decisions or actions relating directly to the job are in opposition, or when two people just don’t get along. The latter is often called ‘a personality clash’.

Conflict can occur between peers and colleagues or between the worker and their boss. We don’t get to choose who we work with so we need to be able to be flexible in dealing with other workers. Source Workplace conflict, Victoria state government (accessed 7/12/16).

Read more

Tips

  • Don’t tolerate inappropriate behaviour.
  • Check your own behaviour.
  • Lead by example.

Potential harm

Anxiety
Assault
Headaches
Stress
Identified Hazards and Controls

Conflict over business ideas, decisions or actions

Cause

  • Disagreement, differing opinions or perceptions.
  • Talk with the other person
  • Depersonalise your words and focus on facts rather than emotions. Stick to the issue not personalities.
  • Have some points written down of what you would like to be addressed and to cover what might be anticipated.
  • Understand that other people will have different opinions that are just as valid as yours. Listen to the other person carefully.
  • Do not view the situation as a competition.
  • Be prepared to compromise. This doesn’t mean to give in, but to look for mutually agreeable solutions.
  • Develop a plan to work on conflict triggers and follow through.
  • Have a conflict resolution policy in place with clear steps on how to deal with issues.
  • Consult with staff on decisions that affect work or work practices.
  • Set the standard of behaviour and help others understand what is acceptable.
  • Offer training on communication skills.

Personality clashes

Cause

  • Interpersonal disputes.
  • Try to address issues of conflict with the other party in a one on one meeting. You may not feel comfortable doing this because of the nature of the conflict so you may want to consider if a support person might be appropriate in your circumstances.
  • Try to maintain a professional relationship.  You don’t have to like everyone you work with, but you should be able to be flexible enough to maintain a dignified and professional relationship.
  • Understand that people are different and will hold different views to yourself.
  • Learn how to express your needs (you may need training in communication techniques such as communicating assertively.)
  • Don’t become defensive
  • Have a conflict resolution policy in place with clear steps on how to deal with issues.
  • Set the standard of behaviour and help others understand what is acceptable.
  • Train managers and supervisors in spotting and managing potential conflcits.
  • Offer training on communication skills.

Further information

X

Harassment

Risks to psychological health due to work should be viewed in the same way as other health and safety risks and a commitment to prevention of work-related stress should be included in health and safety policies.
Some examples of potential injury;
  • Memory and concentration difficulties
  • Fatigue, headaches and migraines
  • Self-criticism and negativity
  • Withdrawal
  • Stomach upsets and nausea
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Diagnosed mental disorder.
Read more

Tips

  • Don't be a silent witness.
  • Don’t tolerate harassment aimed at you.
  • Check your own behaviour.

Potential harm

Anxiety
Depression
Sleep disturbance
Stress
Identified Hazards and Controls

Harassment

Cause

  • Workplace harassment is defined as unwanted behaviour that offends, humiliates or intimidates a person, and targets them on the basis of a characteristic such as gender, race or ethnicity. Normally covered under human rights legislation but sometimes behaviour can be a combination of both bullying and harassment. A one-off incident can constitute harassment. All incidents of harassment require employers or managers to respond quickly and appropriately.
  • Understand the definition of bullying and the difference between harassment and bullying.

    ‘Workplace bullying’ is defined as repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety. ‘Repeated behaviour’ refers to the persistent nature of the behaviour and can involve a range of behaviours over time.

    ‘Unreasonable behaviour’ means behaviour that a reasonable person, having regard for the circumstances, would see as unreasonable, including behaviour that is victimising, humiliating, intimidating or threatening.

    Harassment can include behaviour such as:

    • telling insulting jokes about particular racial groups
    • sending explicit or sexually suggestive emails or text messages
    • displaying racially offensive or pornographic posters or screen savers
    • making derogatory comments or taunts about someone’s race
    • asking intrusive questions about someone’s personal life, including his or her sex life.
  • Take reasonable care for your own health and safety.
  • Take reasonable care that your acts or omissions do not adversely affect the health and safety of other persons.
  • If you see workplace harassment occurring find out what the procedures are for reporting and dealing with it. Speak up if you feel comfortable to.
  • Know how to find a harassment contact officer.
  • Model expected behaviours, show respect and courtesy to others.
  • Check in on your colleagues.
  • The responsibility to prevent workplace bullying, harassment and discrimination is covered in the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act by the duty to provide a healthy and safe working environment and safe systems of work.
  • Develop a harassment policy and procedures.
  • Encourage an environment where people feel safe to report harassment.
  • Provide relevant training in APS code of conduct and in awareness of harassment and bullying matters.
  • Model expected behaviours.
  • Check on the mental health of workers.
  • Provide access to a support network such as an employee assistance program or mediation services.
  • Thoroughly investigate claims of harassment and address the issue (don’t just move the victim to another work area as your first option).

Further information

X

Tablets and laptops

Tablets, laptops and other mobile devices are very portable, allowing us to work from any location—how we use them can impact on our health. As with desktop computers, poor ergonomic set up is often responsible for musculoskeletal disorders and injuries.

Tips

  • Try to limit use.
  • Use a separate keyboard and monitor.

Potential harm

Eye discomfort
Musculoskeletal disorders
Identified Hazards and Controls

Musculoskeletal disorders

Cause

  • Bending neck to see the mobile device screen.
  • Holding a tablet for too long.
  • Constantly swiping the device.
  • Tablets
    • Avoid holding it in your hands for lengthy periods. Tablet devices can be put on a stand or use a cover that has a stand built in. You should not be bending your neck to see the screen.
    • Use a separate keyboard if using a tablet device for long periods.
    • Change positions, move around, and change postures, the less time spent in a sustained posture the better.
    • Use both hands or use the other hand to give your dominant one a rest.
    • Try using other fingers as you would on a keyboard.
    • Don't press hard.
    • Stop using the device/ take a break for an hour or so, or switch it off.
  • Laptop
    • Use a docking station that connects your laptop to a screen and keyboard which you can adjust to the right height.With laptops and tablets there is a tendency to put the device on a desk and work, requiring you to bend your neck forward to see the screen.
    • Alternatively, if you elevate your laptop to view the screen properly, use an external keyboard and mouse to avoid raising your arms out of the neutral position.
  • If tablets and laptops are provided to workers, provide docking ports in the office with and external keyboard, mouse and adjustable height screen.
  • If tablet and laptops are used as a work tool then ensure policies and procedures are in place to advise of the recommended use.
  • Avoid requiring workers to conduct most of their work on a tablet device.

Eye discomfort

Cause

  • Staring at a device for long periods.
  • Glare.
  • If you are regularly experiencing headaches after viewing a screen for long periods you may need your vision checked by an optometrist.
  • Use your glasses if you need to.
  • Try and position your device so there isn’t glare from the sun, lights or other reflective surfaces.
  • Can you adjust the settings on your device to larger fonts, better contrasting colours etc.
  • Adjust the ‘ease of access’ options on your device.
  • If devices are used as a work tool then ensure there are policies and procedures in place for recommended use.
  • Discouraging the use of tablets to compose large emails for work purposes.
  • Avoid the requirement for workers to conduct most of their work on a tablet or smart phone.

Further information

X

Power outlets and cables

Electrocution incidents can be fatal, while non-fatal shocks can result in serious and permanent burn injuries to skin, internal tissues and damage to the heart depending on the length and severity of the shock. Electrical safety is not just the domain of trained and qualified electricians. It is the responsibility of all workers.

Most injuries in the Comcare scheme are the result of using faulty equipment (such as frayed electrical cords, faulty plugs or damaged equipment), non-tested personal and company-owned equipment and/or poor electrical awareness and practices.

Read more

Tips

  • Inspect appliances before use.
  • Turn off the power before unplugging devices.
  • Remove faulty appliances.

Potential harm

Burns
Electrical shocks
Potential fatality
Identified Hazards and Controls

Electric shock, fire or burns

Cause

  • Faulty electrical equipment.
  • Arcing from pulling live cables from active power points.
  • Touching exposed electrical wires.
  • Electrical plugs
    • Make sure you have the correct plugs.
    • In Australia we use 240v with a three pin plug.
    • Do not grip the cord—always grip the plug when removing it from the wall socket.
  • Electrical cables and extension leads
    • When it comes to electrical cables you should ensure you have the correct plug for each power supply.
    • Visually inspect cables for any damage or discoloration—run your fingers over the cable (while it is unplugged) to detect any small cuts or damage.
    • Report any electrical equipment that is worn or damaged and do not use.
    • Unwind the cord—power leads and extension cords need to be fully unwound to prevent overheating especially if the appliance draws a high current.
  • Power points
    • Avoid overloading—do not overload by piggy-backing too many double adaptors or power boards.
    • Electrical appliances use different levels of power (a sticker on the appliance will tell you how much). If using multiple appliances you should never exceed 10 amps or 2400 watts. Anything over this will blow a fuse or start a fire.
    • Do not plug a cable into live power points—turn the power off first.
  • Electrical appliances
    • Don’t touch an electrical appliance with wet hands.
    • Conduct regular visual inspections to identify obvious damage, wear or other conditions that might make electrical equipment unsafe. Many electrical defects are detectable by visual inspection.
  • As per Regulation 147 of the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011, a person conducting a business or undertaking at a workplace must manage risks to health and safety associated with electrical risks at the workplace, in accordance with Part 3.1.
  • Identify any unsafe electrical equipment at the workplace and take appropriate action as per section 149 of the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011.
    • (1) A person conducting a business or undertaking at a workplace must ensure that any unsafe electrical equipment at the workplace:
      1. (a)  is disconnected (or isolated) from its electricity supply; and
      2. (b)  once disconnected (or isolated):
        1. (i)  is not reconnected until it is repaired or tested and found to be safe; or
        2. (ii)  is replaced or permanently removed from use.
      3. Maximum penalty:
        1. In the case of an individual—$3600.
        2. In the case of a body corporate—$18000.
    • (2)  For the purposes of this regulation, electrical equipment or a component of electrical equipment is unsafe if there are reasonable grounds for believing it to be unsafe.
  • Inspect and test electrical appliances as per section 150 of the WHS Regulations

    Inspection and testing of electrical equipment

    1. (1)  A person conducting a business or undertaking at a workplace must ensure that electrical equipment is regularly inspected and tested by a competent person if the electrical equipment is:
      • (a)  supplied with electricity through an electrical socket outlet; and
      • (b)  usedin an environment in which the normal use of electrical equipment exposes the equipment to operating conditions that are likely to result in damage to the equipment or a reduction in its expected life span, including conditions that involve exposure to moisture, heat, vibration, mechanical damage, corrosive chemicals or dust.
      • Maximum penalty:
        • In the case of an individual—$3600.
        • In the case of a body corporate—$18000.
    2. (2)  In the case of electrical equipment that is new and unused at the workplace, the person conducting the business or undertaking:
      • (a)  is not required to comply with subregulation (1); and
      • (b)  must ensure that the equipment is inspected for obvious damage before being used.
      • Maximum penalty:
        • In the case of an individual—$3600.
        • In the case of a body corporate—$18000.

        Note

        However, electrical equipment that is unsafe must not be used (see regulation 149).

    3. (3) The person must ensure that a record of any testing carried out under subregulation (1) is kept until the electrical equipment is:
      • (a)  next tested; or
      • (b)  permanently removed from the workplace or disposed of.
      • Maximum penalty:
        • In the case of an individual—$1250.
        • In the case of a body corporate—$6000.
    4. (4)  The record of testing:
      • (a)  must specify the following:
        • (i)  the name of the person who carried out the testing;
        • (ii)  the date of the testing;
        • (iii)  the outcome of the testing;
        • (iv)  the date on which the next testing must be carried out; and
      • (b)  may be in the form of a tag attached to the electrical equipment tested.
  • Regular testing by a qualified electrician can detect electrical faults and deterioration that cannot be detected by visual inspection
  • Keep cables, leads and conduit out of trafficable areas where they may become damaged
  • Where leads and cables must be located in trafficable areas, secure appropriately to protect them from damage and to prevent tripping (e.g. using cable runs or tape)
  • Be aware of obligations to have residuals current devices (RCDs) installed in ‘hostile’ work environment such as a workshop in the workplace (WHS Regulation 164)

    Division 6         Residual current devices
    164   Use of socket outlets in hostile operating environment

    • (1)  This regulation applies in the following circumstances:
      1. (a)  electrical equipment is usedin an environment in which the normal use of electrical equipment exposes the equipment to operating conditions that are likely to result in damage to the equipment or a reduction in its expected life span, including conditions that involve exposure to moisture,heat, vibration, mechanical damage, corrosive chemicals or dust;
      2. (b)  electrical equipment is moved between different locations in circumstances where damage to the equipment or to a flexible electricity supply cord is reasonably likely;
      3. (c)  electrical equipment is frequently moved during its normal use;
      4. (d)  electrical equipment forms part of, or is used in connection with, an amusement device.
    • (2)  In a circumstance set out in subregulation (1), a person conducting a business or undertaking at a workplace must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that any electrical risk associated with the supply of electricity to the electrical equipment through a socket outlet is minimised by the use of an appropriate residual current device.

      Maximum penalty:
      • In the case of an individual—$6 000.
      • In the case of a body corporate—$30 000.
    • (3)  Without limiting subregulation (2), the residual current device must have a tripping current that does not exceed 30 milliamps if electricity is supplied to the equipment through a socket outlet not exceeding 20 amps.
    • (4)  Subregulation (2) does not apply if the supply of electricity to the electrical equipment:
      1. (a)  does not exceed 50 volts alternating current; or
      2. (b)  is direct current; or
      3. (c)  is provided through an isolating transformer that provides at least an equivalent level of protection; or
      4. (d)  is provided from a non-earthed socket outlet supplied by an isolated winding portable generator that provides at least an equivalent level of protection.
  • Where equipment is identified for repair, it should be immediately removed from service and appropriately labelled to prevent further use.

Further information

X

Workstation

Your musculoskeletal system is made up of the structures that support you and help you move, such as bones, joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Poor posture is a common contributing factor to musculoskeletal disorders (MSD).

In order to prevent MSD your workstation equipment should be adjustable to your needs. Your workstation consists of your desk, chair, monitor, keyboard and mouse.  Telephony will be addressed in a separate section of the Virtual Office.

Read more

Tips

  • Stand up, sit less, move more.
  • Know how to adjust your workstation.

Potential harm

Overuse injury
Musculoskeletal disorders
Identified Hazards and Controls

Desk set up

Cause

  • Desk height is not adjustable.
  • Know how to adjust your desk to suit your physical requirements.
  • The ideal work position is to have the arms hanging relaxed from the shoulders.

    If a keyboard is used, arms should be bent at right angles at the elbow, with the hands held in a straight line with forearms and elbows close to the body. The head should be in line with the body and slightly forward.

    desk set up
  • Re-adjust your desk height dependent on the type of footwear you are wearing (e.g. high heels).
  • Take breaks from the work activity and move away from the desk.
  • Provide adjustable furniture, which could include considering sit/stand workstations.When selecting desks and other workstation equipement and furniture, consider:
    • tasks to be performed
    • type of equipment and materials to be used
    • adjustibility
    • number of different users.
  • Arrange for an ergonomic assessment for new workers and workers who are experiencing issues.
  • Provide training on the correct way to set up your desk.
  • Install software that encourages employees to take regular breaks.

Monitors

Cause

  • Screen position (too high/low/at incorrect angle).
  • User sitting too close/too far from monitor.
  • Uncorrected vision problems.
  • Know how to set up your screen correctly for your visual requirements

    Angle the monitor away from lights and windows to avoid glare, locate the monitor directly in front of yourself at arms length away, position the top of the monitor just above eye level to avoid head tilt, and tilt the monitor 15 degrees up from vertical.

  • Dual screen users will require a slightly different set up to prevent excessive twisting or turning of the head when viewing both screens.

    Dual screens - position the primary monitor in front of you proportional to the use. Locate monitors side by side and slightly angle the screens towards each other to prevent twisting. Learn how to arrange your work on the screen such as two documents side by side on the one screen.

  • Have regular eye examinations to check that blurring, headaches and other associated problems are not caused by an underlying disorder.
  • If you wear multifocal glasses pay particular attention to where your head is positioned in order to see the screen through the correct lens rather than tilting the head to look over the glasses.
  • Frequently look away from the screen and focus on faraway objects.

    Use the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes stop work and focus your eyes on an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

  • Blink frequently.

    Eyes can dry out as a result of reduced blinking when staring at computer screens.  Office workers who wear contact lenses experience more severe symptoms of dry eye because contact lenses can cause friction if the eye is not well lubricated. If the surface of the eye is dry, the contact lens also becomes dry and sticks to the upper eyelid during blinking. Drink 6-8 glasses of water per day to maintain adequate hydration.

  • Supply monitors that are fully adjustable and train workers in the setup and adjustment of monitors.
  • As well as the ergonomic set up, the display configuration should also be addressed as well (screen resolution, font size, glare etc.).
  • Encourage workers to take breaks from the computer (get a drink of water, walk to the printer, talk to a colleague instead of mailing them etc.).
  • Review work deadlines so they are achievable without excessive screen use.

Keyboard and mouse

Cause

  • Prolonged use without adequate breaks.
  • Location of keyboard and mouse.
  • Use your keyboard and mouse correctly.

    The Keyboard should be directly in front of you and at a height that enables your upper limbs to adopt a neutral position. Keep the keyboard close to you so you aren’t reaching. You may need a split keyboard to enable your limbs to remain in the correct position if you are a large person. The mouse also requires a neutral position for use enabling the wrist to remain flat during use. Learn to use your mouse with the other hand to allow you to swap sides from time to time to rest the other hand. Be careful not to reach for your mouse, it should be beside the keyboard. Because there are many designs of mouse it is important to have one that suits the users hand.

  • Use keyboard shortcuts instead of mouse clicks.
  • Provide workers with the appropriate keyboard, mouse and instruction to carry out their work safely.
  • Consider installing software that tracks keyboard and mouse use to prompt users to take a break.

Further information

X

Air conditioning (thermal comfort and air quality)

Thermal comfort is a very personal thing.  People can experience discomfort from being too hot or too cold, in the office environment and it may not be possible to ensure every worker is feeling comfortable in the work environment all the time.

Optimum comfort for sedentary work is generally between 20 and 26 °C. In an office environment, the quality of the air is often controlled through an air conditioning system.

Read more

Tips

  • Be prepared for varying temperatures (wear layers).
  • Advise workplace of known allergies.
  • Use exhaust fans if there is no air conditioning system.

Potential harm

Discomfort and fatigue
Headaches
Musculoskeletal disorders
Identified Hazards and Controls

Discomfort from being too hot or too cold

Cause

  • Thermal comfort is influenced by
    • clothing,
    • job being undertaken,
    • air temperature,
    • humidity,
    • air flow,
    • level of physical exertion,
    • sun penetration,
    • radiant temperature,
    • the time of year,
    • and a number of building elements such as which direction the building faces, window furnishings, window thickness, etc.
  • Any one of these factors could cause workers to feel uncomfortable, and it may not be easy to work out the cause. It could also be a combination of factors.
  • Pay attention to when and where you notice hot or cold conditions—there may be a pattern.
  • Report unusually hot or cold temperatures as there may be a fault with the air conditioning system.
  • Be prepared for variation in temperature—keep a spare jumper, coat or wrap at work.
  • Keep hydrated—air conditioning can remove the moisture from your skin and body.
  • Personal heaters are not recommended in open office environments.

    The use of personal heaters in an air-conditioned area where people are experiencing discomfort may exacerbate the situation. The heat generated can interfere with the automatic control of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. For example, the operation of a personal heater may cause a nearby heating or air conditioning thermostat to falsely sense that the room is too hot, thereby increasing the cool air supplied to the room

  • Track reports of air conditioning issues to see if there is a noticeable trend or a particular location subject to complaints.
  • Work with the building maintenance team to action complaints. It might not be the temperature that is the problem but the humidity levels or air movement contributing to the problem. lighting diagram
  • Manage the situation by providing alternatives such as small electric desk fans for personal use. Personal heaters are not recommended in open office environments. The use of personal heaters in an air-conditioned area where people are experiencing discomfort may exacerbate the situation, as the heat generated can interfere with the automatic control of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. For example, the operation of a personal heater may cause a nearby heating or air conditioning thermostat to falsely sense that the room is too hot, thereby increasing the cool air supplied to the room.
  • Other workplace factors to consider include
    • level of physical activity in workers performing the tasks
    • the temperature in the work area
    • whether the work performed involves safety critical tasks such as operating machinery or handling chemicals
    • specific individual needs, such as those arising from medical conditions.

Fatigue

Cause

  • Fatigue can result if workers are exposed to warmer temperatures causing them to tire more quickly and increasing their susceptibility to injury.
  • Be aware of your level of alertness and the type of work you are doing.
  • Report tiredness to your supervisor.
  • Take a break.
  • Respond to reports of variation in temperature and investigate causes.
  • Provide alternate duties if conditions cannot be improved.
  • Have policies in place for fatigue management

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)

Cause

  • Exposure to cold temperatures.

    In general, when it is too cold, or when we touch cold materials, our hands can become numb. With numbed hands, we are more likely to misjudge the amount of force required to do our work. A cold environment also makes our bodies less flexible. Every movement we make and every position we hold takes more work, and then MSDs are more likely to develop (source CCOHS website )

  • Report discomfort to your supervisor.
  • Temporarily add layers of clothing.

    The use of personal heaters in an air-conditioned area where people are experiencing discomfort may exacerbate the situation, as the heat generated can interfere with the automatic control of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. For example, the operation of a personal heater may cause a nearby heating or air conditioning thermostat to falsely sense that the room is too hot, consequently increasing the cool air supplied to the room. Personal Heaters are not recommended in open office environments.

  • Have a hot drink.
  • Respond to reports of variation in temperature and investigate the causes.
  • Provide alternate duties if conditions cannot be improved.
  • Consider if there are workstations available in another (warmer) area of the building that people can be temporarily moved to.

Allergies from odours, mould, fungi and bacteria

Cause

  • Allergies can be triggered by many things and could manifest in sneezing, skin irritation, and asthma. In severe cases allergies can trigger an anaphylactic response.
  • Avoid adding odours to the air (such as fragrance oils and incense) these can travel through the air conditioning to other parts of the building.
  • Be alert to what you are cooking in the kitchen and that food smells might travel. If an exhaust fan is installed, use it to remove odours.
  • If someone in the office has a seafood allergy for example then the kitchen may need to be a seafood free area.
  • Report any water leaks or areas of damp to your property management team.
  • Where air quality factors are identified as a problem, they should be measured by an appropriately qualified person and action taken as recommended.
  • Workplaces should be adequately ventilated. Fresh, clean air should be drawn from outside the workplace, uncontaminated by discharge from flues or other outlets, and be circulated through the workplace.

    An air-conditioning system should:

    • provide a comfortable environment in relation to air temperature, humidity and air movement
    • prevent the excessive accumulation of odours
    • reduce the levels of respiratory by-products, especially carbon dioxide, and other indoor contaminants that may arise from work activities
    • supply an amount of fresh air to the workplace, exhaust some of the stale air as well as filter and recirculate some of the indoor air.

    Natural ventilation should consist of permanent openings, including windows and doors, that:

    • in total are the size of at least five per cent of the floor area of the room
    • are open to the sky, an open covered area or an appropriately ventilated adjoining room
    • natural ventilation may be assisted by mechanical ventilation.
  • The building is adequately cleaned, such as carpets vacuumed and dust removed regularly.

Harmful levels of atmospheric contaminant

Cause

  • Excessive use of printers and photocopiers.
  • Cleaning fluids used by cleaners.
  • If you are a smoker make sure you do not smoke near air intakes for buildings.
  • Switch on the exhaust fan in the print room (if you have one), or leave large print jobs to print unsupervised (don’t stand around the printer waiting for them).
  • Liaise with building management to check air-conditioning and other ventilation systems are regularly serviced and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Cooling towers that form part of many air-conditioning systems may be a favourable environment for Legionella bacteria if they are not properly designed and maintained.
    Exposure to these bacteria can cause the potentially fatal Legionnaire’s disease. Cooling towers should be designed, installed and maintained in accordance with AS/NZS 3666—Air handling and water systems of buildings. The building’s owners should have maintenance contracts in place to manage any cooling towers.
  • Check that cleaning fluids used by cleaners are non-toxic and fit for purpose.

Further information

Legislation

Codes

Guidance

X

Lighting

Sufficient lighting is needed whether it is from a natural or artificial source, to allow safe movement around the workplace and to allow workers to perform their job without having to adopt awkward postures or strain their eyes to see.

As with office temperature, individuals will have differing requirements for the level of lighting. Ideally workers will be able to adjust their lighting requirements.

The following factors should be taken into account when assessing the level of lighting required

  • the nature of the work activity
  • the nature of hazards and risks in the workplace
  • the work environment
  • illumination levels, including both natural and artificial light
  • the transition of natural light over the day
  • glare
  • contrast
  • reflections
Read more

Tips

  • Turn on the lights.
  • Use task lighting if required.
  • Use curtains for natural light control.

Potential harm

Headaches
Musculoskeletal disorders
Eye strain
Identified Hazards and Controls

Slips trips and falls

Cause

  • Inability to see hazards where walking due to inadequate lighting.
  • Turn on the light switch.
  • Stop and wait a moment for your eyes to adjust to low light before proceeding.
  • Report broken lights to your building maintenance team.
  • Consider installing motion activated lights in low use areas.
  • Conduct a lighting audit to identify any issues.
  • Action maintenance issues promptly (i.e. lights blown).
  • Emergency lighting must be provided for the safe evacuation of people in the event of an emergency

Headaches

Cause

  • Glare from other light sources including natural light entering a work area (such as light being reflected from walls, desks and other surfaces in the area). These three diagrams show that the positioning of the monitor either directly in front of or behind a window will result in glare on the monitor. Diagram one shows that the positioning of the monitor either directly in front of or behind a window will result in glare on the monitor
    Diagram two shows that the positioning of the monitor either directly in front of or behind a window will result in glare on the monitor
    Diagram three shows that the positioning of the monitor either directly in front of or behind a window will result in glare on the monitorIf the monitor is at right angles to the window then glare is greatly reduced as it is angled away from your eyes.If the monitor is at right angles to the window then glare is greatly reduced as it is angled away from your eyes
  • The visual demands of the activity or task performed.
  • Inadequate overhead lighting.
  • Objects or barriers to light falling on work surfaces (i.e. overhead shelves).
  • Reposition the work to a better lit area of your desk (as well as avoiding glare) or consider moving to another desk.
  • Identify if your work area is in shadow and may require task lighting.
  • Consider getting your eyes tested if headaches are frequent.
  • Sufficient lighting needs to be provided, whether it is from a natural or artificial source, to allow workers to perform their job without having to strain their eyes to see.
  • Observe workers to see where natural shadows fall when working.

    source:Managing work environment and facilities code of practice

    Class of task

    Recommended illuminance (lux)

    Characteristics of the activity/interior

    Examples of types of activities/interiors

    Movement and orientation40For little-used interiors with visual tasks limited to moving around.Corridors; cable tunnels; indoor storage tanks; walkways.
    Rough intermittent80For interiors used intermittently, with visual tasks limited to movement, orientation and coarse detail.Workers change and locker rooms; live storage of bulky materials; dead storage of materials needing care; loading bays.
    Normal range of tasks and workplaces
    Simple160Continuously occupied interior with visual tasks (coarse detail only.) Occasional reading of clearly printed documents for short periods.Waiting rooms; entrance halls; canteens; rough checking of stock; rough bench and machine work; general fabrication of structural steel; casting concrete; automated process monitoring; turbine halls.
    Ordinary or moderately easy240Continuously occupied interiors with moderately easy visual tasks with high contrasts or large detail.School boards and charts; medium woodworking; food preparation; counters for transactions; computer use.
    Moderately difficult320Areas where visual tasks are moderately difficult with moderate detail or with low contrasts.Routine office tasks (e.g. reading, writing, typing, enquiry desks.)
    400Inspection of medium work; fine woodwork; enquiry points; car assembly.
    Difficult600Areas where visual tasks are difficult with small detail or with low contrast.Drawing boards; most inspection tasks; proofreading; fine machine work; fine painting and finishing; colour matching.
    Very difficult800Areas where visual tasks are very difficult with very small detail or with very low contrast.Fine inspection; plant retouching; fine manufacture; grading of dark materials; colour matching of dyes.
  • Provide task lighting where required (different activities require different levels and qualities of light.).
  • Provide staff ability to control and adjust natural light, for example, venetian, vertical blinds or curtains.

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)

Cause

  • When people find it difficult to see what they are working with, it is common for them to lean closer to the object or to bring it closer to their eyes (e.g. a document). In both cases, this may lead to an awkward posture. poor posture can result from inadequate lighting or uncorrected visual problems poor posture can result from inadequate lighting or uncorrected visual problems
  • Pay attention to your posture and take regular breaks and change your posture.
  • Report lighting issues to you supervisor and property / facilities team.
  • If you can, take your papers to read to an area better lit.
  • Good lighting in workplaces is essential to enable people to see clearly and perform their work safely. The key factors to consider when determining the adequacy of lighting are the:
    • amount of light in an area
    • number, type and position of the light sources
    • tasks or activities performed, how often and for how long these are performed
  • Provide task lighting.
  • Emergency lighting must be provided for the safe evacuation of people in the event of an emergency.

Further information

X

Noise in the office

Noise is usually defined as any disturbing sound. In practice, it is referred to as ‘sound’ when pleasant, and ‘noise’ when annoying.

Generally, the levels of noise in office areas are below those levels known to pose a risk to hearing.

The current trend for open plan offices enables collaboration between workers. However, open plan offices also provide a lack of sound privacy, which affects employee morale (2013 study from the University of Sydney ). A 2014 study by Steelcase and Ipsos found that workers lost as much as 86 minutes per day due to noise distractions.

Generally, the levels of noise in office areas are below those levels known to pose a risk to hearing.

Diagram: common noise levels in decibels
noise levels

Read more

Tips

  • Monitor the loudness of your voice.
  • Keep ringtone levels to a minimum.
  • Use office rooms for lengthy conversations.

Potential harm

Stress
Worker distraction
Reduced productivity
Identified Hazards and Controls

Worker distraction, stress and headaches

Cause

  • Hearing other people’s conversations in the work area.
  • Loud ring tones on mobile phones
  • Noises from office equipment such as printers, photocopiers and desk phones.
  • Be mindful of the volume of your voice.

    Many people don’t recognise that they can unconsciously raise their voice when speaking on the phone. We tend to think speaking louder makes us clearer to understand.  By simply speaking to those people and highlighting that they may need to use their ‘inside’ voice may be all that is necessary to reduce the problem.

  • Be mindful of the volume of your personal devices.

    Many people bring in headphones and listen to music to block out other noise, however you shouldn’t have the volume too loud as this introduces new risks. Your co-workers should not be able to hear your music (besides, they may not like your taste in music!). Try and have the volume so you can hear colleagues nearby who need to talk to you and you can hear emergency warning sounds.

  • Make sure you keep your mobile phone volume low whilst at work as a courtesy to others. Go to a quiet room to take these calls.
  • Get away from the noise by taking temporary breaks. For example, you could get a drink of water, go to the printer or take a quick walk outside.
  • Tell your colleagues if you have an important deadline to meet and need a quieter environment to concentrate.
  • When purchasing printer and photocopiers consider purchasing ones with lower noise output.
  • Listen to worker complaints and take action to identify the sources of the noise.
  • Implement some noise-related policies describe appropriate levels of noise or when and where it acceptable to have loud or personal conversations and conference calls..
  • Locate printers and photocopiers away from workers, (preferably in a separate ventilated room).
  • Measure the noise levels in the office. However, it is likely that the level will be lower than the level that causes hearing loss.

    Generally people cope better with ambient or background noise when it is not as discernable as speech. When you can’t understand the words being spoken, they become less distracting. You will need to consult an audiometric expert before taking this option. Controlling the source of the noise is the preferred before adding extra noise.

    The workplace should be designed with the functions to be performed in mind. For example a call centre versus administrative functions. The types of materials used in construction (or refurbishment) of the workplace should provide adequate sound absorbing properties (for example carpet or partitions). Plants can also be added to the workspace for sound absorption.

    If an open plan office is the desired design then include dedicated quiet spaces or rooms in the design as well as regular meeting and conference rooms. Existing conference rooms could be turned to quiet rooms if redesign is not an option.

Further information

Legislation

Codes

Guidance

X

Bullying in the office

Risks to psychological health due to work should be viewed in the same way as other health and safety risks and a commitment to prevention of work-related stress should be included in health and safety policies.

Bullying is considered a risk to health and safety within the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act). The word ‘health’ in the WHS Act is defined as both physical and psychological health and the normal risk management process applies including the identification, assessment and management of work-related risk factors.

Some examples of potential injury:

  • Memory and concentration difficulties
  • Fatigue, headaches and migraines
  • Self-criticism and negativity
  • Withdrawal
  • Stomach upsets and nausea
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Diagnosed mental disorder.
Read more

Tips

  • Don't be a silent witness.
  • Don't tolerate bullying.
  • Check your own behaviour.

Potential harm

Anxiety
Depression
Sleep disturbance
Stress
Identified Hazards and Controls

Bullying

Cause

  • Workplace bullying is considered as repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to their health and safety.
  • Understand the definition of bullying and the difference between bullying and harassment.

    ‘Workplace harassment’ is different to workplace bullying. Workplace harassment is unwanted behaviour that offends, humiliates or intimidates a person, and targets them on the basis of a characteristic such as gender, race or ethnicity. It is normally covered under human rights legislation but sometimes behaviour can be a combination of both bullying and harassment

  • Take reasonable care for your own health and safety.
  • Take reasonable care to ensure that your behaviour does not adversely affect the health and safety of others.
  • Don’t be a silent witness—call bullying behaviour.
  • If you see bullying, raise it with the person concerned.
  • Know how to find your harassment contact officer.
  • Model expected behaviours.
  • Develop a bullying policy and procedures.
  • Provide relevant training in the APS code of conduct and raise awareness of bullying and harassment matters.
  • Model expected behaviours.
  • Check on the mental health of workers.
  • Provide access to a support network such as an employee assistance program or mediation service.
  • Thoroughly investigate claims of bullying and address the issue (don’t just move the victim or bully to another work area as your first option).

Further information

X

Office floor

Floor surfaces should be suitable for the work area. The choice of floor surfaces or covers will depend on the type of work carried out at the workplace, as well as the materials used during the work process.

Tips

  • Watch where you are walking.
  • Wear appropriate footwear.
  • Maintain good housekeeping.

Potential harm

Slips Trips Falls
Identified Hazards and Controls

Floor surface

Cause

  • Highly polished floors.
  • Plush carpet catching feet.
  • Wet floor.
  • Damaged floor.
  • Change in level.
  • Wear safe and practical footwear for the environment you are in.
  • Report unsafe situations such as slippery or damaged floors.
  • Wipe up small spills.
  • Be aware of changes in floor surfaces such as carpet to tiles or even different carpet piles from high traffic areas (such as walkways ) to the work area.
  • When visiting a different workplace – familiarise yourself with your surroundings.
  • Choose a non-slip floor material or one with a textured surface.
  • If tiled or similar surface, have walk areas abraded (roughened) to remove shine.
  • Use short pile carpet to reduce the chance of tripping and allow delivery trolleys and carts ease of movement on the carpet.
  • For wet floors:
    • Use appropriate signage to warn of slip hazards.
    • Provide non-slip matting for people to wipe feet before entry.
    • Check that the drainage at entry points is able to cope with rain events.
  • Change in levels:
    • Where possible joins should be flush with adjoining floor levels and are not raised at any point.
    • Consider extra lighting and floor markings or signage to identify the hazard to people using the area.
  • Damaged floors:
    • Repair damaged flooring as soon as possible.
    • Place appropriate warning signs over damaged area, or remove access to the area until repaired.

Poor housekeeping

Cause

  • Cluttered work spaces.
  • Uncovered cables running across the floor.
  • Deliveries left in workplaces.
  • Maintain good housekeeping yourself and don’t clutter walkways.
  • Report unsafe housekeeping issues.
  • Provide adequate 'off-the-floor' storage and designated areas for deliveries.
  • Provide bins for waste disposal.
  • Advise staff of the need to keep walkways clear of obstructions.
  • Remove cables that cross walkways.

Floor furnishings

Cause

  • Rugs and mats not secured.
  • Potential allergies from rug material.
  • Worn out furnishings.
  • Report unsafe such as unsecured rugs or trip hazards.
  • When visiting a different workplace – familiarise yourself with your surroundings
  • Rugs and other floor furnishings are easily visible, have a low profile (to reduce chance of tripping) and have rubber backing.
  • Use hypo-allergenic rugs and floor furnishings to reduce the risk of allergic reactions.
  • Remove damaged rugs and mats.

Further information

X

Phones and mobile communication devices

Desktop phones (or land lines), once common, are increasingly being replaced by mobile and electronic communications. Mobile phone usage brings its own set of risks including distraction compromising situational awareness.

People look at / check their smart phones on average every 20 minutes.

Nearly 80% of Australians use a mobile phone.

Between 40 and 60% of Australians admit to using their mobile phone whilst driving.

Approximately 30% of Australians are mobile—only users, that is, they no longer use a fixed line for phone or internet needs.(source ABS)

Although people are concerned about exposure to radiation (Bluetooth devices emit microwave radiation), there is no conclusive research to either support or deny the case

Read more

Tips

  • Limit texting.
  • Remain aware of your surroundings.

Potential harm

Overuse injury
Hit by an object
Musculoskeletal disorders
Identified Hazards and Controls

Neck pain and muscular disorder

Cause

  • ’Necking’ the phone (desk or mobile) between the ear and the shoulder during conversations to keep the hands free.
  • Bending neck to see and use mobile phone.
  • If you need to write while talking on the phone on a regular basis you should ask your employer about getting a headset.
  • Try to hold your mobile device at eye level so you maintain a neutral position of the neck. But this could have an alternate effect of causing aches in the arms.

    Your head weighs up to 5 kilograms so if you bend your neck forward to look down at the screen of the mobile phone you are placing a strain on your neck muscles to hold that weight.  It is only a matter of time until you notice soreness in your neck muscles.  Pay attention to your posture when using your mobile phone.

  • Provide headsets to workers who are frequently on the phone or need to carry out writing or keyboarding functions at the same time.

Overuse injury

Cause

  • Repeatedly holding the phone for lengthy conversation.
  • Using the thumbs to type messages on phones and scrolling through screens of information.
  • Ask your manager about getting a headset if you use the desk phone frequently or need to write things down.
  • Limit mobile phone use especially if texting or reading from the device (emails, news etc.).
  • Reduce texting.
    • Use both hands or use the other hand to give your dominant one a rest.
    • Try using other fingers as you would on a keyboard or use a stylus.
    • Don’t press hard.
    • Stop using the device/take a break for an hour or so, switch it off.
    • Put the phone on a desk instead of holding it in the palm of your hand.
  • Avoid writing emails on your mobile device.
  • Provide headsets to phone users who are frequently on the phone or need to carry out writing or keyboarding functions at the same time.
  • Discourage the use of mobile phones to email people for work purposes.
  • If a mobile phone is a requirement as a tool for the job, advise users to use it as a phone and talk to people instead of texting

Other injury from trips or hitting other objects

Cause

  • Lack of situational awareness.
  • Avoid texting while walking (you may walk into someone else, other obstacles, or enter the street when it is not safe).
  • Driving a car and using a mobile phone is illegal. Do not do it. Pull over in a safe location if you must use your phone.
  • Implement policies banning mobile phone use whilst driving work vehicles.
  • Encourage workers to use phone during breaks in driving.

Further information