There are a number of things to consider when designing a workplace, to make it safe and comfortable for your workers.
There are specific laws about the facilities you provide in the workplace. You should do your best to ensure your workplace and its facilities are safe for everyone. Here we summarise those laws and give you some practical advice.
Entry and exit
Entries and exits must be safe for everyone to use. They should be clearly lit, slip-resistant, signposted and clearly marked.
Separate entries and exits should be available for mobile equipment, such as forklifts and trucks.
Aisles and walkways should be at least 600 mm wide, free of furniture and other obstacles, and clearly marked with yellow lines.
Staircases should be guarded with upper and lower rails, with a handrail on one side.
Power-operated doors and gates should have safety features, to prevent people being struck or trapped, and suitably signposted, to warn of potential hazards.
Good housekeeping and a tidy workplace will reduce the risk of injury from slips and trips.
Work areas should have enough space to allow someone to move about freely without strain or injury, and evacuate quickly in case of emergency.
Where noise, heat and manual tasks are involved, a larger work area may be needed.
Wherever you can, separate moving plant and workers, to avoid injuries from moving or falling objects.
Floors and other surfaces
Floors should be slip resistant and free of any hazards, such as cables and loose tiles, which can cause slips or trips.
Carpet is preferred in office areas. Similar flooring should also be used for those doing static standing work.
The choice of floor surface will depend on the type of work you do – eg concrete rather than carpet should be used for welding work.
Lighting and ventilation
There must be sufficient light to enable your workers to perform tasks without straining their eyes or adopting awkward postures. Additional lighting should be used at places of particular risk, such as pedestrian crossings, and for particular types of work, such as inspection tasks.
Workplaces inside buildings should be properly ventilated with windows and doors, fans or air-conditioning.
Optimum comfort for sedentary work is between 20 and 26 degrees Celsius.
Heat strain arises when working in high temperatures, such as those found in foundries, laundries and commercial kitchens.
Hypothermia arises when working in extremely cold temperatures, such as those found in cool rooms.
Be mindful of work done near, or in relation to, gas, electricity, water, sewerage and telecommunications services
You must provide clean, safe and accessible toilets, drinking water, washing and eating facilities, and secure storage for personal items.
Specific types of work
Outdoor workers must have access to shelter for eating meals and taking breaks, and to protect themselves in adverse weather conditions. They must also be given personal protective equipment (PPE) for protection against the sun.
Working alone or remotely increases the risk of any job, particularly exposure to violence and poor access to emergency services. You should consider installing physical barriers or CCTVs, and providing appropriate communication systems.
Accommodation may also need to be provided to those working in regional and remote areas.
You must prepare an emergency plan, which takes into account the type of work you do, the size of your workplace and workforce, and the hazards in your workplace.
For the specific laws about workplace facilities, see clauses 40 – 41 of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011.
There are also general work health and safety laws that will apply to you in any situation, including with regards to your workplace facilities.
For more general information about the work environment, welfare facilities, specific types of work and emergency plans, see the code of practice for managing the work environment and facilities. It includes a checklist and examples of facilities for different workplace.