It's important you think about computer health and safety in your office, because technology can create a number of health and safety issues in your business.
Thankfully, appropriate computer equipment, a bit of training and common sense are enough to satisfy most of your obligations and concerns about computer health and safety.
Areas of computer health and safety
Most computer health and safety concerns involve bad ergonomics. Problems like repetitive strain injury (RSI), aches, pains and numbness can be caused by poor-quality keyboards and mice or badly adjusted chairs.
Some people find looking at monitors and displays for long periods can cause eye-strain or headaches too.
However, there are other issues to be aware of. As with all electrical equipment, computers can be dangerous when used incorrectly or if turned on with the case open. Trailing cables can also be hazardous.
Installing and maintaining computer hardware can involve physical risks. For example, your staff should be careful when running cabling above a suspended ceiling or placing network equipment into confined spaces.
Computer health and safety: why it matters
Although suffering a serious injury while working with IT is unlikely, computer health and safety problems can be persistent. Employees may be forced to take time off or prevented from using computers at all.
Practicing good computer health and safety will ensure the well-being of everyone in your business when they use IT. You should always aim to minimise risks, but there are specific legal requirements too. For instance, if an employee works with display screen equipment, you are required to pay for them to have regular eyesight tests if they ask you to.
Failing to take adequate computer health and safety precautions can signal to employees that you're not bothered about their welfare. And the legal obligations mean you could also be at risk of paying out damages should any computer health and safety problems arise.
IT risk assessment
Taking care of IT and computer health and safety should be part of your overall health and safety strategy. Make sure someone has responsibility for it. Give them the power and budget to provide adequately for your staff.
You cannot afford to be complacent. Every workplace can pose some risk including apparently low-risk offices. Carry out a thorough IT risk assessment to understand where the dangers lie in your company. Be systematic: start with a list of the most common IT problems and speak to your employees to identify any you may have missed.
Once you've carried out your IT risk assessment, identify a solution to each issue you find. For instance, if employees are using laptops for long periods of time, you should provide them with a keyboard, mouse and monitor to make their work more comfortable.
Computer health and safety policies and training
You should have an IT policy explaining computer health and safety best practice. Set out what equipment employees should have access to and how they can address issues. Again, someone in your business should be responsible for this – make sure your staff know who.
Give all employees training in the basics of setting up and using computer equipment. It's particularly important everyone understands how to adjust their chair, keyboard, mouse and screen properly.
Encourage people to speak up if they're worried about computer health and safety. Minor physical ailments tend to become major ones if not addressed early, so make it easy for people to raise concerns.