DIY at the office? Think again.

diy projects at the office are unsafe

An old friend of mine recently had his workplace renovated into a startup-style office. You know – bean bags, swings, vending machines and hot desks that made you feel like you were in a cafe.

He had invited me to “work on business”. But we both knew it was a thinly veiled excuse for him to show off, and for us to kick back and shoot the breeze in a laid back, hyper conducive work environment (it was a Friday after all).

I looked around at how carefully planned everything seemed. There were spotlights that provided a warm glow to the place, and that was complimented by the bright natural light coming from floor-to-ceiling windows. It was truly a work of art.

Curious, as asked him, “how much did all of this cost?

Oh, we paid the contractor a couple hundred thousand“, he replied nonchalantly.

My jaw almost dropped to the floor. Six figures for a small office no bigger than my apartment?!

I guess that’s the price you have to pay when you hire outside help.

I know a lot of business owners who would be reluctant to shell out that kind of dough for an office makeover. I mean, that’s cash that could be kept for investment opportunities, or even just to keep your business afloat over a dry patch!

At times like these, many business owners can’t help but be tempted by the thought of doing the renovations themselves. Especially if they have strong young workers that aren’t being fully utilized, then why not, right?

Here’s the big reason why you might want to hire a contractor

To me, the biggest risk of getting your own employees to help in your office DIY projects is workplace injury. Yes, even if your employees jumped at the chance to help install a new lighting fixture, you could still be liable if they get injured.

These days, such workplace-related accidents are covered under personal injury laws. Some lawyer offices are decked out with huge personal injury teams. Some person injury lawyers even offer ‘no win, no loss’ services (like this one on With no financial risk, even an amiable employee could be tempted to file a claim against you.

If you’re still thinking of going the DIY route however, these are some things you should do to reduce your risk:

1. Get worker’s compensation insurance

Having a worker’s compensation insurance policy will allow you to provide medical benefits and wage replacement if your employees ever get injured in their line of work. In the even that your employee does suffer physical injury as a result of helping you in a DIY project, they won’t be able to sue you for negligence.

If you’re in the UK, you should have already been required to purchase Employer’s Liability Insurance. This will take care of any claims that your employees lodge against you for negligence. If you’re in another jurisdiction however, you may need to look into this yourself.

2. Keep your projects small

My friend’s Google-style office revamp might be too big of an undertaking for your employees. Generally, the more complex the project, the more chances for your employees to get injured.

Firstly, they probably won’t have the experience necessary to carry out the tasks safely and competently. So there’s a high chance that they could end up hurting themselves.

Secondly, complex projects require complex tools. Tools like circular saws in the hands of the lay man are just accidents waiting to happen. Here’s a handy rule to remember: if it requires automatic tools, then don’t do it!

3. Keep your projects low

There’s a saying among emergency response crews that goes, you can’t fall off the floor. Basically it refers to keeping the patient on the floor as much as possible, lest they fall from a height. Similarly, if your DIY project requires standing on ladders, harnesses, even standing on a chair, then you’re carrying a big risk.

That’s why, make sure your DIY project doesn’t require your employees doing any climbing or working on elevated places.

4. Use Protective Equipment

I can hear you saying, thank you captain obvious!

But I can tell you that many business owners would be tempted to cut costs in this area. They’ll think to themselves:

What, shell out more money on hard hats, goggles, work boots? This is just a one-off! I’m already spending so much, should I really be spending more?

I found that a good balance between safety and cost-cutting is to rent your PPE. That way, you’re not paying as much as you would if you bought the equipment. At the same time, you’re less likely to have been considered negligent if any accident were to occur.

Conclusion – maybe it’s not worth the hassle

Unless you’re just putting together an IKEA cabinet, most DIY projects might be best left to a contractor with the expertise and safety-mindedness. Additionally, you won’t worry about the risk you’re taking on. However, if you’re determined to go DIY, then it pays to plan ahead. Get the necessary insurance and PPE in place. In addition, oversee the projects closely – looking for opportunities where your employees can do the work in a simpler, safer way!

Do that, and we can build a safer workplace. Stay safe everyone! #DIYDisasters

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