Safety is not a common concern for a typical office worker because the office is not perceived as a hazardous working environment. However, recent changes in office technology and automation of office equipments introduced many hazards that cause thousands of injuries and health problems each year among office workers.
In addition to obvious hazards such as a slippery floor or an open file drawer, modern offices may also contain hazards such as poor lighting, noise, poorly designed furniture and equipments, and machines which emit toxic gases and fumes. Even the nature of office work itself has produced a whole host of stress-related symptoms and musculoskeletal strains.
Common Office Safety and Health Hazards
Adequate ventilation and indoor air quality is very important in keeping your office a healthy and pleasant place to work. Inadequate ventilation and poor quality air can irritate eyes, skin, nose and throat. It can also cause mental fatigue, headaches, a stuffy nose, and other flu-like symptoms.
Common sources of indoor air contaminants are: biological (such as fungi, moulds, bacteria or viruses) or chemical (such as fumes from new furniture or solvents). Microbiological contamination often result from water damaged carpets or furnishings and inadequately maintained dehumidifiers, air-conditioning and ventilation systems. Walls, carpets and furnishings can emit formaldehyde while photocopier toner and cigarette smoke and ash particles can become airborne and contaminate the indoor air.
Lighting problems in the office cause: glare, shadows and visual problems such as eyestrain, fatigue and double-vision. Poor lighting also can be a contributing factor in accidents.
Controls to prevent poor office lighting conditions include: regular maintenance of the lighting system, light-colored dull finish on walls, ceilings, and floors to reduce glare, adjustable shades on windows and indirect or diffused lighting.
In an office, workers can be subjected to many noise sources, such as: computer terminals, printers, telephones, human voice and external sources. Noise can produce tension and stress, as well as damage to hearing.
Some of the numerous measures available to control unwanted noise include: placing noisy machines in an enclosed space, use carpeting, draperies, and acoustic ceiling tiles to soften noise, adjust telephone volume, and rearrange traffic routes within the office to reduce traffic within and between work areas.
Electrical equipment used in an office is potentially hazardous and can cause serious shock and burn injuries if improperly used or maintained. Types of electrical hazards found in an office environment include the following: overloaded outlets, improper placement of electrical cords and live unguarded parts.
Controls to avoid electrical hazards in the workplace include: limiting the use of extension cords to temporary installation, avoid running extension cords under carpets or floor mats, avoid overloading electrical sockets and outlets, switch off equipments before pulling out the plug and have your electrical system regularly check by qualified technicians.
A badly positioned workstation may not only make the user unproductive, it also causes discomfort, eyestrain, headache, stiff neck and shoulders and backache.
The monitor should be placed directly in front of the user to optimize visual range of 30 degrees in any direction. The screen should be 46 to 60 centimeters away from the user's eyes. The top of the monitor should be at the eye level and the keyboard should be directly in front of the user. The user's elbows should be at 90 degrees angle and the back of the keyboard should be slightly elevated to allow the user's wrists to be in a neutral position. The monitor screen should be positioned at right angle to the window to avoid glare.
Slip occurs when there is too little friction between the person's feet and the walking surface. Oil, water cleaning fluids and other slippery substance on the floor are among the leading causes of slipping incidents. Loose unanchored rugs and mats, inappropriate flooring and improper footwear also causes slips.
Trip occur when a person's foot contacts an object and the person are thrown off balance. An object that projects into the walkway, uneven walkway, poor lighting and unsecured extension wires are among the main causes of tripping incidents in the workplace.
Falling incident happens when a person looses balance and drops to the floor or to a lower elevation. Slips and trips frequently results to a falling incident. Improper use of ladder or scaffolding, climbing to higher elevation without fall protection equipment and unsecured openings on the walkways usually results to a fall.
If something is creating a potential slip, trip, or fall hazard fix it, clean it up or move it. If you can't fix it, place a work order so that maintenance would be aware of the problem and do housekeeping regularly. Arrange and organize your workplace before starting work and before leaving in the afternoon.