While injuries in an office environment might seem rare, or even a bit silly, they’re more common than you think. Office safety might not be responsible for stopping as many catastrophic accidents or deaths as those in work environments using large machinery (such as production, construction, etc.), but there is definitely more to it than initially meets the eye. In this blog post, we’re going to go over six different ways you can ensure your office is a safer environment for employees, and that their own behavior doesn’t put them at any additional risk. Remedies can be simple such utilizing photoluminescent tape or glow-in-the-dark safety signs.
1. Keep Clear
All too often, work places become cluttered as a result of an abundance of boxes, filing cabinets, worker belongings, and not to mention hand trucks in transit. Unfortunately, too much clutter can create a number of risks for your workers. Trips and falls can occur in just about any environment, so workers need to keep the floor clear. Additionally, workers should always be aware of their footing and not carry any boxes or objects around the office if they cannot see their own feet. In addition to temporary clutter, think about how more permanent installations, like wires and cables, floor rugs and mats, and changes in floor type (the edges between tile flooring and a carpeted room, for example) can be repositioned to stay out of the way.
2. Manage Your Lighting
While some workplaces have made the swap to low energy eco-friendly type lightbulbs, many offices still use old fluorescent sectional or tube lighting. These lights are extremely bright, which can be good in some cases, but not so great in others. In fact, an article in Safety and Health Magazine had this to say about office lighting:
According to the American Optometric Association, light that is at about half-normal office levels is preferred.
The article also suggests making use of localized lighting for specific tasks, rather than brightening the whole office – desk lamps serve this purpose nicely. Overly bright lights can not only obscure vision, but they can lead to headaches, causing workers to be unable to focus on tasks and/or work more slowly.
3. Ergonomics Breakdown
Ergonomics is all about designing and arranging in ways that are conducive to employee health and comfort. Poor ergonomic decisions can lead to everything from minor joint pain to chronic arthritis to a misaligned spine. Due to the amount of sitting required for many office jobs, ergonomic complications are one of the few types of injuries that can actually be more common in office environments than their warehouse counterparts, as such office safety programs should address the topic adequately.
Office chairs are a common culprit of ergonomic issues such as back problems; you want to make sure that employees have chairs that adequately support their backs and make them sit up straight while they’re working. In addition to the chair itself, employee behavior plays a role: they should be getting up to stretch once every 1-2 hours and moving around for a few minutes to encourage circulation. Other ergonomics considerations include mouse and keyboard positioning, monitor angle, and desk height.
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4. Unsafe Office Behavior
Because job descriptions don’t generally include climbing or moving large objects, the absence of things like stepladders, hand trucks, and carts can cause trouble in the office when such tasks are required. An employee might try to move something too heavy by hand, or balance on a chair or desk to get to a hard-to-reach shelf. These activities can put employees at risk for a number of injuries that simply shouldn’t be occurring in an office. As part of your office safety program, have these items available to use just in case, they can be easily stored in a maintenance or janitorial closet, as long as your workers know where they are and how to access them. Also, make sure workers know how to use all of these tools properly.
While we touched on this in the light section, vision is integral to office safety. Workers nowadays are often sat in front of computers for the majority of their working days, inducing a lot of eye strain. Encourage workers to have their vision checked and make sure they have appropriate prescriptions. This not only improves worker health, but also productivity. Just like with physical strain, employees should take vision breaks by focusing on a distant object for a few minutes for every hour of work. Increasing text size on computers and correctly angling computer monitors to reduce glare can also improve eye conditions in your office as well.
6. Fire Away
Fires in an office place can be hectic due to low ceilings and cramped walkways in comparison to industrial environments. Avoid fire hazards by carefully monitoring space heaters and by not leaving them on in unoccupied rooms , even for a short amount of time. You should also check cords or cables to make sure they are not cracked and are indeed properly insulated. Have posted fire escape routes in multiple places around the office and make sure all fire exit routes are marked and kept clear at all times. Emergency exit doors should be monthly to make sure they are fully functional. All fire exits should have proper signage to communicate where they are located. It is also a great idea to mark the floor near the fire exit as well as around the fire exit door with glow-in-the-dark floor tape.
Office safety is deceptively involved due to the amount of hazards that can easily slip under the radar in a seemingly low key, low risk environment. There’s no need to go full on Dwight Schrute, but it is a good idea to remain vigilant and make continual improvements as concerns are brought to your attention. Additional topics you may want to address include administrative checks, handrails and guards, custom ergonomics equipment, and worker training.