Almost every industry involves some office work, and most jobs require the use of a computer. Sometimes, people may have to work outside of business hours or finish their tasks from home using their laptops, tablets, or mobile phones. Like any workplace environment, office work may also come with health and safety hazards.
Many basic things can go a long way towards achieving a safer office environment, such as good communication and ensuring that everything is set up well before working. Here are some of the most common health and safety hazards in office environments.
What is Health and Safety at Work?
Health and Safety generally cover the legal requirements under the Health Safety at Work Act. The term Health and Safety refers to Occupational Health and Safety, which details the prevention of accidents and ill health to employees or anyone who could be at risk at their workplace. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act and other pieces of legislation made under it, both employers and employees have responsibilities.
Workplace health and safety is about sensibly managing risks to keep the business and employees protected. Proper health and safety management is characterized by strong leadership that involves suppliers, workers, contractors, and consumers. From a global perspective, health and safety are essential for achieving sustainable development.
It’s morally right to ensure that your employees are safe at work at all times. Keeping your workers productive can also benefit you in many ways. Absences will decrease, resulting in a more efficient and productive workplace. Research shows that employees are more motivated to work if their employers are committed to health and safety.
Slips, Trips, and Falls
Some of the most common hazards in office environments are slips, trips, and falls. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), they make up around 30% of all office injuries. Many things could cause an employee to trip or fall, which include loose flooring, exposed wires, and cluttered areas.
Employers can refer to HSE’s checklist for spotting potential hazards for slips and trips. The list is very helpful in identifying potential risks and how to address them. If there are any exposed cables, they should be secured. Cables should have visible markings if they are installed across the walkways to prevent someone from tripping over them. More importantly, workspaces must be kept clean. Remove any object that obstructs the way.
Slips commonly happen due to spillages and slip-prone floor surfaces. Accidental spillage must be cleared immediately, and if the floor is wet, there should be visible signs to warn others.
Ergonomic injuries are common in any industry, although some workplaces are more at risk. Preventing these work-related medical conditions starts by being aware of some of the most common ergonomic issues and their causes.
Sitting at the office for several hours a day may sound safe for most people, but there’s a growing awareness that it could lead to strains and other injuries, especially if not sitting correctly. Thankfully, various types of ergonomic equipment can help to prevent these injuries. These include office chairs, desks, computer keyboards, etc. Employers should provide proper training or guidance to employees regarding correct postures, such as sitting straight and ensuring they are positioned in a straight line with their monitor, keyboard, and chair.
Prolonged repetitive tasks are also some of the most common ergonomic problems in the workplace. It refers to using the same joints and muscles in doing similar tasks over and over again, which could lead to fatigue and possible injuries. Employers should find ways to avoid repetitive tasks or at least minimize them. They can invest in machinery that can perform repetitive tasks on behalf of their employees.
Fire safety is essential in any workplace environment. And although fires are not necessarily common in the office setting, fire can have disastrous consequences. Therefore, companies must take precautions seriously, regardless of the industry they belong to. These precautions include inspecting all power cords and ensuring they are in good condition. Power outlets should not be overloaded, and electric heaters should be closely monitored.
Every facility must adhere to established fire codes and conduct a thorough assessment to identify potential fire hazards. Above all, every employee should have an extensive understanding of the proper use of fire suppression equipment and must put in place a comprehensive emergency plan. Through training and presentation, employers can help mitigate the risk of a fire breaking out on their business premises.
It is also essential for companies to install emergency lighting and that all employees should be aware of where the fire extinguishers are installed and the nearest fire exit. Emergency exits must be kept clear at all times.
How to Avoid Hazards
Effective training is the best way to avoid hazards in office environments. More than two hundred people are killed annually due to workplace accidents, while over a million end up with injuries. Thus, preventing accidents at work should be a key priority for all employers. One way to do this is by making employees undergo health and safety courses which can be accessed online. Remember that employees are the most valuable resource of your business, and you need them to be successful.
Risks are all over the place, whether in a busy construction site or a quiet office. All workplaces have unique hazards. While it’s true that offices look safer than construction sites, threats like tripping, falling, and slipping, not to mention unsecured equipment, can cause significant risks to workplace safety. All these are potential issues that businesses should be aware of.
Employers should not be complacent when it comes to health and safety. Remember, no workplace is a hundred percent safe. Health and safety should be an ongoing process. Aside from identifying and monitoring risks associated with the workplace, employers must provide proper training to keep employees safe. Health and safety training should not be treated as an afterthought but as a logical step to ensure proper, ethical, and productive business standards.