Health and safety is one of those topics in the workplace that feels like it has to be done. In many training sessions I have attended over the years, it was always prefixed with a disparaging comment. Like, “we have to get this done” or “getting it out of the way quickly”. Health and safety isn’t a sexy subject, is it? And it can be a myriad of information on occasion.
Working in an established organization, the rules are enforced on a regular basis. Or, at least they should be.
You might be in the throes of starting your own startup company. Or you might have just moved into a new building. Do you know what the basics are? And do you have the right facilities to make sure the space you work in is as safe as it can be? Aiming to reduce workplace accidents needs to be paramount. Not just for safety reasons, but to reduce additional cost to the business. In the UK, staff illness can cost a business the vast sum of £32 million per year! So, what can you do to make sure your office is in the best condition it can be for your colleagues?
Looking After Your Employees’ Health and Wellbeing
A healthy employee is a happy one. Work through the bare minimum of what you need to keep the workplace healthy and comfortable. For your colleagues, this will include the following:
- Good ventilation.
- A good temperature to work in.
- Suitable lighting for the work being carried out.
- Ensure there is enough space and suitable workstations and seating for your staff.
- Have a clean workplace with appropriate waste containers, like recycling.
Employee Mental Health
The issue of mental health in the workplace is another aspect that needs to be openly discussed. Circumstances of mental illness, stress and/or anxiety are much more commonly discussed. Do your utmost to encourage an open door policy with your staff members. If someone is not feeling like they can speak up, it can compound itself and may cause additional problems for them further down the line.
A member of staff could come to you with a problem relating to mental health. Or you could infer something from their manner, for example they feel withdrawn, having the door open will help them to talk about it.
Choose an appropriate place to have a conversation
An open plan office, or a meeting room where there is a window where everyone can see what’s going on may cause anxiety. A quiet space where the person feels comfortable is recommended.
Encourage the person to talk
People can find it difficult to discuss their problems in an open manner. The best approach is to ask simple and open questions to help start a dialogue with the person and to help them open up.
Ensure their confidentiality
If you didn’t know already, this is essential in the workplace. You are dealing with sensitive information being discussed by a work colleague. Ask the person what information they would like to remain confidential and what information they are happy to have shared. A referral may need to be made to Human Resources or Occupational Health as a next step.
Listen to them
This person is confiding in you in a sensitive situation and are likely to be feeling incredibly vulnerable. So, respond accordingly and remain open and adaptable to their needs in that very moment.
Make the necessary workplace adjustments
After the issue has been discussed, ask the person what support they need. It may help to develop an action plan to help identify workplace triggers. Or time away from work may be required for the employee. If that is needed, upon their return, schedule a return to work interview.
Mental health affects so many people in and out of the workplace, it can be caused by any external or internal factors. The important thing, as an employer, is to address the issue in a sensitive manner and work with the person towards them getting the help they need.
Disability In The Workplace
Tackling the needs of disabled workers needs to be addressed more. Thankfully there are more ramps and access for those that have a physical disability. Companies have platform lifts installed for wheelchair users. There are also modifications for people to work at their desk more efficiently.
Catering your workspace for sight impaired people
Firstly when employing a person with a visual impairment, it is important to conduct a work based assessment to see what adjustments are needed to allow the employee to do their role better. This needs to be done before a blind or partially sighted person starts work, or if you are looking to keep an employee who is losing their sight.
The assessment may consider the following:
- The environment they work in – such as ways to make the space more accessible.
- Equipment – providing modified equipment and access technologies such as magnification software, or screen reading software will help the employee.
- Specialist training – this can be either for the person with sight loss, or for the members of staff working with the person.
- Systems – using ways to make work related systems more accessible to them.
Funding is also available for businesses to adapt their environment for the employee, subject to a fee. But this is dependent on the size of the business.
Catering for those that are hard of hearing
If an employee is hard of hearing, or are developing a hearing impairment, firstly establish what their individual needs are. From there you can make reasonable adjustments for them. You should find out from your deaf employee how they prefer to communicate on a one to one basis, groups and meetings. For example, email, writing, lip reading or visual demonstrations.
A few approaches to make things easier for the person are as follows:
- Make sure employees are facing each other such as a circular table.
- Ask them where they want to sit to give them a chance to strategically position their interpreter.
- Speak in turn or raise your hand if you want to speak so no information is missed by the interpreter. Always use visual aids.
- Set up Deaf Awareness training for colleagues to ensure successful communication.
- Learn some basic sign language for ease of communication. It will also show the person your dedication to them as a valued employee.