Industrial safety focuses on the extreme. Headlines outline the gory details of drip gas explosions, death on agricultural farms, and electric shock, but often fail to address the outliers. Office workers, the pencil-pushers of the 21 century, also face potential hazards on the job.
While the threat of things like arc flash and confined spaces don't exist in an office setting, falls and strains or ergonomic injuries may occur. Safety+Health provided 25 steps to ensure your work environment is safe from hidden dangers.
- Stay clutter-free: Boxes, files and various items piled in walkways can create a tripping hazard.
- Step on up: Standing on chairs – particularly rolling office chairs – is a significant fall hazard.
- Maintain a clear line of vision: Workers can collide when making turns in the hallways and around blind corners or cubicle walls.
- Get a grip: Carpeting and other skid-resistant surfaces can serve to reduce falls.
- Shut the drawer: File cabinets with too many fully extended drawers could tip over if they are not secured.
- Safe stacking: Proper storage of heavy items can help reduce the number of office injuries.
- Provide adjustable equipment: One size does not fit all in an office workstation.
- Train workers on how to use equipment: Providing adjustable furniture and equipment is only the first step in creating an ergonomically sound workstation.
- Keep your feet on the floor: Touch the floor or a foot stool when seated at a desk.
- 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.
- Correct mouse placement: The mouse should always be placed beside the keyboard.
- Dim the lights and use task lamps: Florescent lights in office buildings often are too bright for optimal vision.
- Correctly position monitors: Workers should place their computer monitors slightly below eye level and 20-26 inches from their eyes.
- Minimize screen glare: Avoid positioning monitors opposite open windows, or be sure to always close shades or blinds.
- Wear the right glasses: Workers should tell their eye doctor if they spend a large portion of the day working on the computer.
- 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.
- Take a break: Giving your eyes a rest and allowing them to focus on things at varying distances can help reduce strain and fatigue.
- Maintain cords in good repair: Damaged and ungrounded power cords pose a serious fire hazard and violate safety codes.
- 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.
- 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.
- Do not block escape routes or prop open fire doors: Items never should be stored along an emergency exit route.
- Conduct walk-throughs: Periodically walking around the office can help with hazard recognition and maintenance of ergonomic task design.
- 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.
- Talk to employees about their concerns: Simply asking workers how they are feeling can go a long way toward recognizing hazards.
- 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.