Why is a risk assessment important for offices?
It is important that employers and business owners are fully aware of their obligations to carry out deep office cleaning risk assessments.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is responsible for ensuring that workplaces are compliant with the relevant health and safety laws (as outlined below).
As a regulator, the HSE carries out targeted inspections and investigations when necessary and takes enforcement action to hold organisations to account.
In order to be a compliant workforce, carrying out office cleaning risk assessments are one of the ways that employers can prioritise the safety of everyone who uses a company’s premises.
Dangers involved in office cleaning
There are many hazards involved in undertaking cleaning activities, and many considerations involved in the formal risk assessment process.
The following questions should be used to guide the assessment:
- What are the hazards?
- Who might be harmed and how?
- What are you already doing?
- Do you need to do anything else to manage this risk?
As well as this, you should outline who is responsible for each action, as well as identifying the dates by which an action should be completed and methods of confirming that this has been completed. This is outlined in further detail below.
Some of the dangers associated with office cleaning includes the following:
- Cleaning products and tools
- The environment a cleaner works in
- Slipping or tripping dangers
- Manual work
This article outlines employer’s legal requirements and explains the steps involved in carrying out an office cleaning risk assessment.
Employer’s legal requirements
It is part of an employer’s legal duty to ensure their employees are safe and that they are able to carry out their duties in ways that are not damaging to their health.
Some of the relevant regulations include the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR), the Reporting of Injuries, Disease and Dangerous Occurrence Regulations 2013, and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH).
Many cleaning products used by cleaners to clean offices fall under the COSHH regulations and it is important to know the exact type of risk assessment you need to carry out for your business.
Office cleaning during COVID-19
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the proper cleaning of offices and ensuring the health and safety of all workers and cleaners has become of paramount importance, not just for individual businesses, but also in terms of public health.
The HSE published new guidelines on making workplaces COVID-secure. The COVID-19 risk assessment states that employers must:
- Identify work activities or situations that may contribute to virus transmission
- Identify people at risk in the workplace
- Consider the likelihood of people being exposed to the virus
- Take steps to remove activities or situations that could contribute to virus or otherwise control the risk
Reports from Public Health England have stated that there are some members of the population at greater risk of the virus and that this should be a consideration in any COVID-19 risk assessment.
Some of the key considerations for a COVID-19 risk assessment include:
- Viral transmission by poor handwashing practices
- Viral transmission in high traffic areas
- Viral transmission from improperly cleaned surfaces
- Viral transmission from lack of social distancing
- Viral transmission from poorly ventilated spaces
- The impact of homeworking
- The impact of returning to buildings after long periods of closure
- Ensuring the safety of people who may be clinically vulnerable or higher risk
How to carry out an office cleaning risk assessment
In order to complete an office cleaning risk assessment, you should follow all current and updated guidance from the HSE. If you are unsure of your obligations, you should always consult with a building management or facilities management professional.
Failure to comply with legislation could be detrimental to your business in terms of both financial and reputational risk.
Carrying out a risk assessment
- Identify existing and potential hazards
In the context of office cleaning, existing and potential hazards can come from a number of places. This includes the materials used in the cleaning process (i.e., hazardous cleaning chemicals or products).
Consider the ways that cleaning activities are carried out and any potential hazards that may contribute to slips or trips, or machinery that has the potential to cause injury.
- Identify those at risk and how
It is not just the cleaning staff that you should consider when creating a risk assessment. It is important to consider all people who are in the office location.
This can include workers who are working while cleaning activities are being carried out, members of the public, and suppliers or other third parties.
Ensuring good communication flows between all workers is also essential. Think about who may need to be informed of changes within the workplace environment.
- Identify the measures to control risks
A complete risk assessment must contain the identified hazards and the recommended measures to control the risks.
This could include removing the hazards or controlling the risk to reduce harm. Consider all available options and list these on the assessment.
- Keep accurate records
If requested by the HSE, businesses must show evidence of having recorded risks and control measures. It is best practice to ensure that good records are maintained by a designated person or persons.
- Review on a regular basis
It is important to avoid complacency when it comes to workplace risk assessments. For this reason, it is essential to constantly review the risk assessment and ensure that it remains up to date.
If changes are made in a workplace, the register should be updated accordingly. If no changes are made, the assessment should be reviewed at least once every 12 months and all employees made aware of the contents.
For those who enjoyed this guide, you may also like our office cleaning checklist which details how you can outline problem areas and put together a plan for decontamination purposes.
If you have any questions on risk assessments, contact our facilities management experts at SMC Premier Group Ltd via our contact form or call today on 0845 094 4598.