August - General Office Safety
General Office Safety
Changes have occurred in the American office environment and will continue to change with all the new technology and automated office equipment. As with all new technology, these changes bring on a whole new set of health and safety concerns. The former concerns, such as slippery floors and open file cabinets are still prevalent, but now poorly designed workstations and maladjusted computer stations can cause all types of body pains, eyestrains and tension. The leading types of disabling accidents that occur within the office are the result of falls, strains, exertions, falling objects, striking objects and getting caught in, or between, objects.
Falls are the most common office accident, accounting for the greatest number of disabling injuries. The disabling injury rate of falls, among office workers, is 2 to 2.5 times higher than the rate for non-office employees. One of the most common hazards of office falls is tripping over an open desk or file drawer. Other common trip or fall hazards are bending over in an unstable chair and tripping over electric cords and wires. Also, using a chair or a stack of boxes to reach high places instead of a stepladder. Slipping on wet floors results in falls as well. Most of these hazards are preventable. Following is a checklist that can help stop a fall before it happens:
- Be sure that pathways are clear before you pass over them.
- Close drawers after every use.
- Avoid excessive bending, twisting and leaning backward while seated.
- Always use a ladder for overhead reaching.
- Pick up loose articles that coworkers may leave on the floor.
- Report loose carpeting or damaged flooring.
- Never carry articles that may block your vision.
- Wear stable shoes with non-slip soles.
STRAINS AND OVEREXERTIONS
Typically, most office jobs don't involve lifting large or heavy objects, but it is still important to use the proper lifting techniques. Stacks of files, boxes of computer paper or books can cause a real problem for your back, neck and shoulders.
Improper lifting can result in a back injury very quickly. Fortunately, with exercise, this is no longer a problem. Before you pick up an object, ask yourself if the load is too heavy, how high do I have to lift it and how far do I have to carry it? Don't try to impress folks with your ability to lift objects that are out of your control. Call your supervisor or someone to help.
STRUCK BY OR STRIKING OBJECTS
Striking against objects in an office causes many injuries. Be careful not to bump into doors, desks, file cabinets and open drawers. Watch out for other people while walking and striking open drawers while bending down or rising up.
CAUGHT IN OR BETWEEN OBJECTS
You might get fingers caught in a drawer, door or window, maybe in an office machine or in a manual paper cutter. It pays to be careful and take a little time to avoid these freak accidents.
Always take care in stacking boxes or stacking papers on high shelves and file cabinets. It's easy for them to fall and cause an injury. Try to always keep circuit boxes, walkways, and fire extinguishers free of obstructions that might hinder getting access to, or cause an injury, while moving them for entry or emergency use.
Ted Gordon is the Risk Management/Loss Control Manager for the Mississippi State University Extension Service and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. His office is located in the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center, in Verona, MS. His telephone number is 662-566-2201.