Metal fabrication: Improving safety through office layout and design

Guidance for employers on how to use office layout and design to eliminate or reduce workplace health and safety risks for office employees in the metal fabrication industry. These include drafters, designers as well as administrative employees.


Legal duties

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, an employer must, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain for employees a working environment that is safe and without risks to health.

Employers must provide, so far as is reasonably practicable, adequate facilities for the welfare of employees at the workplace and provide the necessary information, instruction, training or supervision to enable them to do their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health.

Where a risk cannot be eliminated, it must be reduced so far as is reasonably practicable.

Office layout

Ensure employees have adequate space to perform tasks and there is enough room for equipment such as:

  • computers
  • printers
  • photocopiers
  • stationery

Safely position electrical leads and cables so employees do not trip on them.

Office workstation design

The core components of an office workstation include a desk, a chair and the equipment employees use to perform tasks.

Use office workstations with height-adjustable benches that suit employees of different sizes. The health benefits of height-adjustable workstations are becoming clear and are widespread in many industries. 

Flexibility and adjustability are key design issues in workstations. This allows individual employees to control the set-up and organisation of their workstation to meet the changing demands and variety of tasks they perform.

Use adjustable chairs so employees can adjust the height of the chair, seat depth and back support.  Information for employees about how best to adjust their seat is available in Officewise: A guide to health and safety in the office handbook.

Ensure chairs with braked castors or glides are used on hard surfaces to prevent falls from chairs.

Computer workstation design

Where the workstation is used for computer-based tasks, ensure:

  • desks are easily height-adjustable, have no sharp corners and a flat non-reflective surface
  • chairs are adjustable for height, seat depth and back support
  • employees’ legs can move under the desk with no obstructions
  • keyboards are in front of the worker, at the edge of the desk and aligned with the object most frequently viewed (for example,
  • the computer mouse enables the worker to have their hand and arm in a neutral position.

Further information on setting up a workstation is available in Officewise: A guide to health and safety in the office handbook.

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