Do you own a business with physical premises? You might sell goods and run an office and warehouse to ship your products. Or you might offer services but maintain office space for your staff to utilise and meet with clients. Whatever you offer, running your own business can be ultimately rewarding – both financially and on other levels. 

There’s nothing quite like not having a boss and being responsible for your success and your staff. However, part of being responsible for your staff means ensuring that your workplace complies with all Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) and Workplace Health and Safety Standards (WHS). This informative article will share how you can ensure your premises keep up to code with the relevant laws and regulations. Read on to learn more.


Stay on top of fire extinguisher maintenance and testing

Your office should have several fire extinguishers installed in all necessary work stations. Alongside this, business owners should invest in regular fire extinguisher testing and maintenance, just to make sure that your fire safety equipment is in good working order and ready to be used in the event of a fire-related emergency. 

Depending on what materials are in your office or warehouse, you might have to purchase several different extinguishers. Some are more suited to putting out dry material fires, such as fires caused by ignited paper or wood. Others are suited for chemical fires or electrical fires. Ensure that you choose the right one for your workplace to stay compliant.

The company that installs your fire extinguishers can also come and test them regularly – every six months is the optimal range. Your fire extinguishers will also need to be replaced every five years in most countries in order to maintain compliance with your national or regional fire safety standards. Ensure this happens to keep your office and your team members safe.


Appoint a WHS/HSR representative

Under employment law in certain countries, any worker or group of workers may ask their business to elect a health and safety representative, or HSR, to represent the workforce on workplace health and safety matters. It is only mandatory if the workers request the role. However, you should be proactive as a business owner and allow your staff to elect a HSR representative if it is expressly requested.

After a rep is appointed, a work group must be formed in negotiation with the business and the workers. This is a formal meeting space for workplace health and safety issues to be discussed and actioned. By allowing your staff performing their duties for your business to stay abreast of workplace health and safety matters, you’re demonstrating that you are willing to stay compliant and keep your premises safe for everyone.


Conduct Regular Safety Inspections

You should regularly inspect your workspace to stay compliant with all relevant OHS and WHS standards. You can also invite the HSR rep to attend these so they can feed back findings to the larger workforce. When inspecting your workplace, you should look for the following hazards:

  • Tripping hazards
  • Exposed wires or damaged power sockets
  • Too high stacks of boxes or goods
  • Manual handling practices
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) provision and utilisation
  • Ergonomic workstations
  • Staircase safety and hazards
  • Asbestos
  • Equipment safety

The types of hazards that might be present in your workplace will differ across sectors. For instance, a financial services office might not have many physical hazards, but could have cybersecurity hazards emerge through their digital transformation efforts. Contrastingly, a manufacturing centre may have its fair share of physical workplace hazards, all of which require careful mitigation, safety procedures, and processes. 

Once you’ve conducted your safety inspection, you must rectify or mitigate any hazards present and ensure your staff can perform their roles safely. Keep in mind too, that your safety inspections should take place at least once every six months or perhaps even more regularly if your workplace may benefit from more stringent risk mitigation efforts.


Keep Material Data Safety Sheets

Part of keeping your workplace safe is ensuring that you stay compliant with record keeping, and part of this means keeping Material Data Safety Sheets, or MDSS, for all chemicals used in the workplace. For some workplaces, this will only be the cleaning chemicals the cleaner uses after hours, usually kept in a locked cupboard. However, for other businesses that use chemicals in their daily work, such as manufacturers, printers and signwriters, there may be an abundance of chemicals in the workplace. These safety data sheets outline the risks and hazards associated with each chemical. As such, these sheets must be accessible to all staff and updated regularly to ensure that all employees are operating with the most up-to-date information when handling chemicals or working in spaces that may house these chemicals.


Provide PPE

Part of staying compliant with OHS/WHS legislation and regulations means providing appropriate protective equipment for your staff, depending on your business type. For instance, if you run an ecommerce business that ships goods to consumers from a warehouse, you should have pallet jacks, forklifts and other warehouse equipment that allows staff to pick up and pack orders safely. This might include high-visibility clothing for use in the warehouse as well. If you run a cleaning business, you should provide gloves that keep your staff safe when working with bleach or other harsh cleaning chemicals.


A Safety Summary

This informative article has shared how business owners can ensure their workplace complies with all relevant OHS and WHS standards. Part of this includes conducting regular workplace inspections and rectifying any hazards appropriately. Another thing to consider is allowing your workforce to elect an HSR representative. Follow these tips to keep your staff safe from quarter to quarter.