Career Woman

Make your office building a safer environment

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Your average office may not seem like the most hazardous work environment. However, there can be hidden dangers lurking in the walls that many businesses overlook. Improving the safety of your office building could help you and your employees to stay healthy and happy. Here are just a few ways in which you can make your office building a safer environment.

Improve ventilation

Many offices have surprisingly poor air quality. High levels of dust in the air can cause offices to get dirtier more quickly, as well as clogging up computers and causing crashes due to overheating. However, the most serious negative impact is Sick Building Syndrome – a variety of health issues including headaches, respiratory problems and fevers that can all occur from poor air quality.

The best way to improve indoor air quality is to keep the office ventilated. Installing a ventilation unit is one of the best ways to do this – a ventilation unit can help to pump out your dusty and dirty indoor air, while pumping in fresh, clean air. Opening windows is a simpler option, however it may not be practical on a cold or wet day. Ventilation units also have the advantage of purifying air that comes in, so that you’re not replacing dirty indoor air with even dirtier outdoor air.

There are other ways to improve air quality such as growing indoor plants, using dehumidifiers and eliminating any mold sources. You should also avoid using paints with a high VOC level, as these could give off chemicals that make your and your employees sick. It could also be worth testing the radon levels in your office – this toxic gas can cause lung cancer and commonly enters office buildings through cracks in foundations, however it can be prevented by improving ventilation or sealing up the building’s foundations.

Improve natural lighting

A lack of natural light in your office could also be a health risk. Sunlight is a vital source of vitamin D – many of us that spend long hours at work in the winter months can suffer vitamin D deficiencies simply from not getting enough natural light. On top of this, sunlight is good for the mind – many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and can become depressed when they don’t get enough sunlight. Finally, a reliance of artificial light has been known to cause headaches and eye strain in many people.

The most effective way to let in more natural light is to add more windows. You may be able to do this by adding more windows into external walls or by adding skylights into the ceiling. Window installation can be expensive and you may need planning permission – prioritize installation of windows in areas where the most people are working and where there are the least restrictions.

There are other ways to improve natural lighting that could require less money and upheaval. Repainting your interior walls with a glossy white or light colored paint for instance could help to reflect more sunlight. You could also consider whether there are any outdoor obstacles blocking sunlight into your windows such as trees or hedges – removing these obstacles could allow more light in.

Check for toxic construction materials

If your office is an old building, there could be a chance that it was built with potentially toxic materials. The likes of lead and asbestos were widely used in buildings until late into the 20th century. Both materials have since been found to carry dangers and should be removed if found.

Lead was most commonly used in paint. Dust from lead paint can be toxic if inhaled and should be removed by a qualified lead paint removal expert. You can buy lead test kits to check if your office’s paint contains lead.

Asbestos meanwhile was commonly used as an insulator in many buildings. The material has been linked to a deadly lung cancer called mesothelioma, which can occur if spores of asbestos are breathed in. Asbestos should only ever be removed by qualified professionals.

Check for old electrics

Old office buildings could also contain old wiring, some of which could pose a danger. Many electrical fires are caused by old wiring which has deteriorated. There could also be a risk of electrical shock.

There are lots of tell-tale signs that an office building has old electrics that need replacing. These include fuses constantly blowing, flickering lights, buzzing sockets or strange burning smells. If you notice any of these signs, it’s best to call a qualified electrician as soon as possible.

Opt for carpets

Slips and falls are one of the most common workplace injuries and one of the most common causes of injury lawsuits. Laminated wooden floors and polished stone floors are the most common surfaces to slip on – especially when wet. This is one major reason as to why many offices opt for carpet.

Short pile carpets tend to be preferred as they allow easy movement for office chairs. Carpets can be harder to keep clean than other harder flooring options and can be prone to stains. For this reason, many workplaces opt for carpet tiles – if a section of carpet gets stained, you can easily replace the tile that is stained rather than having to buy a whole new carpet.

Take steps against local natural disasters

If your office is situated in a high-risk area for natural disasters, it could be wise to check that your office building is suitably protected. A lack of defence could not only put your equipment and files at risk, but it could put you and your employees in danger.

Earthquakes are one of the most serious natural disasters to protect your business against. Protection measures such as soft story retrofitting have become not just necessary but compulsory in certain high-risk areas. This could help to ensure that your first floor is able to carry the weight of any floors above it in the event of an earthquake. If you’re unsure whether your building needs retrofitting, it could be worth hiring a building inspector to take a look.

Floods are another common natural disaster in many areas. In an office, the risk of electric shock during a flood is high as electrical equipment can get wet. To avoid this threat, ensure that your office is either wet floodproofed or dry floodproofed (wet floodproofing may involve making interior changes such as moving sockets higher up the wall, while floodproofing involves preventing water entering in the first place).

Do a fire safety audit

If a fire occurs, being able to minimise the danger is essential. A fire safety audit could help to recommend improvements that you can make to your office building to help keep you and your employees safe during a fire. This could include having accessible fire exits, working smoke alarms and fire escape staircases on upper floors.

A fire safety inspector will be able to carry out a full audit of your premises. There could be certain improvements that are compulsory while others may simply be recommended.

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