There are many hazards when working in an office environment including incorrect workstation set-up, poor lighting, poor layout of furniture and equipment, poor housekeeping, electrical hazards and equipment hazards.

  • Workplace stress

    Workplace stress can occur when people are subjected to demands and expectations that are out of keeping with their needs, abilities, skills and coping strategies.

    In general, the combination of high demands in a job and a low amount of control over the situation can lead to stress. Stress in the workplace can have many origins or come from one single event.

    Good and bad stress

    Stress can be both good and bad. Some stress is normal. It is often what gives us movtivation to meet our daily challenges.

    Stress can have negative effects on your health and wellbeing when high demands and expectations continue for long periods that exceed your abilities, skills and coping strategies.

    Workplace bullying

    Workplace Bullying is defined as the repeated less favourable treatment of a person by another or others in the workplace which may be considered unreasonable and inappropriate in workplace practice. It includes behaviour that could be expected to intimidate, offend, degrade, humiliate undermine or threaten.

    Bullying is normally associated with an ongoing systematic pattern of behaviour. An isolated incident of behaviour is not considered bullying, but may of course lead to action being taken against the perpetrator based on that single incident.

    Bullying constitutes a significant risk to the health, safety and wellbeing of individuals and can lead to serious psychological injury and other illnesses. It should be managed using the same risk assessment and control processes that other workplace hazards are subject to:

    • decreased productivity
    • feeling exhausted
    • feeling frustrated
    • dissatisfaction with your role
    • increased blood pressure
    • increased stomach acids
    • headaches.


    • Job design: Designing jobs so that the demands of jobs meet the capabilities of workers.
    • Adequate rest breaks: Providing sufficient time for recovery from fatigue and providing enough notice to employees when hours of work are changed.
    • Improving consultation: To ensure employees have participation in decision making.
    • Improving equipment and tools: Ensuring employees have the correct tools and equipment to perform their job.
    • Developing a supportive workplace culture.
    • Ensuring early resolution of conflicts.
    • Establishing clear roles and responsibilities.
    • Establishing suitable work/life balance policies
    • Training: Provide training for employees on stress management techniques.
    • Employee assistance programs:- Providing counselling for employees.

    Employee assistance for managers

    There is a service specifically for Managers and Supervisors in EAP called managerAssistTM and it is an EAP Advisory service that assists managers and team leaders in managing situations such as:

    • an employee with problems impacting work performance or behaviour
    • interpersonal conflict
    • a distressed or troubled employee
    • assisting an employee not coping with change
    • difficulties with team functioning.

    managerAssistTM is a resource service, providing suggestions and options. A manager/team leader accessing the service decides on appropriate action, applying relevant HR policy. The manager/team leader remains in control in managing the situation. More information is available on the Human Resources Website.

  • Communication and interactions with staff and clients

    • Physical /emotional intimidation.
    • Aggression towards staff members.


    • Consultation with staff.
    • Procedures to minimise risk.
    • Workplace bullying policy communicated to all staff.
    • Equity unit advice and policies.
    • Conflict resolution training.
    • Security staff.
    • Workplace violence Prevention and management policy.
  • Kitchen hazards

    Most offices have a shared kitchen area. It is important to keep these areas clean and tidy, and to wipe up spills immediately to prevent falls. 

    These areas may also provide a range of kitchen appliances for staff to use, including:

    • microwaves
    • kettles
    • toasters
    • sandwich makers
    • coffee machines
    • superheated food and liquids
    • electrical
    • cleaning products
    • leaving uneaten food on benchtops
    • leaving food in refrigerators past the used by date
    • leaving dirty dishes in the sink
    • not cleaning up food or liquid spills
    • impacts with cupboards and benchtops.


    • Ensure the area is kept clean and tidy.
    • Ensure all spills are cleaned up immediately.
    • All electrical appliances are tested and tagged.
    • Caution signs are placed on hot surfaces/ water.
    • Procedures are in place for the cleaning of refrigerators and signs are in place to remind staff to throw away their items if they are out of date.
  • Office equipment

    • Poor ventilation in photcopying areas.
    • Poor Housekeepng.
    • Incorrect height of workbenches.
    • Equipment hazards:- Sharp egdes, moving parts, Heat, pinch points.
    • Inks and toners.


    • Obtain safety data sheets for inks and toners.
    • Ensure the areas are kept clean and tidy and that cables are kept clear of walkways.
    • Workbenches should be at waist level.
    • Employees must be trained in the operation of equipment.
    • Ensure adequate ventilation for photocopying areas.  For example, installing extractor fans or placing other fans in the area and Keeping doors open to assist with air flow.
    • Ensure covers prevent people from having access to moving parts during operation.
    • Do not insert items other than those allowed by the operating manual.
    • Do not operate equipment such as shredders and laminators with loose clothing or jewellery. People with long hair must tie it back.
  • Reception hazards

    Many offices across campus have reception areas. It is important that these areas have additional controls in place to manage hazards of working in these areas.

    • Poor Access and egress.
    • Visitor aggression.
    • Furniture.
    • Lack of Security.


    • Reception staff should receive training in handling visitor aggression.
    • Reception staff should receive training in emergency procedures.
    • Have duress alarms installed to link to security personnel for use by reception staff if necessary.
    • Choose furnishings for the reception area with care and thought for their potential to be used as a weapon.
    • Consider whether furniture can be secured (i.e., to the ground or a wall).
    • Where glass is used choose shatterproof glass.
    • Design the workstation to provide security for your employees (e.g., install security screens, install deeper and or higher counter areas to prevent aggressive visitors from being able to reach employees).
    • Ensure the area is well-lit.
    • Ensure walkways are free from obstructions.
    • Ensure visitor furniture is cleaned.
    • If the area is used by a number of employees ensure the furniture used by staff is adjustable.
    • Overloading shelves.
    • Storing heavy items at high levels.
    • Repetitive actions.
    • Reaching overhead.
    • Moving shelves on compactus.


    • Large or heavy items should be stored at waist level.
    • Frequently handled items should be placed within easy reach.
    • Smaller, lightweight and infrequently handled items may be stored in the lower or higher areas of a storage system.
    • It should be easy to place items into the storage unit and take them out.
    • Do not climb shelves.
    • Always use a step stool or ladder to reach items from higher shelves.
    • Do not overload shelves.
    • Take regular breaks if performing repetitive actions.


    • Do not overload shelves.
    • Check that aisles are clear when moving compactus shelves.
    • Only move one bay at a time.
    • Keep tracks clear of debris.
    • Never place objects on top of the unit.
    • Always place heavy objects on the lower shelves.
    • Ensure objects do not overhang shelves as this will prevent bays from closing.
  • Working with computers

    • Poor posture
    • Excessive duration in a seated position
    • Incorrect setup of workstation
    • Glare
    • Repetitive movements


    • All staff to be provided with the UNSW Workstation Checklist (HS114) to conduct their own workstation assessment.
    • All new staff to complete online ergonomics course.
    • Adjustable chairs, desks and ergonomic accessories such as document holders are available for staff to use.
    • Individual staff are responsible for taking breaks and doing  stretches.
    • Staff are advised to report any symptoms ASAP.
    • See Workstation Set-Up page for more information.

Office risk assessments

For overseas and complex travel refer to the UNSW Travel Services website Travel Risk Management Form

Office risk register

Risk registers must be maintained by each area. They contain:

  • all the hazards identified in the area
  • details of the risk associated with the hazards
  • any relevant legislation
  • any relevant UNSW procedures or documents
  • and risk controls.

Below is a generic risk register for office areas. Any risks not identified in this register can be added.

Office risk register