Safety and Health Hazards in an Office Environment

Although we have been in the Health and Safety business for over forty years, we rarely get asked to look at office safety issues. While there is a perception that offices are relatively safe places to work, there are still plenty of ways for people to get hurt.

These are some of the common hazards office workers are exposed to and some suggestions as to what you can do to stop them from getting injured.

Office Ergonomics

Generally, the number one safety hazard that office-type exposures are interested in is office ergonomics.

Office ergonomics is a term that is generally, widely misunderstood. Strictly speaking, ergonomics refers to the science of designing the workstation to fit within the capabilities and limitations of the worker.

In our interpretation, it is the way workspaces are set up to prevent eye strain, as well as pain in the back, wrists, and elbows. Each of these symptoms occurs when a worker isn't properly fitting into their "one size fits all" work environment. 

The goal of office ergonomics is to make sure employees are in a body neutral position and the key is to adjust workstations to accommodate workers of different sizes, shapes, and forms.

Movement & Exercise

Remaining sedentary for an entire eight-hour day (especially in an environment that hasn't been ergonomically optimized) can have a devastating impact on a person's physical and mental health. 

Taking frequent breaks from repetitive work with stretching exercises helps increase blood flow, prevent stiffness in joints, and stretch muscles that are otherwise over or underused.

We often recommend that companies start the day with some basic stretching exercises that have been designed by a physical therapist and are specific to the tasks of that group of workers.

Taking a short break can also go a long way. Just a couple of minutes of movement exercise every couple of hours is a surefire way of improving the health and mood of a workforce.

Accident Prevention

People who work in office buildings are still susceptible to slips, trips, and falls that can cause injuries and result in workers’ comp claims.

People routinely slip and fall in parking lots during the winter months in snowy and icy conditions. For this exact reason, it's critical that companies implement comprehensive ice and snow management plans.

This management plan should include plowing and snow blowing all parking areas, steps, and sidewalks to make sure they are free of snow and to also spread sand, salt, or ice melt on walkways and shovel clear paths. In some cases, we have had clients remove trees that block the sun from hitting the parking lots so the sun can get at the pavement and help melt the ice and snow.

However, winter isn’t the only time trips and falls occur.

Tripping on cracks in sidewalks, broken steps, or missing bricks can happen at any time of year. Companies should fix damaged walkways quickly and put out warning signs, paint surfaces, and curbs where it may be hard to see steps or elevation changes so employees see the hazards before they get hurt.

Safety Training

Even in offices, people can get hurt when they are lifting heavy items. For example, when employees lift boxes of paper or move desks and other furniture, there is always a risk of sprains or strains.

Use of proper equipment and proper lifting techniques where possible can help prevent injuries.

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Consult a Health & Safety Professional

Consulting a health and safety professional can help decrease these risks, reduce injuries and lower the cost of your workers’ comp. Together with training programs, frequent breaks for stretching, and proper office ergonomics, companies can make their offices safer for employees which will ultimately reduce the chances of workers getting injured which will increase productivity and help reduce the cost of workers’ comp premiums.

At The Lawson Group, our primary effort is to partner with employers and their employees to create better, safer, and healthier working environments. We welcome your inquiries regarding our services. Contact us to learn more.

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