Health and Safety in Offices (OBUHSN-30)


This Health and Safety Notice should be read and understood by all employees of Oxford Brookes University.

This Health and Safety Notice covers health and safety in offices where administration, secretarial or academic book and paperwork are carried out, and where no machinery beyond that used for writing, calculating, printing and copying e.g. (computer terminals, personal computers, calculators, printers and photocopiers etc.) are used or stored.

  • Work spaces where specialised equipment for any kind of experiment, mechanical, electrical or biological (including physiological and psychological) is used or stored must conform to this notice in so far as standard office equipment and practice is concerned.
  • Specialised equipment used in offices must be operated under relevant health and safety regulations, Faculty/Directorate policies and/or other relevant Health and Safety Notices.

Legal requirements

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (Section 2), Workplace Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations, the employer has a duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees

The Dean of Faculty/Director of Directorate will be responsible for making whatever arrangements considered necessary to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of all the Faculty/Directorate staff.

For offices to comply with health and safety requirements several statutory regulations must be complied with. Some regulations are dealt with in separate Health and Safety Notices. To help the Dean of Faculty/Director of Directorate implement the regulations this Health and Safety Notice provides the guidance required to maintain a healthy and safe office.

General requirements

Under the Workplace Health, Safety & Welfare Regulations there are many requirements which apply to offices. Oxford Brookes University accepts its responsibilities for those requirements that will facilitate healthy, safe and comfortable offices. The main requirements are listed below:

  • Ventilation "effective and suitable provision shall be made to ensure that every enclosed workplace is ventilated by a sufficient quantity of fresh or purified air".
  • Temperature in indoor workplaces "during working hours, the temperature in all workplaces shall be reasonable". 
    • The minimum legal temperature in workrooms is 16oC unless the work involves severe physical effort, in which case it must be at least 13oC. The Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) recommends that the temperature of workrooms is between 20oC - 23oC and this can be reduced to 18oC - 20oC if light physical work is undertaken. CIBSE state that indoor operative temperature over 28oC for long periods will result in increased dissatisfaction and reduce productivity.
    • If the workplace temperature exceeds 23oC and the occupants of the workplace find the conditions uncomfortable the Dean of Faculty/Director of Directorate shall make every reasonable effort to alleviate the situation. Actions to reduce high temperature may involve fans, permanent or temporary shading, the supply of cooling drinks or relief away from the workplace.
    • If a workplace temperature fails below 20oC the Dean of Faculty/Director of Directorate shall make every reasonable effort to alleviate the situation. If the temperature remains below 16oC immediate action will be required by the Dean of Faculty/Director of Directorate to raise the temperature to an acceptable level. Actions to raise the minimum temperature may involve provision of supplementary heating, draught proofing or alternative accommodation.
    • If the conditions cannot be improved for temperatures below the recommended minimum temperature of 20oC, or above the recommended maximum temperature of 23oC, the Dean of Faculty/Director of Directorate should seek advice from the Estates and Campus Services Directorate and/or the University Safety Team.
    • If members of staff are working in areas where the temperature exceeds 30oC the Dean of Faculty/Director of Directorate shall take the necessary steps to allow staff relief from the workplace for sufficient periods of time to alleviate any stress produced by excessive temperature.
    • All Faculties/Directorate will have a thermometer available for staff to measure office temperature (This is a requirement under Regulation 7 of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations).
  • Lighting "every workplace shall have suitable and sufficient lighting". There are recommended minimum and maximum light levels for various office tasks outlined in the CIBSE lighting code of practice. Light levels can be measured with the use of a light meter. Members of Estates and Campus Services or the Safety Team can measure light levels.
  • Cleanliness and waste materials "every workplace and the furniture, furniture fittings therein shall be kept sufficiently clean. The surface of the floors, walls and ceilings of all workplaces inside buildings shall be capable of being kept clean. So far as is reasonable practicable, waste materials shall not be allowed to accumulate in a workplace except in suitable receptacles". Complaints should be made in the first instance to the line manager. The line manager should then raise the problem with the appropriate Campus Manger.
  • Room dimensions and space "every room where persons work shall have sufficient floor area, height and unoccupied space for the purpose of health, safety and welfare". Each person is entitled to a minimum capacity of working space (11 cubic meters), and a floor area of 3.66 square meters, or more if the ceiling is less than 3 meters high. Complaints should be made in the first instance to the line manager.
  • Conditions of floors and traffic routes "every floor in a workplace and the surface of every traffic route in a workplace shall be constructed such that the floor or surface of the traffic route is suitable for the purpose for which it is used".
  • Workstations, seating and Display Screen Equipment Guidance can be obtained from various HSE documents, British Standards and OBUHSN-32.

Manual handling

According to the Health and Safety Executive, manual handling accidents are a major cause of time loss injuries. The Manual Handling Operating Regulations require that all manual handling tasks be assessed. There is a requirement that:

  • All tasks requiring manual handling will be assessed in accordance with the Manual Handling Health and Safety Notice OBUHSN-34.
  • A manual handling assessor(s) is appointed and trained for each Faculty/Directorate.
  • Any assessment undertaken is acted upon.
  • Manual handling tasks are eliminated where reasonably practicable through planning and design.
  • Care is taken when lifting heavy or bulky materials or equipment. Help should be requested if the item being moved is heavy or so bulky that it obscures the vision of the carrier.

Display screen equipment (DSE)

Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations requires that display screen equipment and its users are assessed. There is a requirement that;

Office equipment

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations require that work equipment be suitable, sufficient, used and maintained correctly. The Dean of Faculty/Director of Directorate will need to ensure that;

  • Office machinery is operated according to the Manufacturer's instructions and relevant University rules.
  • Guards and covers must be kept in position unless removed by authorised personnel carrying our maintenance or other appropriate tasks.
  • No one ever starts a machine unless they know how to stop it in emergency.
  • Repairs to any office equipment are only carried out by qualified people.
  • Adequate ventilation is provided for any office equipment that requires it.
  • Members of staff do not wear loose sleeves, ties, belts or dangling jewellery where there are exposed or unguarded moving parts.

Electrical equipment

All fixed and portable electrical equipment has to conform to the Electricity at Work Regulations, the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations and must be wired in accordance with IEE (Institution of Electrical Engineering) Regulations (16th Edition). There is a requirement that:

  • All portable  and fixed electrical equipment will conform to the requirements of Electrical Safety OBUHSN-18 and Potable Electrical Equipment Testing OBUHSN-33 Health and Safety Notices.
  • A person(s) is nominated in each Faculty/Directorate and trained to test portable electrical equipment.
  • Electrical equipment and associated plugs, cables etc. are inspected regularly in accordance with IEE code of practice and OBUHSN-33.
  • Heaters and hot-running equipment must be kept clear of combustible materials and after use all electrical equipment is switched off. and plugs pulled out when a room is left empty, particularly at the end of the working day.
  • Food and drink taken at the workplace do not constitute a risk to personnel or equipment. If liquids are spilt into electrical equipment there is an enhanced risk of electrical shock.

Fire precautions

The raw material for offices is paper. Paper is flammable and single sheets are easily ignited. Modern offices are full of electrical equipment that generate heat and have the potential to start fires. The best fire precaution is prevention. There is a need to ensure that:

  • If personnel wish to smoke they only do so in designated areas.
  • Paper is not stored next to electrical equipment and/or sources of heat.
  • Other items including cleaning fluids, photocopier toners etc. are stored and used correctly, COSHH assessments must be carried out for any hazardous substances used, OBUHSN-19.
  • Electrical circuits are never overloaded.
  • Materials are never stored as to restrict the airflow through electrical equipment.

Good housekeeping

Design the office layout with safety in mind. A tidy well laid out office will be more efficient and safe. There is a need to ensure that:

  • There is adequate provision for the safe storage of all materials.
  • Shelves are at reasonable height and position to minimise stretching and lifting. Do not overload shelves. Appropriate step-ups, kick stools or steps are provided to enable safe access to high storage areas.
  • Materials or equipment must not be left where people may fall over them or so that they otherwise obstruct passageways. The storage of equipment and materials on the tops of cupboards or cabinets should be discouraged.
  • Where practicable filing cabinets should have interlocked drawers to prevent the filing cabinet from falling forward. If they are not interlocked they should be fixed securely to the wall.
  • Cupboard doors and drawers are kept closed when not in use, to prevent injury to anyone.
  • No one ever stands on rotating chairs or chairs of adjustable height. I step-ups, kick stools or steps are used to reach high shelves or cupboards then the steps must be of safe design and construction.
  • Personnel wear appropriate shoes.
  • Waste paper is disposed of in a bin or sack specifically for that purpose. Sharp objects, cans and bottles, whether of metal, glass or plastic, are put in suitably labelled receptacles.
  • Electrical telephone and data cables are protected from heat and abrasion. They must be positioned so that no one can trip over them and/or inadvertently dislodge the equipment that they supply.
  • Sharp items, e.g. razor blades and knives, and pointed items, e.g. staples, pins, drawing pins and tacks, should be kept separately in labelled containers to avoid small puncture wounds or lacerations.
  • Broken glass is picked up with brush and dustpan, not fingers. Splinters of glass remaining should be picked up with a damp paper towel to be disposed of immediately in the correct receptacle.
  • Bicycles and smaller vehicles are not brought into buildings, other then those which are designated for the storage of such items.


Pets or other similar animals (except guide dogs, see below) are not allowed to be brought onto the University premises.

  • Those, who because of disability, regularly make use of a guide dog, may be accompanied by their guide dog whilst on the University premises. The appropriate Deans of Faculty/Directors of Directorates with make suitable arrangements for the guide dog during the duration of its visit to the University site.

Procedure to resolve problems or disagreements

In the event of a query or dispute arising over a health and safety matter in the office, further advice can be sought from the Faculty/Directorate Safety Advisor, Safety Team or Senior Occupational Health Advisor.

Training and information

Where a need is identified, health and safety training will be provided. It will be the responsibility of Deans of Faculties/Directors of Directorates and the line managers to ensure that all appropriate members of staff receive training. Details on all health and safety training are available from the Safety Team.

Issue: 5 July 2019