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Maintaining the workplace

Maintaining the workplace


Your legal responsibilities

By law, a workplace is any premises or part of premises that isn't domestic and is available to any person for work.

Premises can mean any place, including an outdoor place.

Employers must follow certain rules in order to maintain good working conditions in the workplace.

What law applies?

All workplaces are covered by:

  • The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992; or
  • The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1993

Who is responsible for ensuring employers comply with the regulations?

As an employer, you must abide by the rules as set out in the regulations.

If you're a tenant in rented premises, your landlord has some responsibility too. However, this is only limited to the areas under their control, such as shared parts and facilities of the premises.

You and your landlord must cooperate with each other to ensure that you're meeting your legal obligations.

Workplaces that the regulations don't apply to

The following aren't covered by the regulations:

  • A workplace on or in a ship
  • A construction site
  • Mines or quarries
  • Temporary work sites
  • Operational means of transport
  • Agricultural or forestry workplaces that are outdoors and away from main buildings (but rules for toilet facilities and clean drinking water still apply)

Ventilation and temperature

  • Provide suitable and adequate ventilation for staff, by either fresh or purified air.
  • Ensure that the workplace temperature is reasonably comfortable. This is normally at least 16ºC (or for physical work, 13ºC).
  • Display thermometers so that employees can easily tell the temperature.
  • Provide cooling or heating equipment, such as fans or increased ventilation.

If employees still don't have a reasonably comfortable temperature, ensure that employees aren't exposed to uncomfortable temperatures for too long. To do this, you should:

  • Give them suitable protective clothing and rest facilities; and
  • If practical, plan systems of work (such as task rotation).


  • Provide enough lighting to enable people to work and move around safely. As much as possible, this should be by natural light.
  • Position light switches where they'll easily be found.
  • Install a suitable system of emergency lighting.

Good housekeeping

  • Cleaning should be done without creating or exposing risks.
  • Floors should be cleaned at least once a week and interior walls, ceilings and work surfaces should be regularly cleaned.
  • Waste materials and rubbish must be kept to a minimum and stored in suitable containers.

Room sizes and workstations

  • Room sizes must be large enough to work safely
  • There must be a minimum of 11 cubic metres per person when the room is empty. When calculating this, disregard any parts of the room over 3 metres high.
  • However, once furniture is in the room, the above calculation won't be enough to meet the legal requirements. In a standard-sized room, a floor space of 4.6 square metres will be required per person.
  • Workstations must be suitable, and there must be a suitable seat and a footrest if needed.
  • Workstations outside must, where reasonably possible, protect the worker from bad weather. Also, the worker should easily be able to evacuate in an emergency.

Conditions of floors and traffic routes

  • All floors must be built well. They must not be slippery, uneven or have any obstructions that could cause accidents.
  • A suitable system of controlling accidents must be in place.
  • Staircases must have a secure and sufficient handrail on at least one side.
  • Floors must only be loaded within their weight-bearing capacity.
  • You must prevent people from Slips and trips, considering factors such as ice, snow, holes, slopes and uneven surfaces.

Falls or falling objects

  • Take suitable precautions to prevent anyone falling from a height (Working at height) and anyone being hit by a falling object.
  • Providing Personal protective equipment, where necessary to protect workers.
  • Securely cover or fence off any tank or pit that contains dangerous substances if there is a risk of people falling into it.

Transparent surfaces

  • Items such as windows, transparent doors, gates and walls must be made of suitable safety material.
  • They must be marked so that they're clearly visible.

Windows, skylights and ventilators

  • These must be easy and safe to open and close.

Moving around the workplace

  • Pedestrian routes must be safe, suitable for the number of people expected to use them and, whenever possible, separate from vehicle routes.
  • Adequately control loading bays (and other areas where vehicles have to reverse) as they present a particular hazard.

Doors and gates

  • If there is a risk of opening doors and gates onto people on the other side, fit them with viewing panels.
  • Sliding doors and gates must have a suitable stop to prevent them coming off the end of their track.
  • Upward opening doors must be fitted with a device to prevent them falling closed.

Escalators and moving walkways

Escalators and moving walkways must:

  • Work safely
  • Have the necessary safety devices
  • Be fitted with at least one emergency stop control, which is clear and readily accessible

Bathrooms and washing facilities

  • Bathrooms for men and women should normally be separated.
  • The only exception is if a facility is for a single person at any one time where the door can be locked from the inside.
  • The tables below show the minimum numbers of water closets, urinals and wash stations that must be provided. Table 1 is the general provision, whilst Table 2 shows an alternative calculation for men's facilities. A separate calculation for each group of employees covered is required.

Table 1

Number of people at work1 to 56 to 2526 to 5051 to 7576 to 100

Number of water closets






Number of wash stations






Table 2

Number of men at work1 to 1516 to 3031 to 4546 to 6061 to 7576 to 9091 to 100

Number of water closets








Number of urinals








Drinking water

  • You must provide an adequate supply of wholesome drinking water.
  • If cups aren't disposable, there must be a convenient place to wash them.

Clothing facilities

  • Provide staff with a suitable place to hang their own clothes.
  • If they need to change, they should have a suitable place to both change and store clothes.

Rest facilities

  • Provide adequate rest facilities, especially if staff is unable to sit at their workstations for health and safety reasons.
  • These areas must not be exposed to tobacco smoke (designated smoking rooms are no longer allowed).

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