When it comes to choosing new office furniture, there is more to getting it right than leafing through the pages of a glossy catalogue and choosing what you want based on price and appearance alone. There are all sorts of Health and Safety considerations to take into account before you go ahead and buy. **
Furniture, and the office environment in general, should be designed to make employees feel comfortable; if they’re comfortable, they’re more productive, simple as that. You’ll also get less incidence of absenteeism.
A well designed desk will reduce the chance of work-related injuries from over reaching, repetitive strain etc. It will also help ensure you comply with Display Screen Regulations for employees who spend a large part of their working day using computer equipment.
We’ve already talked about the importance of getting the right chair for every employee, as ensuring chairs are ergonomically designed can greatly reduce the incidence of back and neck problems and help keep them working efficiently.
Although less obvious, you also need to make sure the office is safe with regard to structural stability, wiring, and fire hazards, as well as considering the impact on the environment.
So, how do you go about choosing the furniture that’s right for you? Here’s our advice;
Is it Compliant?
The first thing you need to check is whether the furniture has been tested and complies with current standards. A list of the main requirements have been listed at the end of this post **. It’s important to ensure each item (chairs, desks, tables, etc.) conforms to the relevant standard.
Is it Stable?
All new furniture needs to be stable and suitable for the activity for which it’s intended. Every new item should be strong, durable and, if required easy to move without strain.
Is it Fire Retardant?
Unlike domestic furniture, there is currently no specific legislation regarding the flammability of office furniture. However, there is a requirement for every employer to carry out a thorough Fire Safety Risk Assessment for the office as a whole and this should include ensuring that all the office furniture, in particular any soft-furnishings, are safe and fire retardant. Depending on the overall risk – “low” in most standard office environments – all the furniture can also be assumed to carry the same risk. Clearly any furniture in commercial premises where there is a greater risk of fire (for example, where flammable materials are regularly handled) the furniture should be carefully chosen to ensure it meets the stricter requirements.
Is there provision for Cabling?
There are very few office desks that don’t have items of electrical equipment placed on them. You must make sure, therefore, that all desks, as well as tables and storage units, have adequate provision for safe routing of any electrical cabling to ensure employees are protected from any harm caused by electricity, tripping, etc.
Is it Ergonomic?
The science of Ergonomics effectively translates as fitting equipment to individuals and tasks and not the other way round. Desks need to be at the correct height, day-to-day working must be possible without awkward movement of over-stretching, chairs need to support the spine and encourage good posture. As this is a whole topic in itself, please refer to our previous articles for more in-depth information, including the benefits of making your employees as comfortable as possible and an ergonomic checklist to help you make the right choices for your staff.
Is it Sustainable?
Although there is no specific legislation currently in force in the UK, EU regulations stipulate that any items made from timber should ensure the materials are of legal origin and obtained from well-managed and sustainable woodlands. All our suppliers conform to this. Many manufacturers are also moving towards more sustainable production and including increasing amounts of recycled materials. If reducing your carbon footprint is important, you should look to suppliers that manage their significant environmental impacts, preferably through the use of management systems such as ISO 14001:2004. Personally, we would always prefer to suppliers that are embracing the wider principles of sustainable development as we pride ourselves on our own “green” credentials.
Taking all the above into account when choosing your new office furniture, will not only make sure it looks good, but also do your office, your staff, and the environment good too.