Uh oh, it’s time for your friendly office design company to give the talk about health and safety. You know ‘elf and safety, right? It’s when a pen-pushing bureaucrat puts a kibosh on tequila Fridays, especially when they coincide with steak and chainsaw night. Typical, preachy, PC nonsense that takes the fun out of “no longer fully-functioning limbs”.
Phew. Getting all that old-fashioned moaning out of the way feels great. Nowadays, people are generally better educated when it comes to health and safety. But what’s this got to do with office refurbishments in London?
First off, what is the HSE?
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), in short, is the God of Workplace Safety. They are responsible for advising employers on how to manage risks correctly and prevent work-related death, injury and ill health. They also enforce the Health and Safety at Work Act. This means they get to put the boot in if your place of work drops the ball (especially if it is a wrecking ball).
The Health and Safety at Work Act is a bit of legislation that lists all the duties employers need to follow to protect the welfare of people on their premises. A big part of this is ensuring your current – and future – office doesn’t resemble an amusement park made of razor blades.
Notice how we said future office?
What does this mean for office refurbishment?
Well, for one, it means you’re going to have to rip up your plans for installing a trapdoor in front of your desk. I know it would be cool to be able to slip away, unnoticed, from your desk when the FD’s approaching about your expense claim! But, you’re better off investing in her favourite chocolates instead.
See, when it comes to the design of your new office, you can’t just do whatever you like. The plan has to be compliant with the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. This means you need to make provisions for proper lighting, heating, ventilation, workspaces and staff facilities. Your new office also has to be accessible to people with disabilities. Forcing everyone to limbo dance under the reception desk won’t cut it.
But your job as health and safety master doesn’t begin and end at the design stage. Nope, according to the CDM Regulations 2015, you’re also responsible for all health and safety when your office is a building site.
Your responsibilities for health and safety on site
Now, don’t panic. We don’t expect you to be an instant health and safety vigilante saving people from the perils of falling masonry. This is where the HSE (remember those guys?) can offer advice, and where your friendly office design company can guide you along. You know, just like Robin to your Batman.
So, gadzooks Batman, this is everything you need to do:
Prepare a brief: give it to us straight in a perfectly formed design brief. What do you want the office to look like, to function as, and why? What are your expectations for timescales, budgets, and health and safety? Who can your office design company contact if you unearth an ancient burial ground?
Appoint a Principal Designer and Principal Contractor: these are the guys who make sure everyone and everything is in tip-top shape. However, if you’ve done the smart thing and appointed the one office design company to carry out all the works (like us for instance – just sayin’), you can entirely skip this step. We’ll do it all for you!
Create a health and safety file: this is where you sit down with us and get together all the information needed to ensure the wellbeing of everyone on site. This file should be updated regularly. Also make sure to provide stuff like previous building surveys and investigations, as it’s handy to know that the boardroom wall is called “Mr Wobbly” for a reason.
Tell the HSE about your cool project: if your office refurbishment project is expected to last longer than 30 working days and have more than 20 workers at any one time, or exceed 500 person days, you’ll have to tell those nice guys at the HSE so they can conduct super fun time surprise visits.
Do some check-ups: health and safety isn’t that difficult. If you hear occasional screaming from site, or if there’s an electric cable flapping around like a manic octopus tentacle, you’re allowed to ask pertinent questions. Carry out a site visit, do a once-over on the project plan, check the risk assessment covers everything, and ensure the office design company is following the agreed health and safety arrangements.
Ensure welfare facilities are provided: if your contractor’s staff are drilling in shelving with crossed legs, it might be worth ensuring they’re supplied with proper toilets, washing facilities, drinking water, changing rooms, and facilities for rest. Not only will this make their life more comfortable, but they’ll probably do a better job of your office refurb too.
Do I need PPE (and what is this)?
Since your new responsibilities require you to carry out site visits, then yes, you need Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). Your office design company will likely be able to provide this for you.
The best practice gear consists of a hard hat, safety glasses, steel toe cap boots, safety gloves and a hi-vis vest/jacket. After all, we take health and safety very seriously, and we won’t be happy until all of our clients sport an authentic “bubble-wrapped raver wearing Dad’s workwear” aesthetic. Or more than likely we’ll get you wearing one of these bad boys as a minumum:
We love our work and take risks in our office design but never on site. Our H&S record is spotless. Call us, and we’ll tell you more.
If you want to find out more about what it’s like being on site during an office refurbishment, why not follow our #refurbdiaries. Just click on the link.