How safe is your office?
Are you physically and mentally safe at work?
Here are five dangers to watch out for at your office.
Offices are generally considered very low-risk workspaces.
When your job takes place behind a desk, it’s difficult to think that you might be placing yourself in danger by going to work every day.
But workplace hazards don’t always come in the form of harsh chemicals, sharp tools and high spaces.
Some threats are hard to see but can cost you a lifetime of recovery and pain if you fall victim.
Here are five of the most common dangers in your office and what you can do to avoid them.
#1: Ergonomic Injuries
When you work at a computer, you’ll likely spend many hours a day seated behind a desk.
While this may not seem like a dangerous position to work in, studies have shown that office workers are at risk of back and neck injuries, changes to posture and eye strain.
These types of hazards can be tricky to detect because they often take years to develop, but the result could be permanent damage.
Offices should provide employees with a variety of adjustable chairs, desks and keyboards to ensure every worker is seated comfortably.
- Your chair, keyboard and monitor should be positioned in a straight line;
- Seated employees must be able to maintain a relaxed, neutral posture;
- Every chair should have firm back support;
- Elbows must be able to stay at a 90-degree angle while typing;
- Keyboards and mouses should be kept close to the body to avoid reaching; and
- Your feet should be able to easily reach the ground.
By putting these practices into place, you can avoid musculoskeletal disorder symptoms.
Employees should also be encouraged to get up and walk around every hour to move their bodies and avoid straining their eyes.
#2: Eye Strain
When you spend a large part of your day looking at a computer monitor, you place yourself in danger of developing eye strain if you don’t take steps to care for yourself.
Your eyes may become dry and irritated, which can make focusing on your work difficult.
Light levels can be adjusted on computer screens, so ensure that the brightness is at a comfortable level for you.
Employers should also ensure that overall office lighting is appropriate for the work they are doing.
For example, office workers who spend their days performing manual labour may need brighter lighting, but those behind a computer do not.
If you are concerned about the lighting levels in your office, talk to your employer about bringing in an electrician to install dimmer switches throughout the office, allowing each employee to adjust the lighting according to their needs.
You can also cut down on excessive glare by installing blinds on windows to minimise screen glare.
#3: Slips, trips and falls
Most workplaces are subject to slip, trip, and fall hazards, no matter how tidy your office is.
Make sure your staff or co-workers are aware of hazards to look out for and address, these could include:
- Unattended spills;
- Wet floors;
- Exposed computer cords;
- Unstable work surfaces;
- Uneven floors;
- Loose rugs; and
- General clutter.
You and your co-workers can keep yourself out of harm by cleaning up any spills as soon as you spot them (drying the floor immediately after cleaning), keeping computer cables secured and ensuring you tidy up after yourselves.
Inform your manager immediately if you notice uneven flooring, loose rugs, or other tripping hazards that you cannot or should not repair yourself.
Outdoor spaces should also be taken into consideration – note and repair any slippery or uneven surfaces, such as uneven steps, cracked cement and paths that become slippery after rain.
#4: Fire Safety
Electrical fires are one of the most dangerous workplace place hazards to be prepared for.
If you are concerned about the threat of electrical fire in your office, talk to your employer about making a plan to engage a test and tag specialist to:
- Regularly inspect power cords for wear and tear, replacing any that are frayed or have exposed wire.
- Regularly inspect power plugs to ensure prongs are undamaged.
- Make sure power outlets are not overloaded.
- Check that space heaters are approved for commercial use and will switch off automatically if they tip over. Space heaters should not be placed near combustible materials like paper.
Your employer should also ensure that fire extinguishers and fire alarms are regularly serviced in case a fire does occur.
Emergency-exit routes should never be blocked or locked.
Has your employer trained you and your co-workers on what to do in case of a fire emergency?
If not, it’s up to you to speak up.
Talk to your boss about organising fire safety training so that every employee knows where to go in a fire situation and what they can do to help.
#5: Indoor Air Quality
Poor air quality in offices can lead to respiratory disorders such as asthma or allergies.
Some of the reasons for poor air quality are:
- Inadequate ventilation systems;
- Office overcrowding;
- Cleaning chemicals and pesticides present in the office;
- Water damage and mould growth;
- Poor office design that blocks airflow to work areas;
- Excessive humidity; and
- Unhygienic work practices.
Your office’s air quality can be greatly improved by employing regular cleaning services, regular maintenance of heating and cooling systems and allowing natural ventilation by leaving doors and windows open when appropriate.
This may mean your office will need to have security doors and windows installed to ensure employees are safe from intruders.
By improving the office’s air quality, employees will benefit from a reduced risk of respiratory irritants, infections, and illnesses.
It is also essential to prevent dust, pollen and dirt build-up on all surfaces, especially carpets.
But as an employee, the most important thing you can do is ensure that you keep break rooms and kitchen areas clean and always throw away food before it spoils.
It may seem strange to consider your office workplace hazardous, but the dangers faced by office workers can have just as detrimental an effect as those faced by labour-intensive employees.
Keep yourself safe in your workspace by keeping an eye out for dangers and speaking up if you feel unsafe.
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