Welcome to the Office Safety tool, previously called the Virtual Office. As well as a new name, we have updated the site's navigation and content.

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Front counters

Front counters need to be designed for the purpose they are intended. This includes the reception desk welcoming and directing visitors to the protective counters which create a safety barrier for the workers.

Tips

  • Front counters must be fit for purpose.
  • Emergency response procedures should be in place.
  • Allow enough space to undertake all tasks.

Potential harm

  • Anxiety
  • Assault
  • Musculoskeletal disorders

Identified hazards and controls

Physical assault or psychological injury

Cause

  • Aggrieved customers or other people entering the workplace with ill intent have access to reception staff.
  • 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.

What workers can do

  • 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 people.
  • 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.

What employers can do

  • 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. This can include installing security screens, a duress button within reach of reception staff, deeper or higher counter areas to prevent aggressive visitors being able to reach workers.
  • Have emergency response procedures in place and personnel trained to respond.
  • Provide staff with a separate doorway to enter and exit their immediate work area in reception to a safe area.
  • Remove objects that could be used as projectiles from within reach of customers.
  • Ensure 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 drop off items or visit your office. This can include offering online forms and applications, email or post options.

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD)

Cause

  • Poor ergonomic set up of the work area and counter.

What workers can do

  • Know how to adjust your work area so it suits your needs, such as height adjustable desks, chairs and monitor arms.
  • Position your work in a way that allows you to avoid twisting to attend to customer needs.

What employers can do

  • Provide fit for purpose work area design so that the combination of the desk, chair, computer equipment and telephony suits the worker and their work activity.
  • Consider if steps can be taken in the way work is organised to avoid customers needing to visit your office. This can include offering online forms and applications, email or post options.
Page last reviewed: 05 May 2021

Comcare (Office Safety tool)
GPO Box 9905, Canberra, ACT 2601
1300 366 979 | www.comcare.gov.au

Date printed 26 Jun 2022

https://www.comcare.gov.au/office-safety-tool/spaces/reception-areas/front-counters