When most people think of environmental health and safety, they picture the dangers of industrial workplaces and construction sites. The office environment, however, poses its own challenges to environmental health and safety. This guide outlines the risks and safe work practices to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses in the office environment.
Types of Accidents in the Office Environment
A large percentage of workplace accidents and injuries occur in office buildings. Like shops and studios, the office requires a few preventative measures to ensure a safe and healthy work environment. Common causes of office injuries and illnesses include:
- Slipping, tripping, and falling hazards
- Burning, cutting, and pinching hazards
- Improper lifting and handling practices
- Unobservant and inattentive staff
- Improper office layout and arrangement
- Electrical wiring and appliances
- Exposure to hazardous materials
Good Housekeeping Practices
- Keep office floors neat and clean to eliminate most slipping, tripping and falling hazards.
- Ensure that office lighting is adequate. Complete 360 Work Request to replace burned out bulbs or if additional lighting is needed.
- Ensure electrical, computer and phone cords and cables do not cross walkways or otherwise pose a tripping hazard. Do not tape cords or run them underneath carpet.
- Report tripping hazards such as damaged tile and carpet immediately.
- Clean up spills immediately.
- Store items in designated storage spaces. Take care not to stack boxes too highly or tightly.
Hazardous Objects and Materials
Excluding employees authorized to carry a weapon in performance duties, employees are forbidden to possess a weapon on SAIC premises. In addition, hazardous chemical and materials should not be stored the general office area. Hazardous materials include but are not limited to the following:
- Gas Cylinders
- Any other hazardous or toxic substances
Contact the Environmental Health and Safety office for assistance in determining if your materials are hazardous and require storage.
Preventing Cuts and Puncture
Cuts and punctures happen when people use everyday office supplies without exercising care or paying attention to detail. Below are a few guidelines to reduce cuts and punctures:
- When sealing envelopes, use a liquid dispenser in lieu of your tongue.
- Be careful while using kitchen knives, scissors, staplers, letter openers, box cutters, and X-ACTO knives. Only use these items for their intended purposes.
- Avoid picking up broken glass with your bare hands. If possible, wear gloves and use a broom and dustpan or contact the IRFM helpline at 9 IRFM for assistance.
- Place used blades or broken glass in a rigid container, such as a box, before disposing of them in a wastebasket.
Preventing Equipment and Machine Accidents
Only use equipment and machines that you know how to operate. Never attempt to operate a machine that is unfamiliar without reading operating instruction or receiving directions from a qualified employee. In addition, follow these guidelines to prevent injury while operating equipment and machines:
- Do not place machines near the edge of a table or desk.
- Ensure that machines with moving parts are guarded to prevent accidents. Do not remove guards. Defective guards should be replaced.
- If defective, unplug the machine until it is serviced.
- Do not use any equipment or machinery that smokes, shocks, or appears defective in any way.
- Close hand-operated paper cutters after each used and activate the guard.
- Use caution when removing paper jams from copy machines. Remember that some parts may be hot. If you are unfamiliar with the equipment, contact CRIT for assistance.
- Avoid wearing the following items around machines with unguarded moving parts:
- Loose belts
- Long, loose hair
- Long, loose sleeves or pants
Preventing Slips, Trips, and Falls
The best way to avoid slips, trips, and falls is to pay attention to your surroundings and avoid running or rushing. To prevent injuries to others, follow these guidelines:
- Arrange office furniture in a manner that provides unobstructed areas for movement.
- Keep stairs, steps, flooring, and carpeting well maintained. Place a 360 Work Request if you notice damage to stairs, flooring, or carpeting.
- Glass doors should have some type of marking to keep people from walking through them.
- Clean up fluid spills.
- Do not place wastebaskets or other objects in egress paths and walkways.
- Close file draws immediately after use.
- Never climb on shelves and file drawers.
- Be aware of the risk of slips and falls when entering the building during inclement weather.
Preventing Physical Stress and Fatigue
To reduce physical stress on the body and prevent fatigue, take mini-breaks throughout the day. If possible, change tasks throughout the day. Stretch your arms, neck, and legs often, if you’re sitting at a desk for long periods of time. If you believe your office set-up is causing physical stress, contact Environmental Health and Safety office for an ergonomic assessment.
Office furniture other equipment
Office furniture and other equipment such as file cabinets, shelves, desks, chairs, and stepladders should also be considered as a potential source of injury and special care should be taken to avoid accidents.
Desks, file cabinets and shelves
- Secure file cabinets that are not weighted at the bottom by either bolting them to floors or walls.
- Ensure that file cabinet drawers cannot easily be pulled clear of the cabinet.
- Do not block vents with file cabinets or shelves.
- Open only one drawer at a time to keep the cabinet from toppling.
- Close cabinet and desk drawers when they are not in use.
- Secure shelves by bolting them to floors or walls.
- Place heavy objects on the bottom of shelves.
- Ensure there are at least 18 inches between top shelves and the sprinklers.
- Do not lean back in office chairs, particularly swivel chairs with rollers.
- Use a ladder in lieu of standing on a chair.
- Office chairs should be equipped with adjustable back supports and seat height. Make sure your chair back support and seat height are comfortable.
- Take care when sitting in a chair with rollers to prevent the chair from rolling out from under you when you sit down.
- Do not roll chairs over electrical cords.
Always use a ladder or step stool to reach any item above your extended arm height. Never use a makeshift device, such as a desk, file cabinet, bookshelf, or box as a substitute for a ladder.