Health & Safety Department

Office and library guidance

Safety guidance for office and library environments

Although offices, libraries and general areas may seem at first sight to be relatively non-hazardous compared to other areas of the University, they are the scene of a substantial number of accidents, some of which are serious. Virtually all such accidents are avoidable, and the specific points noted below should be considered in conjunction with the general safety advice mentioned elsewhere in the University Health and Safety Policy.

A Safe Workplace

Commonsense and basic good housekeeping are the predominant factors influencing the maintenance of high standards of health and safety in offices and libraries, etc., and staff should always be conscious of dangers to themselves and their colleagues, presented by their working environment and activities.

Any unsafe conditions, e.g. faulty lifts, faulty fire doors, missing fire extinguishers, missing Fire Notices, defective equipment (particularly defective gas fires), poor lighting, damaged floor coverings, unsafe furniture and so on, should be reported at once to your immediate supervisor so that remedial action can be taken.

Fire Hazards

As in most other areas, fire is a major potential hazard, and due care must be taken to prevent the outbreak of fire.

Flammable liquids, where required, should only be kept in small quantities, properly stored and labelled, and must never be brought near to a source of ignition. Solutions commonly used in offices, print rooms etc. should never be used in confined spaces without adequate ventilation.

Large quantities of waste paper, boxes and other flammable materials, should not be allowed to accumulate, particularly in fire exit routes.

Electrical Hazards

The potential risks associated with electrical equipment in use in offices and libraries etc. should be appreciated.

Electrical circuits should not be overloaded by the use of adaptors to serve a number of appliances. Independently fused, fixed multi-socket plug boards should be used instead, where appropriate. Plugs must be correctly fused for the power rating of the appliance, and plug cables should be securely fixed by cable clamps.

Amateur repairs on electrical equipment should on no account be attempted and only maintenance engineers should remove service panels from such equipment.

Appliances should be switched off and unplugged after use and at night (unless the equipment concerned is designed to run continuously). If additional heating is required only suitable appliances approved or supplied by the Estates Operations and Maintenance team may be used.

The use of open bar radiant fires in offices and libraries, or elsewhere in the University, is prohibited.

All items of portable electrical equipment must be regularly inspected and tested for electrical safety in order to comply with the Electricity At Work Regulations, 1989. In Schools that do not have technical staff, nor the technical facilities to test and inspect items of electrical equipment, this work will be carried out by the Estates Operations and Maintenance team. Engineers will notify Schools of the results of the test and inspection programme.

Physical Hazards

Physical hazards may be presented by some office machinery and equipment. All guards on guillotines, copiers, printing and other powered machinery, such as paper shredders, must be kept in place at all times when the equipment is in use. Great care should be taken to prevent long hair, ties and loose clothing becoming entangled in the moving parts of such machinery.

Care should also be taken to prevent trailing wires, cables, etc., from presenting a tripping hazard.

Kettles must never be placed on the floor or in precarious positions on shelves or desks. There have been several instances in the past of persons being scalded by the contents of a precariously located kettle. Materials should not be stacked on the floor where people may fall over them.

Filing cabinets can often cause injuries and they should be so positioned as to prevent people coming into contact with sharp edges, corners, etc. Lower drawers of cabinets should be sufficiently loaded to prevent toppling when an upper drawer is opened, and drawers should be closed immediately after use.

Care must be taken, when lifting and carrying, not to attempt too heavy a load and not to carry a load which obscures forward vision.

Tables and chairs, especially revolving chairs, should never be used to gain access to high shelving and shelves should not be overloaded, especially above head height. If access above head height is required, a proper set of steps or a library stool should be used.

Care should be exercised when using doors which do not have a viewing panel, particularly if heavy objects, hot liquids etc., are being carried. Solid doors should be approached from the side away from the hinges, and personnel should never barge through doors or run in corridor areas.

Printers and photocopiers

Guidance note relating to photocopiers and laser printers