The Risk Series: Your New Office Space

October 1, 2020

Last month we discussed the inherent risks of returning to work in a post-pandemic world. This October, we want to highlight common pitfalls that come with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Compliance in a newly inhabited office space. It all starts with making sure the physical construction of your new building allows for easy and maintainable safety methods.

Whether you are leasing your space or are in the process of having one specially built for your business, employee safety needs to be a top priority. Scouring through regulations set by OSHA and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is not the most exhilarating work, but it is very important to make sure everything in your office space is up to code.

When designing a new office space for your corporation, it is not difficult to forget the finer points in OSHA standards, so simple solutions to common OSHA violations are often glossed over in the design development phase. This phase needs to be extremely detailed and thought through. If not, specific safety precautions may not be designed for easy compliance, and your corporation can cause accidental hazards in its everyday operations as a result. Places like warehouses, electrical rooms, and break rooms are notorious for collecting OSHA violations, and in many cases, these citations are due to poor logistical planning during the construction of the building itself.

The truth is that with the way some spaces are designed, they make it hard to follow regulations. An excellent example of this comes from Howard Mavity, an expert in Workplace Safety. In his previous experience with clients, he has seen corporations charged hundreds of thousands of dollars in safety violations because their warehouses were designed so that new shipments temporarily blocked certain exits and fire extinguishers.[1] This is a serious risk, of course, but employees would not be able to properly conduct business in this space without causing these potential hazards.

We are not claiming that these businesses were wrongly charged for their infractions; keeping employees safe should always be of the utmost importance. However, these risks could have been prevented if the building plans had been analyzed for long term safety compliance. You are ultimately responsible for the safety of your employees while they are at work, not the landlord, the architect, or any contractor. This means you need to verify that you can easily comply with all regulations before you sign off on the building plans.

The best way to limit risk is to analyze possible problems from the very beginning of your project and continue on throughout the process. Diligence before and during construction is crucial to ensure your safety concerns are met. Accounting for all the small details is overwhelming in the moment, but the risks you will prevent in the future far outweigh the hassle today.

Keep an eye out for next month’s edition of The Risk Series, where we will take a look at the risks involved in renovating your old office space.



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