Falls: Slips, trips and falls are the most common type of office injury.
- Stay clutter-free
Boxes, files and various items piled in walkways can create a tripping hazard. Be certain that all materials are safely stored in their proper location to prevent build-up of clutter in walkways. Further, in addition to posing an electrical hazard, stretching cords across walkways or under rugs creates a tripping hazard, so ensure all cords are properly secured and covered.
- Step on up
Standing on chairs – particularly rolling office chairs – is a significant fall hazard. Workers who need to reach something at an elevated height should use a stepladder. Workers should never climb higher than the step indicated as the highest safe standing level.
- Maintain a clear line of vision
Workers can collide when making turns in the hallways and around blind corners or cubicle walls. Consider installing convex mirrors at intersections to help reduce collisions.
- Get a grip
Carpeting and other skid-resistant surfaces can serve to reduce falls. Marble or tile can become very slippery – particularly when wet. Placing carpets down can be especially helpful at entranceways, where workers are likely to be coming in with wet shoes.
Struck/Caught by: Another major type of injury in the office setting comes from workers being struck by or caught by an object.
- Shut the drawer
File cabinets with too many fully extended drawers could tip over if they are not secured. Additionally, open drawers on desks and file cabinets pose a tripping hazard, so be sure to always completely close drawers when not in use.
- Safe stacking
Proper storage of heavy items can help reduce the number of office injuries. Large stacks of materials and heavy equipment can cause major injuries if they are knocked over. Storing heavy objects close to the floor and warnsthe load capacity of shelves or storage units should never be exceeded.
Ergonomics Injuries: Perhaps the most prevalent injuries in an office setting are related to ergonomics. Because office workers spend the bulk of their day seated at a desk and working on a computer, they are prone to strains and other injuries related to posture and repetitive movement.
- Provide adjustable equipment
One size does not fit all in an office workstation. Chairs, work surfaces, monitor stands, etc., should all be adjustable in order to accommodate the widest range of employees.
- Train workers on how to use equipment
Providing adjustable furniture and equipment is only the first step in creating an ergonomically sound workstation. Train workers on both the ideal setup and how to operate adjustable equipment accordingly.
- Keep your feet on the floor
Often workers have their keyboard tray on the desktop, so in order to reach it, they need to jack up their chair so high that their feet can barely touch the floor. Unless an employee’s feet are on the floor, a chair will not be able to reduce pain and discomfort. Adjustable keyboard trays or rolling tables adjusted to the proper height may eliminate this problem with footrests being second-best option.
- Provide document holders
Frequently typing from hard copy can lead to neck strain if a worker is forced to repeatedly look down to the desk and back to the computer screen. Document holders can reduce this strain. Document holders also are good for the eyes. Keeping reference materials close to the monitor reduces the need for your eyes to change focus as you look from the document to the monitor.
- Correct mouse placement
The mouse should always be placed beside the keyboard.
Vision problems: Although looking at a computer monitor cannot damage your eyes, spending a large portion of your workday at the computer can cause eyestrain. Eyes can become dry and irritated, and workers may begin having trouble focusing. A few work area adjustments can help alleviate some of these issues.
- Dim the lights and use task lamps
Florescent lights in office buildings often are too bright for optimal vision with light that is at about half-normal office levels preferred. This can be achieved by removing some bulbs from overhead fixtures. If more light is needed provide individual task lamps rather than increasing overall lighting. Lightbulbs in task lamps should be fully recessed to avoid the creation of a bright spot in the worker’s line of vision.
- Correctly position monitors
Workers should place their computer monitors slightly below eye level and 20-26 inches from their eyes. Screens that can tilt or swivel are especially beneficial. Your eyes’ resting position is a few degrees below the horizon when you’re looking straight ahead.
- Minimize screen glare
Screen glare as a major cause of eyestrain in the office. To minimize strain, avoid positioning monitors opposite open windows, or be sure to always close shades or blinds. A glare reduction filter also can be used.
- Wear the right glasses
Workers should tell their eye doctor if they spend a large portion of the day working on the computer. The doctor can check the efficiency of vision at 20-30 inches – the typical distance a computer monitor should be placed. Glasses are available for computer use that allow the wearer to see the full monitor without having to excessively strain the neck.
- Increase font size on computer
Small font sizes on the computer can strain both your vision and your neck, as workers tend to pull the head forward to view smaller print. A simple adjustment to the font size on the computer screen can eliminate the need for this.
- Take a break
Giving your eyes a rest and allowing them to focus on things at varying distances can help reduce strain and fatigue. Workers should take a 10-minute break for every hour spent on the computer. These breaks can include working on tasks that require your eyes to focus on objects at a further range.
Fire safety: Routine inspections around the office can help reduce the likelihood of fire.
- Maintain cords in good repair
Damaged and ungrounded power cords pose a serious fire hazard and violate safety codes. Cords should be inspected regularly for wear and taken out of service if they are frayed or have exposed wire. Make sure cords are not overloading outlets. The most common causes of fires started by extension cords are improper use and overloading.
- Inspect space heaters
If employees use space heaters, verify the devices are approved for commercial use and have a switch that automatically shuts off the heater if the heater is tipped over. Further, make sure space heaters are not powered through an extension cord or placed near combustible materials such as paper.
- Never block fire sprinklers
Furniture and tall stacks of materials can block the range of fire sprinklers, reducing their effectiveness in the event of an emergency. Objects should never be placed higher than 18 inches below sprinkler heads to allow a full range of coverage.
- Do not block escape routes or prop open fire doors
Items never should be stored along an emergency exit route. These paths should remain free of clutter. Fire doors should not be held open by unapproved means (such as with a garbage can or chair), as this creates a significant fire hazard.
Administrative controls: In addition to employee training and improved equipment, certain administrative controls can aid hazard recognition and the elimination of potentially dangerous situations.
- Conduct walk-throughs
Periodically walking around the office can help with hazard recognition and maintenance of ergonomic task design. Employers should conduct an ergonomics screen of every workstation at least once a year. Employee complaints are invaluable in the process, but yearly reassessments can help to ensure that a good fit is maintained between employee and workstation.
- Monitor signs of musculoskeletal disorders
Recognizing the symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders can alert employees of the need to make an ergonomics alteration to their workstation. Lots of musculoskeletal injuries developing from poor ergonomics start out asymptomatically and can become quite severe by the time an employee starts to experience symptoms. Pay attention to any pain, fatigue, numbness or weakness, as these may be signs of an ergonomics problem and the start of a more serious health issues.
- Talk to employees about their concerns
Simply asking workers how they are feeling can go a long way toward recognizing hazards. Employers need to take advantage of the cases where employees are experiencing symptoms like discomfort and fatigue early on, when quick, inexpensive interventions can usually solve the problem.
- Establish employee reporting systems
Establishing an employee reporting system can be the best way for organizations to get a handle on potential hazards before they cause injury. Consider creating an anonymous reporting process that encourages workers to come forward with their concerns. Research shows that early intervention yields the most cost-efficient results in all areas.