Office Safety Hazards: Avoiding the Top 5 Injuries
Compared to a construction site or a manufacturing facility, your office might seem like a risk-free environment; but is it as safe as it looks? According to government statistics, the answer is no. Your office is hiding a range of office safety hazards, from trips and slips to back problems and RSI. Here are the five biggest risks that office workers face - and how you can minimize them.
1. Falls (Trips, Slips and Tumbles)
Falls are by far the commonest type of accident in any workplace, including offices. Falling is not only more prevalent than other accidents but it causes the highest number of disabling injuries. Yet many falls could be avoided by taking sensible precautions
- Spilled fluids should be mopped up promptly to avoid slipping
- Cables should be covered, preferably running under the floor. If cables must pass on top of the floor they should be properly covered and clearly marked to avoid trips
- Items should not be left on the floor
- Floor coverings should be secure. Loose mats, carpeting or linoleum can cause people to trip or loose their footing
- Stools and ladders must be used to reach high shelves. Never climb on a chair, table or other item of furniture
- Steps and uneven flooring should be clearly marked.
2. Strains and Overexertion (Lifting and Carrying)
Most of us are familiar with the risks of lifting heavy objects. It's easy to forget that small, light loads can also pose a risk of injury if lifted or carried inappropriately
- Consider how heavy the object is, how high you will need to lift it and how far you will need to carry it
- Lift by bending your knees, grasping the object firmly and then standing up slowly, keeping your back straight
- Set the object down by bending your knees and lowering it to the shelf, table or floor, still keeping your back straight
- Don't attempt to lift heavy objects by yourself.
3. Striking or Struck by Objects (Bumps and Blows)
Doors opening or closing suddenly can mean bumps and bruises for the person on the wrong side of them. Furniture that's been badly positioned can shift suddenly and strike someone. Materials that have been improperly placed on shelves or in cupboards can fall down and hit people nearby
- Open and close doors carefully
- Don't stack or lean furniture in such a way that it could slide out suddenly or fall and hit someone
- Place items away from the edge of shelves and don't pile items carelessly
- Place the heaviest items on the lowest shelves
- Don't place computer equipment or other materials near the edge of a desk or table.
4. Trapping and Pinching (Drawers, Doors, Office Machinery and Moving Furniture)
Injuries from trapping and pinching body parts in drawers, cupboards and doors can be painful. More serious injuries can be caused if a person is pinned between two moving objects or against a stationary object: for example, a person could be trapped between a heavy cabinet and a wall or floor
- Keep fingers away from door frames and out of drawers when closing them
- Keep feet and ankles away from heavy swinging door
- Do not move furniture suddenly and without warning
- Pay attention when using office machinery
- Remember that long hair, clothing and jewelry can be caught too.
5. Ergonomics and Posture (Musculoskeletal Problems and RSI)
If your posture is poor or your workstation badly arranged, you could find yourself developing back, shoulder, arm and hand pain. This can be temporary - but over time, long term damage can build up
- Adjust your table, seat and monitor so that you are sitting in a relaxed and neutral posture. Your arms should be at a 90-degree angle when typing and your thighs should be parallel with the floor. A professional workstation assessment will provide more tips and personalised recommendations
- Place reference documents in a document holder next to or in front of your monitor. This should be at eye level
- Take regular breaks to stretch and rest your eyes.
- If you don't have a good quality ergonomic desk chair, consider purchasing one
- Consider purchasing a sit stand desk so that you can stand for some of the day!
Workplace safety is everyone's responsibility. Point out potential office safety hazards to your managers and co-workers.
Good illumination and ventilation are part of a healthy office too; report any poorly-lit areas or fume build-up from printers and other equipment.