Health and Safety in 25 Step for an Office
It may be a common misconception that health and safety is only paramount in workplaces where there is interaction with manual labour and heavy machinery and not an office.
However, office health and safety are as crucial as in any other workplace, in addition to being dictated by the Occupational Health and Safety Act, which holds employers responsible for the health and safety of employees, contractors and visitors to the premises.
Even though office work, where work tasks are conducted while sitting in a chair in an office building that is climate-controlled, can present a surprising number of hazards.
There are numerous on-the-job injuries that occur in office and administrative industries, which could have been avoided if the risks were identified and if simple workplace modifications were implemented to mitigate them.
Falls are statistically one of the most common sources of injuries in an office. However, there are also cases where employees are injured by being struck by, or against, objects, and suffering ergonomic injuries due to the nature of their work.
By implementing simple changes to the workplace, measures can be effective in increasing office health and safety, minimizing, and even eliminating, hazards, which will greatly reduce the number of injuries.
Great use can be made of administrative interventions including scheduled walkthroughs as well as establishing a formal reporting system. This can greatly assist in protecting employees in an office environment.
1. Create a clutter-free environment
Items such as boxes, files, and various others which are piled along walkways create tripping hazards as according to the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
Therefore, walkways need to remain free of obstacles. All materials must be safely stored in an appropriate location to prevent clutter along walkways. In addition, stretching electrical cords across walkways or under rugs poses a tripping hazard, which can be avoided by properly securing and covering electrical cords.
2. Ensure stepladders are available
In a rush, people often use chairs or other surfaces to stand on. Rolling office chairs are a particular danger. Standing on any surface, which is not intended for such purposes, poses a fall hazard.
There must be a stepladder available for the appropriate purposes and all employees must be informed on the correct and safe use of a stepladder.
3. Ensure a clear line of vision
In an office environment, employees are inclined to collide when making turns around hallways and blind corners or cubicle walls. The easiest way to prevent this is by installing convex mirrors at intersections, improving office health and safety, and making it easy for employees to see whether someone is approaching a corner.
4. Making floor safer and avoiding slip hazards
Marble and tiles are common in an office environment. These surfaces can become slippery at times, especially when they are wet. Slip hazards can be prevented either by making use of carpeting or other skid-resistant measures.
In addition, placing carpeting at entrances allows employees and visitors to dry wet shoes before stepping into the building, further reducing slip hazards. When floors are washed, there must be visible signage to warn employees not to walk in the particular area until it is dry.
5. Shutting drawers
File cabinets that have drawers that are fully extended may tip over should they not be properly secured. Open drawers in cabinets and desk can also pose a tripping hazard or the risk that someone may walk into them, and thus they must be closed immediately after having been in use.
6. Safe Stacking
The appropriate and safe stacking of heavy objects is known to improve office health and safety as well as reduce the number of office injuries. Large stacks of material, as well as heavy equipment, may lead to injuries when they are knocked over.
It is for this reason that heavy objects must be stored close to the floor, at a safe height, and the load capacity of shelves and storage units must not be exceeded.
7. Provision of adjustable equipment
The general concept that “one size fits all” cannot be applied in an office environment. The office must be equipped with equipment that can be adjusted to individual users. This includes chairs, work surfaces, monitor stands, and numerous others.
In providing this, employers can ensure not only a healthy and safer office but prevent and even eliminate ergonomic factors and injuries.
A lot of employers may be reluctant to pay for expensive equipment but it has been proven that in providing adjustable equipment is more cost-effective when weighed against medical bills.
8. Provide adequate training on equipment use
This is an imperative step which can reduce injuries as well as equipment damage. By training employees on how to use various equipment, ensures office health and safety and extends the life on the equipment.
9. Always keep your feet firmly on the floor
Another safety and ergonomic issue which can be avoided, is to ensure that, when employees sit at their desk, their feet firmly touch the floor. This allows the chair to provide the support that is intended and eliminates a fall hazard.
10. The provision of document holders
There is a lot of neck strain which is caused when employees look down to the desk and back to their computer monitor, with a lot of employees not even aware of this.
This can be avoided by providing document holders which sit close to the monitor and prevents the employee from having to continuously look down and back up.
11. Correct placement of the mouse
Although most work computers are in the form of laptops, a lot of offices still make use of desktop computers which use a mouse. It is imperative to ensure that the placement of the mouse is in such a way that it can be accessed without straining the employee’s neck or shoulder.
12. Make use of task lamps and dim main lights
In most cases, office buildings have fluorescent lights and these tend to be too bright to achieve optimal vision. It is recommended that light is at half-normal levels and that individual task lamps be provided instead of using overall lighting.
13. Correct positioning of monitors and laptop screens
Whether employees are making use of desktop computers, laptops on their desk, or laptops on a stand, it is recommended that monitors and screens be below eye level to avoid straining eyes and the neck.
14. Minimize screen glare
Screen glare is one of the predominant causes of eyestrain in an office environment. To minimize this, employees must avoid positioning monitors or laptops opposite open windows, and be sure to make use of shades, curtains, or blinds. Use can also be made of a glare reduction filter.
15. Wear the right glasses
Employees who visit their optometrist must indicate whether they spend a large portion of their day conducting computer work. The optometrist can inspect the efficiency of vision at the recommended distance and height.
There are glasses that are available for use when working with a computer for a greater part of the day, allowing the user to see their screen perfectly without having to strain their eyes or neck.
16. Increase font size
Writing which is in smaller font sizes on a computer screen can lead to employees having to strain their eyes and neck as they lean in to read frequently, or by keeping their neck and head extended towards the screen.
This can be eliminated by ensuring that font sizes are adjusted to a size that is easier to read from a safe distance.
17. Take a break
Employees must ensure that they take frequent breaks, give their eyes a rest and allowing their eyes to focus on something at varying distances to help reduce any strain and fatigue.
18. Cords must be kept in good repair
All damaged and underground power cords are a substantial fire hazard along with it violating several safety codes. Cords must be inspected regularly for signs of wear. Should they show any, they must be taken out of service.
In addition, should the third prong be damaged or removed, the cord must not be used and cords must not overload outlets. Following such simple steps can increase office health and safety and prevent incidents and injuries from occurring.
19. Ensure to inspect space heaters
Should any of the employees make use of space heaters during the wintertime, they must first be verified by checking whether they have been approved for commercial use.
In addition, they must have a switch that shuts the heater off should the heater be tipped over. Heaters must be placed in well-ventilated area and kept away from other electronics and combustible material such as paper.
20. Ensure fire sprinklers are not blocked
Fire sprinklers must be clear of stacked furniture and tall stacks of materials or it will greatly reduce their effectiveness.
21. Escape routes must be kept clear, never prop open fire doors
Escape routes are not allowed to be obstructed by any materials and fire doors are not allowed to be held open by any unapproved means.
22. Walkthroughs must be done regularly
By walking around the office environment and doing frequent checks, office health and safety can be increased along with efficient hazard recognition as well as maintenance of ergonomic task design.
23. Monitoring of signs of musculoskeletal disorders
In monitoring this, employees can be alerted and make the necessary ergonomic alterations to their workstations.
24. Discuss employee concerns
Ensure a safe and open platform for employees to discuss office health and safety issues and concerns. This can help in identifying hazards faster and lead to resolving issues more promptly before they become larger issues.
25. Establish a reporting system for employees
Establishing a reporting system where employees can report hazards, risks, and/or incidents will help the organization in handling potential hazards more efficiently.
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