Office Kitchen Reception Photocopy First Aid Meeting Bathroom Carer's Storage Car park
Automated External Defibrillator (AED) Plants Front counter Floor Emergency procedures Deliveries Visitor aggression Entry and exit

Introduction

The reception area is what gives your customers their first impression of your business. As well as being appealing it needs to be welcoming and functional whilst providing a safe workplace for workers and visitors. It may be a place where you provide a service or it may be a reception area where clients wait to meet the person they came to see.

Commonly the reception area will include a front counter, a waiting area with chairs, possibly a coffee table with magazines and other sundry items such as a water cooler.

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Auto External Defibrillator - AED

Providing an automated external defibrillator (AED) can reduce the chance of fatality from cardiac arrest. It is a useful addition for workplaces where there is a risk of electrocution or where there are large numbers of members of the public.

AED’s will not start a heart that has stopped beating. They are designed to shock a heart that is beating irregularly (ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia) to get it back to normal rhythm. The machine works out what is required and provides instruction to first aid responders.

Automated external defibrillators are designed to be used by trained or untrained persons.

Read more

Tips

  • Locate in a visible and accessible area.
  • Staff are aware of AED availability and location.
  • Train workers on using the AED

Potential harm

Delayed treatment
Identified Hazards and Controls

Inability to locate or access AED in emergency

Cause

  • Device is too far from incident to be retrieved within response time.
  • Device is not visible.
  • Device is locked away.
  • Find out the location of the AED in your organisation.
  • Familiarise yourself with how to use the AED.
  • Make the AED readily accessible (i.e. not locked in a cupboard or in an individual’s office).
  • Place the AED in the most appropriate location (e.g. reception).
  • Clearly mark and make the AED highly visible (e.g. not behind pillars, plants etc.).
  • Situate the AED at a convenient height for access and near eye level for easy identification.
  • Use signage to identify throughout the workplace where the closest AED is.
  • Provide an appropriate number of AEDs for the workplace based on risk assessment.

AED fails to operate due to poor maintenance

Cause

  • AED battery is flat and does not work as designed.
  • AED pads have expired.
  • AED does not operate when used. Noting AED’s are designed not to operate if the patient does not require an electric shock.
  • If part of your responsibilities, ensure that the AED maintenance procedures are followed.
  • Refer to manufacturer’s instructions for maintenance.
  • Conduct inspections of the AED on a regular basis to determine it is in working order.
  • Replace AED or components as required.

Hesitancy to use the AED on a patient

Cause

  • Workers are unaware of what an AED is.
  • Staff untrained in procedures for AED use.
  • Workers do not know where the AED is located.
  • Undertake relevant training.
  • Familiarise yourself with the type of AED that you have at your workplace.
  • Conduct AED awareness training (this could be done during induction or at toolbox meetings).
  • Use appropriate information systems to increase awareness of the locations and purpose of AEDs (intranet, notice board, email).
  • Use appropriate signage to identify where AEDs can be found.

Further information

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Plants

Plants are included in office fitouts for a number of reasons including to add colour, clean the air, improve productivity, reduce noise and improve employee’s moods.

Tips

  • Check if you can bring your own plants into the office.
  • Maintain plants.
  • Have plants commercially supplied.

Potential harm

Allergies
Bugs or insects
Identified Hazards and Controls

Allergenic or poisonous

Cause

  • Plants that have allergenic or poisonous qualities.
  • People who are susceptible to dermatitis from contact with certain plants.
  • Check with your employer before bringing your own plants into the office.
  • Advise your employer if you suffer from plant allergies and the types of plants.
  • Choose plants that do not flower and are not poisonous.
    Plant Toxic to Humans Toxic to Dogs Toxic to Cats
    Philodendron Mildly Yes Yes
    Pothos Yes Yes Yes
    Arrowhead Mildly Mildly Mildly
    Lily Moderately Moderately Yes
    Peace Lily Yes Yes Yes
    Dieffenbachia Moderately Moderately Moderately
    Oleander Extremely Extremely Extremely
    Caladium Yes Yes Yes
    Mother-In-Law's Tongue Moderately Moderately Moderately
    Ivy Mildly Yes Yes
  • Discuss the plant selection with a plant provider, nursery or have them commercially supplied.
  • Locate plants so they do not obstruct the view.

Insects

Cause

  • Larvae in the soil of plants brought into the office.
  • Small insects living on the underside of plants.
  • Check with your employer before bringing your own plants into the office.
  • Report any insect infestations.
  • Put all your food scraps in the bin and empty daily.
  • Conduct regular inspections of indoor plants.
  • Have plants properly maintained (watered, pruned, cleaned of dust, sick plants replaced).
  • Have infected plants and soil removed.
  • If required use an insecticide after hours.

Further information

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Front counter

Front counters need to be designed for the purpose they are intended. From a reception desk welcoming and directing visitors to protective counters which create a safety barrier for the workers (e.g. banks and police stations).

Tips

  • Front counters fit for purpose.
  • Emergency response procedures.
  • Allowing sufficient space to undertake all tasks.

Potential harm

Anxiety
Assault
Musculoskeletal disorders
Identified Hazards and Controls

Physical assault/psychological injury

Cause

  • Aggrieved customers entering the workplace with ill intent have access to reception workers.
  • Objects used as projectiles to injure workers or damage the workplace.
  • Customers with low levels of emotional control may become angry or frustrated and behave aggressively.
  • If you work in reception be aware of the emergency response procedures and in what circumstances to activate the duress call button.
  • Keep your workspace clear of objects that could be picked up and used by a customer to assault workers.
  • Undertake training in how to manage aggressive customers.
  • If you are subject to customer violence consider if you need any additional support such as using an employee assistance program and inform your supervisor of your situation.
  • Provide training on how to handle and diffuse customer aggression to reception staff and emergency response personnel.
  • Design the reception area to provide security for your workers such as:
    • install security screens
    • install deeper and/or higher counter areas to prevent aggressive visitors being able to reach workers
    • install a duress button within reach of receptionist
    • emergency response procedures in place and personnel trained to respond.
  • Staff has a separate entry/exit doorway to a safe area that is accessible from their immediate work area.
  • Remove objects that could be used as projectiles from within the reach of customers
  • Staff have access to mental health support personnel in case of an incident.
  • Consider if steps can be taken in the way work is organised to avoid customers needing to visit your office (can they email, post items to you instead of dropping them off?

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD)

Cause

  • Poor ergonomic set up of work area and counter.
  • Know how to adjust your work area so it suits your needs (height adjustable desk, chairs, monitor arms etc.).
  • Position your work so you are not twisting to attend to customer needs.
  • Provide fit for purpose work area design, the combination of the desk, chair, computer equipment and telephony needs to suit the worker and work activity.
  • Consider if steps can be taken in the way work is organised to avoid customers needing to visit your office (can they email, post items to you instead of dropping them off?

Further information

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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

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Emergency procedures

There are many different types of emergency situations, including fire or explosion, dangerous chemical release, medical emergency, natural disaster, bomb threats, violence or robbery. Customers visiting the workplace need to be instructed on emergency procedures and accounted for in the case of an actual evacuation.

Tips

  • Have a visitor sign-in induction process.
  • Induct contractors in emergency protocols.

Potential harm

Delay in evacuation
Identified Hazards and Controls

Emergency evacuations involving visitors

Cause

  • Visitors unaware of what to do in an evacuation.
  • Inadequately trained personnel in the evacuation process.
  • Emergency exits not visible or accessible.
  • Lack of emergency procedures / programs.
  • If you work in the reception area you need to be aware of the emergency procedures and undertake training to keep yourself safe including other persons who may be visiting the reception area.
  • Have a procedure and process in place for signing in visitors and inducting them to the workplace.
  • Workers who may be responsible for assisting visitors evacuate in an emergency are properly trained.
  • Emergency procedures are visible and easily understood for visitors to follow in the event of an emergency.
  • There is a process for accounting for all visitors and staff post evacuation.
  • Emergency exit signs are in place and illuminated.
  • Emergency exits are clearly marked, are not blocked and are easily accessible.
  • Develop appropriate emergency procedures / programs.
  • Conduct regular emergency evacuation drills to test procedures / programs and systems.
  • Emergency contacts receive appropriate training for coordinating emergency responses.

Further information

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Deliveries

Employers sometimes accept mail deliveries through the reception area. This may pose security risks and require mail handling systems to be in place to protect workers and other persons.

Tips

  • Do not accept or open unexpected packages.
  • Train staff to identify suspicious packages.
  • Have up to date mail handling procedures.

Potential harm

Slips Trips Falls
Shrapnel injuries from explosions
Poisoning
Identified Hazards and Controls

Biological hazard

Cause

  • Contaminated mail.
  • Do not accept or open unexpected or suspicious packages
  • Undertake training in mail handling procedures and identifying suspicious packages.
  • Know the proper postal address for mail to be delivered to when advising clients.
  • Train employees working in reception how to recognise a suspicious package.
  • Document procedures to be followed and train workers who will manage those procedures.
  • Make appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) available if required.
  • Make the postal address for correspondence easily identifiable on the website.

Bomb threat

Cause

  • Disgruntled customer/client.
  • Do not touch parcels that have been left on the doorstep.
  • Report any safety concerns immediately to your employer.
  • Only accept parcels from bona fide delivery companies.
  • Train receptionists in how to respond to a bomb threat.
  • Make arrangements for alerting emergency services (fire, police, Tactical Response Group, ambulance, etc.).
  • Procedures are up to date and staff who are responsible to respond to the threat are familiar with the required processes.

Trip hazard

Cause

  • Mail items left in corridor or walkway.
  • Have larger deliveries redirected to another entrance (loading bay).
  • Report any safety concerns immediately to employer.
  • Advise receptionist to contact the addressee and arrange for immediate collection.
  • Allocate a specific storage area for deliveries, away from trafficable areas.

Further information

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Visitor aggression

Customer facing workers may be subject to visitor aggression. Equipping workers to calmly deal with these situations is important. Additionally the reception area should be designed to prevent unauthorised entry and allow workers to clearly see who is entering the reception area.

Tips

  • Reception designed to minimise the risk of threat.
  • Emergency response procedures in place.

Potential harm

Anxiety
Assault
Hit by an object
Identified Hazards and Controls

Aggrieved visitors

Cause

  • Aggrieved customers might enter the workplace to express their point of view and escalate into verbal or physical violence.
  • Workers in customer facing roles should have training on how to deal with customer aggression and diffusing difficult situations.
  • If you work in reception be aware of the emergency response procedures and in what circumstances to activate the duress call button.
  • If you are subject to customer violence consider if you need any additional support from an employee assistance program and inform your supervisor of your situation.
  • Design the work area to provide security for your workers such as:
    • install security screens
    • install deeper and or higher counter areas to prevent aggressive visitors being able to reach workers
    • install a duress button within reach of receptionist.
  • Emergency response procedures are in place and personnel are trained to respond.
  • Provide staff with a separate entry/exit doorway to a safe area that is accessible from their immediate work area.
  • Have grievance processes in place for customers to use to address issues before they escalate.
  • Workers should be aware of the relevant policies (e.g. harassment and violence policies) and their responsibilities. This may require employee training.
  • Have access to mental health support personnel in case of an incident.

Furnishings as weapons

Cause

  • Furnishings and decorative items could easily be used as weapons by a visitor.
  • Report any safety concerns immediately to your employer.
  • Recognise potential weapons in reception area and place out of reach or in cupboards.
  • Choose furnishings for the reception area with care and thought for their potential to be used as a weapon.
  • Select indoor plants in heavy floor tubs which cannot be easily lifted by one person.
  • Place vases and stationery out of reach of third parties in the area.
  • Design the reception area to minimise the risk of assault, i.e. width and height of reception counter.
  • Where glass is used choose shatterproof glass.

Access to back up assistance

Cause

  • Lack of support if assaulted by a visitor.
  • If you work in reception be aware of the emergency response procedures and in what circumstances to activate the duress call button or get assistance.
  • Have procedures in place that raise issues from line staff to managers before the situation escalates.
  • Install a concealed duress alarm where it can be reached by the employee if being threatened or provide pocket duress alarms to workers.
  • Have duress alarms link back to security personnel that would respond if required.
  • Consider workers in the adjacent safe area trained in how to respond if the duress alarm is activated.
  • Have designated staff members to assist in dealing with visitor aggression or security personnel available if required.
  • Establish set policies and procedures for when issues will be escalated to the police.

Further information

Legislation

Codes

Guidance

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Entry and exit

The entry and exit to and from the workplace must be safe. This includes ensuring that workers with special needs or disabilities can safely enter and leave the workplace.

Section 20(2) of the WHS Act 2011- The person with management or control of a workplace must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the workplace, the means of entering and exiting the workplace and anything arising from the workplace are without risks to the health and safety of any person.

Read more

Tips

  • Clearly marked entry and exit areas.
  • Disabled accessible entry.
  • Separate emergency exit.

Potential harm

Slips Trips Falls
Hit by an object
Identified Hazards and Controls

Entry and exit door ways

Cause

  • Automatic doors which don't open quickly enough on approach.
  • Automatic doors which close too quickly.
  • Hanging doors opening onto trafficable areas.
  • Manual doors that can be heavy to open/close.
  • Report any safety concerns immediately to your employer via the relevant person.
  • Remember you have a duty to ensure your acts or omissions do not adversely affect the safety of others (WHS Act s 28(b))
  • Automatic doors - have the door opening speed adjusted so that the door opening matches the normal approach speed.
  • Power operated doors and gates should have safety features to prevent people being struck or trapped.
  • Upward opening doors or gates should be fitted with an effective counter-levering device (such as counterbalance springs or ratchet devices) to prevent them falling back.
  • If doors are made from or contain glass, place stickers on the surface as a visual warning to prevent people walking into them.
  • Fit heavy doors with door assist systems to provide ease of opening.
  • Place warning signs next to outwards opening hanging doors or install a viewing window.
  • Mark the footprint or opening pattern of the door on the ground.

Stairs and ramps

Cause

  • Poorly designed with insufficient disabled access.
  • Uneven surfaces.
  • Poor lighting of stairwells or ramps.
  • Obstructions.
  • Recognise and report any hazards immediately to your employer, for example, broken support rails, water pooling on stairs, blown lights etc.
  • Disabled access is available and ramps are of the correct inclination and constructed to the appropriate code.
  • Consider installing tactile ground surface indicators to warn people with vision impairment they are approaching a hazard.
  • Stairways and ramps are appropriately lit.
  • Have appropriate support rails in place.

Deliveries

Cause

  • Goods delivered to reception area causing obstruction and clutter of doorways and passageways.
  • Know the preferred postal address for mail to be delivered to when advising clients.
  • Have larger deliveries redirected to another entrance (loading bay).
  • Collect any parcels addressed to you as quickly as possible.
  • Advise the receptionist to contact the addressee and arrange for immediate collection or to have larger deliveries redirected to another entrance (loading bay) if possible.
  • Allocate a specific storage area for deliveries, away from trafficable areas.
  • Make the postal address for correspondence easily accessible on the website.

Further information