Friday, March 16, 2007

Articles of Interest

I remind my clients, who are involved in the running of businesses, of the importance of complying with the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992.
Fines imposed by the Courts for breaches of this legislation have steadily increased. It is quite clear that a failure to provide and implement adequate safety measures is a duty which has to be taken seriously by every employer.

"All Practicable Steps"

Every employer is required to take "all practicable steps" to ensure the safety of employees while at work, and in particular to provide and maintain a safe working environment;provide and maintain facilities for their safety and health of employees while at work;ensure that plant used by any employee at work is so arranged designed, made and maintained so that it is safe to use;ensure that while at work employees are not exposed to hazards arising out of the use of things in the place of work, or near their place of work, and under the employer'' control;where there is a significant hazard to employees at work to take all practicable steps to eliminate it; and if there are no practicable steps that may be taken to eliminate it, or all practicable steps have been taken but it is not eliminated, then to take all practicable steps to isolate it from the employees.

Applies to Office Workers

It is important to remember that the Act applies to all employers, not just those running farms or factories or building sites. Therefore, it applies to employers of staff working in offices or at computers.

Following recent technological advances in office equipment there have been significant increases in the number of reported cases of Occupational Overuse Syndrome, particularly from people working on word processing and computing operations. There has been a determined effort by the Labour Department to ensure that the provisions of the Act are applied to persons working in offices and some prosecutions have taken place.

Occupational Overuse Syndrome, or Repetitive Strain Injury as it was called, is a serious complaint and one which can disable an employee for very long periods. As well as a risk of prosecution under the Health and Safety in Employment Act there is obviously a risk of premium loadings under the ACC legislation as well.

I would urge all employers who are employing office staff, particularlyl in word processing and computer operations, to seek the appropriate professional advice and guidance as to safe work practices and equipment which should be in place in their offices.

It may well be that in some cases older style desks, chairs and other equipment have to be changed in order to achieve compliance. I suggest that this will be a much cheaper alternative to the costs of a prosecution.