Ten Common Safety Mishaps (and how to prevent them!)

Filing Cabinet

Do you know more accidents happen between Memorial Day and Labor Day than any other time of year? It’s a good reminder for us that accidents can happen anywhere–home or office–and that preventative measures save time, money, and even lives.

While our jobs do not require us to scale ladders, operate heavy machinery, or balance on scaffolding, the ever-changing technology and office automation present new workplace risks all the time. Take for example the computer: seemingly harmless at first, improper use of a computer can lead to eyesight problems, carpal tunnel, and back pain.

Here is a list of the most common office injuries you may not have thought of, and how to prevent them:

  1. Inadequate or poor lighting: Bad lighting can lead to vision problems and tension headaches. What to do? Maintain lighting fixtures, keeping them clean and changing the bulbs when needed.  Adjustable shades on windows, a light-colored matte office walls and floors to reduce glare, and sources for indirect light can all help counter poor lighting.
  2. Ventilation: Equipment such as copy machines emit noxious fumes that are particularly hazardous without proper ventilation. Cleaning fluids and other office supplies can also compromise the office air quality. What to do? Making sure office equipment is maintained and up to date, as well as preventive maintenance on heating and cooling systems can help prevent problems.
  3. Improper monitor settings and desktop monitor height: Can lead to muscular and skeletal problems, eye strain, neck and back pain, and tension.
  4. Noise: Telephones, people, and printers all contribute to office noise.  It can be loud and distracting, causing tension, stress, and sometimes, damage to the ear.  What to do? Place noisy machines in another room, dampen sound with carpet, draperies, rugs, and cubicles, adjust noise settings on phones, and create office traffic paths that route away from office workers.
  5. Storage and Storage Handling: Improper storage and handling can cause musculoskeletal disorders, and can also cause injury. What to do? Don’t store anything atop cabinets, store heavy objects in the bottom shelves, and avoid shelving and storage in aisles, pathways, and corners.
  6. Electrical Equipment: Faulty equipment, incorrectly installed equipment, and misused equipment are the top offenders of electrical equipment safety, causing fire and injury. What to do? Properly ground and install office equipment, avoid overloading circuits, maintain equipment, keep cords free from sharp objects, and disconnect equipment before cleaning or maintaining it.
  7. Office Furniture: Office furniture, especially file cabinets and chairs, are common offenders of office safety. What to do? Only sit in your chair; do not lean back, rock, roll across the floor, or reach for things in your chair. Maintenance or replace shaky or wobbly chairs.  Open file cabinets one drawer at a time, and always close drawers using the handle.
  8. Fire Hazards: Office records and electrical equipment can be a fire waiting to happen. What to do? Store unused records and files in fire-resistant files or vaults, create designated smoking areas, and make sure fire extinguishers and alarms are present, conspicuous, and accessible.
  9. Slips, Trips, and Falls: Poor housekeeping is the number one reason for slips, trips, and falls, but office layout can also contribute. What to do? Keep desks at least three feet apart from one another, create traffic paths removed of equipment and wires, tuck away cords and wires, group employees together that use the same equipment, and immediately address any issues such as carpeting that may cause a slip, trip, or fall.
  10. Office Tools: Misuse of office supplies is a common cause of injury at the work place. What to do? Keep paper cutter blades down when not in use, store sharp objects point-down or in a drawer, never hand someone a sharp object point-first.

Office safety can seem obvious, but when we get caught up in the day-to-day of our jobs, we can forget to take the small steps necessary to prevent accidents.  The more we keep these ideas top of mind, the more likely we are to prevent an office mishap.

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One Comment

  1. mackenzie
    Posted August 17, 2012 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Great post. My husband just started a small business and I was thinking of getting him a postage meter as a gift. I thought he could use some office equipment. I didn’t know most accidents happen between Memorial day and Labor day. Thanks for the great tips, I will have to send this to my husband to help prevent office injuries.