Increasing numbers of household pets being brought into places of work could become a safety nightmare for bosses as the trend becomes more popular.
That’s the opinion of a leading UK workplace health and safety consultancy that finds more companies are allowing dogs under desks without considering the implications.
The Protecting.co.uk health and safety company has found virtually no businesses have carried out a risk assessment before allowing pets on their premises, with most cases going through “on the nod” of line managers.
“There are basic health and safety questions that come with having an animal in your place of work,” says Mark Hall, “Most of it is finding a common sense way of dealing with a docile dog – it’s hardly as if somebody’s going to bring in a leopard, is it?”
Protecting.co.uk found that one-in-ten offices now allow pets in the workplace if an employee cannot find daytime care for their animal (which are almost overwhelmingly dogs, although Protecting did find one housecat allowed in from home).
In most cases where pets are allowed, the company says that the animal is good for staff morale, and encourages exercise among staff that volunteer to take the dog for a walk.
However, as Hall points out, dogs in the office pose health and safety problems, which go largely unaddressed.
Protecting.co.uk asked dozens of companies if they had a health and safety policy on pets. Only one company said they did, and had run a full assessment – and only because they also had staff member with a guide dog
“There are all kinds of problems that come with a pet under the desk,” says Hall, “and the more you think about it, the more problems arise.”
Among these are:
- Employees who are scared of, or allergic to dogs
- Trip hazards from leads, dog beds and the pet itself
- Emergency evacuation procedures – do you take your dog if the fire bell sounds?
- Food safety – is it OK to store dog food in the workplace fridge?
- What if the dog bites a customer? Who cleans up dog mess?
“The list goes on and on,” says spokesperson Mark Hall, “And it’s easy for bosses to just sweep problems under the carpet.”
These are all valid questions, Protecting says, with Hall saying that liability insurance may be invalidated, or fire safety certificates compromised.
“Before allowing pets into your workplace, it’s best to seek professional advice,” says Hall.
“From our own experience, a dog under the desk is a big boost for office morale, but Rover’s got to be weighed against the risks before he’s allowed to clock on.”