Health and safety isn’t all hard hats and hi-vis vests. This might be what industry places most focus upon, as construction sites and the likes post obvious dangers and hazards, but those who work in an office environment face a different set of risks.

For example, in the States, RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) is responsible for a 3rd of sick days. Employers should realise that it is in their best interest to look after their employee's health.

Office safety shouldn’t be seen as an afterthought. Here is why:

  • The Institute of Medicine estimates the economic burden of Workplace Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD’s – as measured by compensation costs, lost wages and lost productivity – at between $45 and $54 billion annually.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics studies shows that one in three of all occupational injuries and illnesses are due to overexertion or repetitive motion.
  • Focusing on Increased ergonomics oriented awareness, training, and hazard reduction will reduce injuries, lost work time, and associated costs.

Organisations that invest in ergonomic measures to prevent MSD related injuries benefit from reducing worker injuries, improving office safety, reducing lost work time, and lowering insurance premiums and medical costs.

When designing training for employees or new starters, the workplace/station must be first analysed and tailored as much as possible to the specific individual. Part of the induction process should involve a review of their health records, and a job-role analysis to see if any potential hazards could affect any existing or recurring injuries.

Keep inductees involved in the process, as it is the person being inducted who will have the best insight as to what could cause them problems.

 For example:

  • Have staff demonstrate the actions that involve repetition or difficult and static positions.
  • Try to indicate how these could be avoided through alternative behaviour
  • Look for employees’ suggestions as to how to improve the situation, perhaps with different furniture or equipment to improve office safety. This can be done through regular employee feedback and suggestions.

Stress In The Office

Workplace stress is a real problem. Health and Safety at work reported that stress is the most common workplace illness. At some point, nearly everyone complains about being stressed or feeling anxious. Stress has been shown to have serious medical implications with it being linked as a contributing factor to various ailments such as heart problems, Alzheimer’s disease, and Diabetes.

As more research is carried out into mental health, it is becoming more apparent that stress is a serious issue, and a healthy work environment can aid in the reduction of stress.

Why employers you should take office health and safety seriously

  • Stress results in absenteeism, poor work performance, and additional healthcare costs.
  • 25%-40% of workers will face high levels of workplace stress at some point during their work lives.
  • The average amount of time taken by employees when they are experiencing stress-related problems is 4 working weeks.

Common conditions & side effects brought on by work-based stress include:

  • Stomach pains
  • Migraine or headaches
  • Sleep difficulties / insomnia
  • Lack of focus or attention
  • Hypertension
  • Depression

The general level of workplace health and safety can be impacted when there are people on site who are suffering from stress. A person suffering from stress is more prone to making mistakes, which can lead to accidents and injuries.

Housekeeping

Office workers should show good housekeeping practices in work. Failure to do so can result in work-based accidents and health and safety issues:

  • Poor housekeeping can lead to many forms of food poisoning
  • Poor housekeeping generally indicates a lack of safety culture
  • Ensuring good housekeeping practices makes employees aware of hazards.

Encouraging employees to follow good housekeeping practices isn’t only about being neat, clean, and considerate of others – it’s also a serious safety issue. Here are just a few of the hazards that come from poor housekeeping:

  • Fires can start from lack of housekeeping to do with paper, wood, flammable materials and so on that are not properly stored or removed
  • Wet floors or slippy ground can often lead to slips
  • All hallways and passageways and all worksites should be kept free from unnecessary materials as they can lead to trips and falls
  • Sharp objects or edges can easily result in lacerations and punctures
  • Tools are a common form of injury in the workplace and poor housekeeping around storing these items only contributes to the problem
  • Falling objects also injury many workers every year and should be protected against with simple housekeeping rules around unguarded heights

Whilst traditional health and safety among hard-hat workers is considered “the norm” – office-based health and safety should not be neglected. The hazards in an office might not seem, at first glance, as obvious or as dangerous, as a construction site – but accidents can cause injuries and loss of work time.

By planning and implementing an effective office safety programme, you can prepare your employees to work in a safe environment.


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