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Learn how to identify and address commonly overlooked hazards around your office so you can help reduce the occurrence of workplace injuries and illnesses.
There is a wealth of information available regarding ergonomics in the workplace, and the importance of organizing a workstation to fit the worker. This information is valuable in the prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders or MSD’s. Yet, many common hazards are often overlooked, and continue to cause workplace injuries and illnesses. Walking through your office to identify and address the following commonly overlooked hazards can reduce the occurrence of a workplace injury and illnesses.
leanliness and orderliness are possibly the most important measures when it comes to injury and illness prevention in the office environment. Cleanliness and orderliness are also two of the best measures for office fire prevention.
All walking and working surfaces should be free of obstacles, and have proper clearances. Walkways are common collection points for waste containers, boxes, file carts and other materials that can cause slips, trips and falls. Training personnel to maintain clear walkways is essential in injury prevention, and assures a safe egress in the event of an emergency.
Waste containers should be emptied at least daily, or as often as needed to prevent overflow. This reduces both the accumulation of combustible materials and hazards related to slips, trips, and falls. Waste containers should be located away from heat and ignition sources. This is a common hazard where personal heaters are used at workstations. Storage shelving and cabinets should be kept neat, and materials stacked to prevent tip-over.
File drawers, desk drawers and cabinet doors should be kept closed at all times. Drawers and doors that have been left open are often the cause of a workplace trip and fall injury.
Many people are affected by poor air quality and contaminants. Reducing the accumulation of dusts, pollens, dirt, and other build up on all surfaces, especially in carpeting, reduces respiratory irritants, infections, and illnesses.
Cleanliness and orderliness may also prevent the spread of illnesses and diseases in the workplace. Restrooms, break rooms, lunch areas, refrigerators, containers, serving ware, and utensils must be regularly sanitized. This will help to prevent bacteria growth, mold, and the attraction of insects. Food items must be discarded when the “Use-by” date expires, or whenever found to be spoiled. It is important that personnel remove their food items frequently, and prior to spoiling.
Common colds, flues, and even diseases can spread quickly through an office when proper hygiene is not practiced. Personnel need to be instructed in good hygiene practices, when and how to wash their hands, and how to reduce the spread of illnesses and diseases. The availability of proper hand washing facilities, anti bacterial soap and single use hand towels will greatly reduce the spread of illnesses and diseases in the office environment. Posting good hygiene practices is a great way to reinforce the importance of good hygiene.
Proper maintenance can also reduce injuries and illnesses. Maintaining the office building can reduce hazards such as damaged flooring, electrical problems and structural concerns.
Hazard awareness training will help personnel identify workplace hazards and those hazards can be eliminated before an injury or illness occurs.Routine maintenance of the building’s ventilation, heating and air conditioning system is another important component in illness prevention. The office’s air quality can be greatly improved by proper maintenance, cleaning and filtration of the ventilation, heating and air conditioning system. This will help reduce respiratory irritants, infections and illnesses.
Along with the previously mentioned preventative measures, the reduction of other common office hazards is essential in the prevention of workplace injuries and illnesses. Hazards such as sharp edges on desks, unprotected corners on overhead cabinets and unsecured shelving and cabinets can be factors in workplace injuries.
Clean up all spills immediately and post signs identifying hazards in areas that are being cleaned, or that have recently been cleaned of a spill. Post signs identifying hazards in areas prone to water accumulation and wet surfaces at interior and exterior building locations. Non-slip runners or rugs may be used in these areas to reduce the hazards of slips, trips and falls.
Transitions between different walking surfaces must be constructed as to be free of edges that may cause a person to trip and fall. Use non-slip materials on steps and ramps on both interior and exterior egress. Use ice melting products during winter months on exterior steps, ramps, walkways and at entry and exit areas. This can greatly reduce the hazards of slips, trips and falls due to wet or icy conditions.
Electrical cords are also a commonly overlooked trip and fall hazard. To reduce these hazards, cords should be strung out of foot traffic areas. To reduce fire hazards, cords should never be strung through combustible materials or beneath rugs or carpeting. Extension cords are not intended as a permanent power source, so having a licensed electrician install additional permanent power sources will help reduce injuries and fire hazards in your office.
May 30, 2012
Author: Jary D Winstead
Work Safety Services, LLC.
This article provides general information, and is not intended to be personalized legal or medical advice; please consult with your own advisor and review local/state/federal regulatory guidelines and requirements if you have any questions.