As an employer you have a number of legal requirements you need to meet in respect of the environment your staff work in. Understanding these is a good starting point when considering whether your workplace is suitable and whether anything can be improved.

Facilities

There are certain facilities you are required to provide for your staff in their workplace. These include sufficient toilets and hand basins, with soap and towels or a hand-dryer. Workers must have access to drinking water, and somewhere to store clothing, as well as changing facilities if they are required to wear special clothing at work.

You also need to make sure there is sufficient ventilation, with clean air from outside or from a suitable ventilation system. The workplace must be kept at a reasonable working temperature. In most places this means at least 16 degrees Celsius. There is no maximum temperature, although you should take steps to cool things down if excessively high temperatures outside make working difficult.

Lighting needs to be adequate and suitable for the work being carried out, and there must be enough space in the room, with suitable workstations and seating. The workplace must be kept clean with facilities for waste disposal.

Safety

As well as providing some basic facilities in the workplace, you must ensure the workplace is safe.

You need to assess the risks involved in the work your staff are doing and in the environment they are working in, and take steps to minimise these. You also need to consult staff on health and safety and the risks involved in their work.

Premises and equipment need to be properly maintained, floors and traffic routes free from obstruction, and transparent doors or walls protected or made of safety glass.

Any specific regulations pertinent to the industry, sector or tasks must be properly adhered to, and personal protective equipment (PPE) used where necessary.

In addition you need to have first aid supplies and an appointed person responsible for first aid. In very small low-risk organisations this person doesn’t need training, although you might prefer to do so. If your workplace involves a higher level of risks, either because the work itself is more hazardous or because the numbers of employees you have push the risk level up, you will also need one or more trained first aiders.

You will also need to keep records of accidents, injuries and work-related diseases, and display a statutory health & safety poster or give staff the relevant information in leaflet form.

Free from harassment and discrimination

You also have some requirements which aren’t specifically about the physical environment.

An employee has the right to attend work in a place which is free from harassment and discrimination. You need to protect your staff from sexual harassment, or harassment on the basis of another protected characteristic such as race or ethnic origin.

Staff have a right not to suffer discrimination based on any protected characteristic. In terms of the workplace environment specifically, and depending on your workforce profile, you may need to look at things like changing and washing facilities, access to a quiet room for praying, food storage and preparation requirements and social events when designing a workplace which is free from discrimination.

 

If you need any further advice on ensuring legal basics are covered in your workplace, do get in touch.