Employers may think office workers have a lower risk of experiencing a work-related injury or illness because they don’t interact with heavy machinery and toxic chemicals. Even though these employees may not be around these types of hazards on a daily basis, that doesn’t mean occupational injuries and illnesses can’t occur.
According to the National Safety Council’s (NSC) Safety and Health magazine, office workers are 2.5 times more likely to experience a debilitating fall than employees in other professions. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates tens of thousands of occupational injuries and illnesses happen to office staff every year, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Boosting employee awareness of office hazards through safety training and wellness programs may help employers prevent a workers compensation claim.
Everyday dangers in the office
NSC Safety and Health and SHRM suggested employers focus on the most common office accidents:
- Slips, trips and falls
- Electrical fires
- Eye strain
- Respiratory ailments
- Sedentary injuries
Office employees may not be aware of the safety risks they experience on a daily basis, such as sitting for too long or standing on a rolling chair. One of the best ways to prevent indoor workers from suffering an injury or illness is to establish a safety training program in the office. During safety education, employers may want to focus on protective measures, such as:
- Proper lifting procedures and ladder use
- Keeping walkways free of clutter
- How to adjust office chairs to the right height
- How to safely store heavy items
- When to step away from the computer and take a walk.
However, employers also may take additional steps to keep inside employees safe.
According to Safety and Health magazine and SHRM, altering aspects of the workplace may result in a safer environment for employees. Managers may want to ensure all surfaces are free of slip hazards, such as water accumulation from workers tracking in rain, and place carpets or rugs on marble or tile floors. Providing workers with a wide range of work surfaces and chairs may help employees adjust their workstations to fit their unique ergonomic needs.
“Adjustability is the key,” Mark Turina, principal consultant for ErgoSmart Consultants, told Safety and Health. “Chairs, work surfaces, monitor stands, etc., should all be adjustable in order to accommodate the widest range of employees.”
While providing adjustable equipment may require a significant investment, it may prevent higher costs from workers compensation claims and sick day use.
In addition, employers may want to ensure workers have optimal lighting to prevent eye strain from looking at computers in dim environments. However, excessive glare also may be hazardous, so employers may want to close window blinds and optimize internal lighting. Managers also may want to check the office’s air purification system to keep it running properly. According to SHRM, poor air quality has been linked to more instances of work-related asthma and allergies. Maintaining proper ventilation and preventing dust accumulations may help improve workers’ respiratory health. Regular maintenance on the office’s electronics may prevent a fire from occurring, such as replacing damaged power cords.