Office Safety

Posted: Apr. 15, 2019 • By Kevin Kohler

Office Safety

Are offices safe places to work?

Like any other work environment, offices can be made very safe to work in. However, just assuming that offices are safe places to work does not guarantee worker safety.

Some studies show that office workers are more likely than non-office workers to suffer a disabling injury from a fall. A sobering thought since so many workers miss work from falls every day.

But how can this be, in an office of all places? Offices can and do contain all of the hazard classes that we encounter at any other worksite and those hazards must be assessed and controlled as we would at any other worksite.

Do we focus on all work activities equally?

One question that we should ask ourselves is, do we apply our safety systems equally in all work areas?
Do we concentrate our efforts on controlling the hazards in areas that we consider to have higher risk profiles to the detriment of others?

When we don’t apply our safety standards uniformly we risk losing track of some important safety principles:

  • All injuries come at a significant cost to the individual, the company and society, regardless of where or how they occur.
  • The risk of injury will increase in work areas where the safety system is neglected.
  • Employee morale will suffer if health and safety standards are not applied uniformly.
  • To achieve our minimum risk profile we must apply our safety systems to all hazards in all locations.

What hazards do we commonly encounter in the office?

We encounter the same classes of hazards in an office environment as in any other work area. Some examples of the hazards typically encountered in an office include:

  • Electrical hazards: overloaded outlets, worn extension cords, failure to use ground fault interrupters, cords creating tripping hazards, unauthorized repairs.
  • Housekeeping hazards: clutter and debris in walkways, slippery and wet floors, blocked exits, lunchroom hygiene.
  • Lighting hazards: inadequate lighting, poorly lit exit signs, unsuitable background lighting for computer displays.
  • Fire hazards: improper storage of flammables, accumulations of combustible materials, storage of combustibles near ignition sources, improper use of volatile sprays and cleaners.
  • Chemical and toxic hazards: storage of incompatible cleaners and solvents, corrosive cleaners, toner ink exposure, inadequate ventilation, contaminated air, no eyewash stations.
  • Bio-hazards: mouse droppings, mould, spores, blood borne diseases, communicable diseases.
  • Hazardous energy: improperly stored heavy objects, failure to lock out equipment being serviced, paper shredders, protection of hot water or pressurized lines, cooktops.
  • Sharps: metal furniture corners, utility knives, staples and fasteners.
  • Working from heights: Ladder work, working off furniture, unprotected mezzanines, stairs not to code.
  • Violence and Harassment: working with the public, working alone, working with employees encountering difficulties, terrorism, crime.
  • Ergonomic hazards: repetitive strain injuries (carpal tunnel), improper workstation design, heavy lifting and positioning.
  • Psychosocial hazards: stress, anxiety, psychological illnesses.

Emergency response planning

The office environment must be considered when planning for emergencies. Offices may be densely populated and evacuation plans must be established and practiced. The hazards posed by working alone, the potential for violence and harassment must be planned for and controlled.

The safety key: communication and involvement

Office workers must be as involved as everyone else in safety. All aspects of your safety system should be applied to the office, including safety meetings and inspections. Office workers may have a unique perspective to share on safety problems and they need to be represented in the same manner as all other employees.

Office safety – let’s keep everyone safe

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