Other than hurt feelings from a bad performance review, is it really very likely that you’ll get injured at the office? After all, most office workers sit in cushy chairs and type on computers all day, right? Wrong. As a matter of fact, thousands of office workers are injured on the job each year, sometimes severely. To help you put together an office safety checklist and promote ergonomic injury prevention at your company, let’s look at the top 5 office injuries and how to avoid them.
Slips, trips and falls.
Slips, trips and falls are always some of the top office injuries. These include falls to the same level (such as slipping on spilled water) or falls to a lower level (such as falling down stairs or off of a step stool).
How to avoid taking a spill:
- Make sure aisles, sidewalks and halls are kept clear, especially of cords and wires
- Don’t leave cabinet drawers open
- Avoid leaning way back in your chair and excessive twisting
- Never substitute a chair for a ladder when reaching overhead
- Clean up spills as soon as they occur
- Tell maintenance about loose carpeting or damaged flooring
- Don’t carry loads that obscure your vision
Work-related musculoskeletal disorders, also known as ergonomic injuries, generally occur in one of two ways. They’re either the result of a repetitive motion or a poorly set up desk. That’s why setting up employee workstations correctly is a great start to ergonomic injury prevention.
How to set up a workstation properly:
- Adjust the chair so that your feet are flat on the floor, your thighs are horizontal and your back is supported by the back of the chair
- Make sure your forearms rest on the chair’s arms at a 90 degree angle
- Place the keyboard so that your fingers rest on the home row when your arm is resting at a 90 degree angle at your side
- Keep the mouse next to the keyboard and have your wrist in a comfortable position close to your body
- Put the top of the monitor at eye level using a stand
- Use a document holder for reference materials and put it right next to the monitor
Strains and overexertion
Usually, a strain happens when you try to (1) lift too heavy of a load (2) twist when lifting or (3) lift improperly. And, as anyone who has ever had a back injury can attest, once your back is hurt it’s debilitating.
How to lift correctly:
- Stand with your feet at shoulder width and squat close to the load
- Keep your back straight and tuck in your chin so your head and neck make a straight line
- Hold the object close to you while lifting, keeping your elbows near your body
- Lift by straightening your legs, not by straightening your back
- Be sure to lift straight up, never twist when lifting
- Don’t walk with the load if it obscures your vision
- Set the load down the same way you picked it up
Being struck by objects
It sounds a little strange. But the reality is that bumping into an object—like a door or open file drawer—is one of the top 5 office injuries. Poorly stored items that fall off of shelves and onto people fit into this category as well. Add these commonsense strategies to your office safety checklist and keep everyone safe.
How to avoid objects:
- Know where you’re walking at all times
- Close drawers
- Keep your workspace free of clutter
- Don’t walk with loads that obscure your vision
Injuries from fire.
Here’s a sobering fact: The National Fire Protection Association estimates that U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 3,340 office fires per year from 2007 to 2011. Those fires caused an average of four civilian deaths and 44 civilian fire injuries each year.
How to prevent fire-related injuries:
- Conduct routine inspections, especially of electrical outlets and high-risk areas like break rooms
- Keep cords in good repair
- Inspect space heaters
- Never block fire sprinklers
- Don’t block escape routes or fire doors
From fire safety to ergonomic injury prevention, education and awareness are vital to limiting office injuries. So use this list of top office injuries to write an office safety checklist and share it with co-workers. After all, the person you save just might be yourself.