Recognizing hidden dangers: Simple steps to a safer office

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It’s obvious that health and safety hazards exist at workplaces filled with heavy equipment and machinery, where employees are required to engage in manual labour. A workplace where most of the work activities are completed while sitting in a chair in a climate-controlled office would seem less likely to be regarded as a dangerous environment. However, a surprising number of hazards are present at the office. By following a few simple steps you can significantly reduce the risk of injury among office staff.

Slips, trips and falls are the most common cause of office injuries. Several hazards contribute to these injuries, although most can be significantly reduced by raising awareness among office staff.

1. Maintain a high standard of housekeeping at the office

Boxes, files and various items that are incorrectly stored can create tripping hazards. Be certain that all materials are safely stored in their designated storage areas to prevent a buildup of clutter in offices and walkways. Further, in addition to posing an electrical hazard, laying cords across walkways creates a tripping hazard, so ensure all cords are properly secured and covered. If housekeeping is difficult to maintain in a busy office environment, have a monthly “office clean up” where all staff can get involved.

2. Ensure safe access to elevated positions

Standing on office chairs, in particular rolling office chairs is a significant fall hazard. Employees who need to reach something at an elevated position should use a stepladder. Ensure that the stepladder complies with the necessary legal requirements.

Another major type of injury in the office results from workers being struck by or caught between objects.

3. Keep draws closed

Filing cabinets with too many fully extended draws could tip over if they are not secured. Additionally, open draws and filing cabinets pose a tripping hazard, so be sure to keep draws closed.

4. Stack safely

correctly storing 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. Ergonomic Injuries are perhaps the most predominant injuries in an office. Because office staff spend the bulk of their day seated at a desk, working on a computer, they are prone to strains and other injuries related to posture and repetitive movement.

Ergonomics hazards can be difficult to detect. “Most office conditions that could be described as hazardous from an ergonomics perspective would appear quite innocuous to the everyday observer.

5. Provide adjustable equipment

One size does not fit all in an office workstation. Chairs and monitor stands, etc., should all be adjustable to accommodate a wide range of employees. Although employers are often reluctant to pay for expensive ergonomic equipment, experts insist the equipment is a wise investment.

6. Correctly position monitors

Looking at a computer monitor will not damage your eyes, spending a large amount of your workday at the computer can cause eyestrain, Eyes can become dry and irritated, and employees may begin having trouble focusing. A few work area adjustments can help alleviate some of these issues. Eg. Place computer monitors 50-60cm from the eyes.

7. Minimize screen glare

Screen glare is a major cause of eyestrain in the office. To minimize strain, avoid positioning monitors opposite open windows, or be sure to always close blinds.

8. Increase font size on computer

Small font sizes on the computer can strain employee’s eyes and 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.

9. Take a break

Giving your eyes a rest and allowing them to focus on things at varying distances can help reduce strain and fatigue. Employees should take a 10-minute break for every hour spent on the computer. These breaks could include working on tasks that require your eyes to focus on objects at a further range.

Fire Safety 10. Maintain plugs and cords in good condition

Cords should be inspected regularly for defects and removed from service if they are frayed or have exposed wire. Further, cords should never be used if the third prong has been damaged or removed. Make sure cords are not overloading outlets. The most common causes of fires started by extension cords are improper use and overloading.

Administrative controls In addition to training and improved equipment, administrative controls can aid the identification of hazards and the elimination of potentially dangerous situations.

11. Conduct office walk-throughs

Period walks around the office can help with hazard identification and maintenance of ergonomic design. Employee complaints are the most valuable during this process and yearly assessments can help to ensure that a good fit is maintained for all employees.

12. Talk to employees about their concerns

Ask employees how they are feeling this can go a long way towards identifying hazards which may cause injury.

13. 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.

Take advantage of these simple steps and ensure your office staff go home healthy and safe.

For more information on how to comply with office safety, please contact the LabourNet Helpdesk at 0861 LABNET (0861 522638).

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