The workplace is the central point of many of our lives. Not only does it allow us to bring home the bacon, we physically spend more time there than elsewhere. Bearing this in mind, it’s our employer’s duty to make the conditions we work in as healthy, safe and reliable as possible.
It sounds so basic. Alas, many companies breach this trust between employer and employee. Many workers are left to suffer in silence, worried that if they dare to speak up they’ll lose their job.
Here we’ll look at the ways in which employers can let their staff down- and the all too simple solutions…
You’d think keeping a workplace tidy was fundamental. If sixty employees are going to be sharing the same premises day in, day out, don’t they deserve clean toilets, regularly hoovered carpets and mopped floors?
That’s the theory. Yet I’ve worked for so many companies where cleanliness was the exception rather than the rule. While such a blasé attitude is understandable on the part of the employees (why should they do what’s effectively unpaid work?), I’m astonished at the number of employers who don’t care that their shelves are layered with dust or the floors are caked with grime.
It isn’t just a matter of appearances. The overriding point should be health; how a number of people rubbing along together in unsanitary conditions can spread infection. Seeing as this only results in days off and diminished productivity, surely it’s within the company’s interests to clean up?
If they haven’t already done so, businesses should guarantee impeccable standards by only employing the best. Companies such as Smartway Cleaning appreciate that a ‘one size fits all’ approach doesn’t necessarily work; their expert staff tailor their cleaning services accordingly, whether the firm is an office or a factory. You can guarantee that any employee they send out to your site will be fully qualified in this line.
Here’s a cautionary tale. I once worked in a shop (who will remain nameless) several doors down in a shopping centre. I’ve never been anywhere so exposed: the rain gusted in, wind blasted through etc. Since the shop was very small, the management ignored our requests for a heater. The employees were advised to add more layers and hope for the best.
Although I didn’t know this at the time, this attitude was strictly illegal. According to HSE, the minimum temperature in a place of work should be 16 degrees Celsius- 13 if the work is mostly physical. It should come as no surprise that the workforce started to fall sick one after another- one employee was diagnosed with hypothermia!
It’s the employer’s duty to make the surroundings as comfortable as possible. On the flipside: if conditions were too stuffy, they should make reasonable adjustments, e.g. a fan, opening the window etc. If your employer continues to disregard the regulations and refuses to make the recommend changes, they’re breaking the law.
When we think of noise at work, we imagine agricultural or industrial settings- threshing machines, pneumatic drilling. In fact noise at work can be far closer to home: a bank of TVs blaring at once, phones ringing etc. You might dismiss this as background noise, but noise endured at these levels over a period of time can permanently damage your hearing.
What is the recommended level? The way Tony Woolf sees it, 80dB is uncomfortably high. To the naked ear, this doesn’t sound like anything to worry about- but consider it eight hours a day, forty hours a week. That’s quite a lot of strain to put on your ears!
Make your employers aware of the issue. If you’re in an environment where there’s bound to be noise- electronics stores are particularly guilty- compromise. Ask the customers what they think. Generally speaking, if there really is a problem with noise levels, the customers will be the first to notice.
Remember: nothing is worth jeopardising your health. If your employer persists in ignoring your rights, you should seriously consider seeking work elsewhere.