Take your dog to work day: let the dogs in or out?

Gavin Scarr Hall - Director of Health and Safety

June 22 2022

Tomorrow, businesses will be celebrating National 'Take Your Dog to Work Day' - and according to a study by GoCompare, two-fifths of people across the UK would enjoy having a pet in the office.

For some, having their furry friend next to their desk might be ideal. But before you throw your ‘no pets’ rule out the window, paws and ask yourself these questions…

1. Is your workplace safe for pets?

First, you need to ask yourself if your working environment is actually safe for pets.

You might work in a noisy environment or on a construction site. Be aware of potential workplace hazards that might pose a risk of injury to any animals on site. Even if there are no obvious hazards, consider whether pets would be comfortable and safe in your workplace.

The best way to identify potential risks and hazards is to carry out a risk assessment. In your risk assessment, consider:

  • whether it’s safe or practical for pets in your workplace
  • legal restrictions that might mean you can’t allow pets in your workplace
  • areas pets are allowed to access vs areas that are forbidden
  • whether dogs should be on a lead or be let free
  • the risks of having multiple pets in the workplace at one time
  • trip hazards – spillages from water bowls, leads on the floor, etc.
  • how to manage pets if there’s an emergency situation
  • toilet facilities for pets – will there be a designated area?
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2. Is there a risk of injury to staff?

As an employer, you have a legal duty to keep your staff safe at work. So, if a pet injures a worker or damages property, you’re legally liable for any injury claims and repair costs. Even if it’s not your pet, you’re still responsible for minimising health & safety risks to staff.

Although the owner might say their pet isn’t a risk to anyone, you can never predict how an animal might react if they’re in an unfamiliar environment around people they don’t know.

So, this is why it’s a good idea to establish rules to reduce or eliminate risks, which might be to:

  • keep dogs on a lead in communal areas
  • have muzzles on hand if dogs start to behave aggressively
  • have dog rooms that are clearly labelled if a dog is in one
  • require that owners show evidence of vaccinations, insurance, and training

You should set out your rules in a watertight pet policy that all your staff have access to.

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3. Do any of your staff have allergies?

If you’re thinking of letting pets into your workplace, you need to check that staff don’t have allergies. Some workers might be allergic to cats or dogs, so you must never assume that it’s okay to allow pets into the workplace without checking with everyone first.

If staff are allergic, it might not be possible to bring pets in without putting them at risk. However, you might be able to make it work if you can reach an agreement (depending on the severity of the allergy).

You could set up rules like:

  • pet owners must bathe their pets before bringing them into work to wash away dander (which is often what people are primarily allergic to)
  • keep pets away from shared areas like bathrooms
  • allow affected staff to work from home part of the week
  • clean the office regularly
  • move affected staff to a different area of the workplace

If you’d like to allow pets into your workplace but you’re worried about the risks to staff, it’s important to seek advice from a health & safety expert.

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4. Do any of your staff have reservations?

Your staff might not be allergic, but they still might not enjoy having pets in the workplace.

Not everyone is an animal lover. Some people have animal phobias and might feel uncomfortable sharing a workspace with them. Others might worry pets will distract them from work or become a nuisance.

If your staff have reservations about bringing pets into work, it’s important to hear them out. You might think a pet-friendly workplace will boost morale but it’ll have the opposite effect on staff who aren’t keen on the idea. And you don’t want to end up with personal injury or constructive dismissal claims.

So, make sure you have a meeting with everyone to discuss bringing pets in before you make any final decisions.

Unleash yourself from health & safety hounding…

There are good reasons why you might want to allow pets in your workplace. Having pets at work can help boost morale, reduce stress, and make life easier for staff who don’t want to leave their pets at home all day. But whether the pros outweigh the risks or vice versa, it’s important to protect your staff and your company.

With Peninsula, you don’t have to worry about risks when your 24-hr health & safety advisers are just a phone call away. They’ll be there to support you with any concerns you may have, craft watertight policies for your business, and keep staff safe at all costs.

Whether it’s a pet problem or a general health & safety query, call today on 0800 028 2420 today for free advice.

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