Do you think safety tips are dry and boring? Think again! This is a fun and helpful guest post by Jay Acker, who writes and blogs for Safety Services Company, which provides safety training kits and videos, posters and other safety training materials.
From the outside, the average American office environment may seem like a gentle sanctuary of softly humming copy machines, hearty break room jokes, and majestic filing cabinets. What outsiders often don’t know, however, is that lurking beneath this warm, safe facade are dozens of hazards waiting to send office workers out in a gurney. Because we know that knowledge is the most powerful weapon against safety hazards, we’ve assembled a modest arsenal to help keep you from becoming your office’s next victim.
Trips, Slips and Falls:
Office environments are outfitted with a myriad of ways to send you tripping, slipping, or falling. The best way to prevent these sorts of injuries is to address the hazards before they have the opportunity to strike.
1. Clean up spills immediately. The water cooler area and the break room are often good places to check for any small puddles of water or coffee. If the spill is large enough to warrant a mop and bucket, make sure that you use signs to inform other workers that the floor is slippery.
2. Maintain electrical cords in a neat and orderly fashion. Twist ties are your friend; you can use them to wrap and shorten overly long cords, bundle multiple cords together, and color-code cords in the event that there are many in a group that need distinguishing. Avoid placing a piece of electrical equipment on the opposite side of a walkway from the electrical outlet. If there’s no way around it, run the cord under the carpet or a walk mat.
3. Housekeeping! There are lots of items in an office that, without proper housekeeping, can cause clutter and become tripping hazards. Keep boxes stored on shelving units (with heavier boxes stored on the bottom), garbage cans in corners or away from narrow passages, piles of papers stacked neatly, bathrooms properly cleaned, and office supplies stored properly on your desk away from edges. Keep stashes of small items like paperclips or thumb tacks in closed containers. A great tool for keeping tacks from becoming more than one kind of hazard is to stick them into a cork board. Remember that housekeeping goes beyond addressing trip/fall hazards – germs are easily spread in an office, so regularly disinfect areas commonly touched by workers’ hands, like telephones, keyboards, and doorknobs.
4. Watch out for sneaky furniture. An open filing cabinet drawer can not only send you sprawling face first, but its sharp corners or a set of keys left in the lock can cause additional bodily harm. Check that your chair hasn’t rolled away from you before you sit down.
5. Don’t be an inventor – a cleverly stacked mound of boxes is not a safe substitute for an approved ladder or step stool. If you have to remove large or heavy items from shelves that are higher up, work with a buddy to pass them down instead of trying to carry them with you as you descend.
Electricity and Fires:
1. Everyone in your office should know exactly what to do in the event of a fire. If you don’t know, ask someone who does. Locate emergency exits and escape routes and look out for the new guy in the office by informing him of their locations.
2. Remember that not all fire extinguishers are made for the same kind of fire. Most often, you will find types A and C in an office, but make sure you familiarize yourself with them in case your particular work environment poses the hazard of other kinds of ignition sources. Type A fire extinguishers are made for ordinary combustible materials such as paper, cardboard and most plastics. Type C is used to extinguish electrical fires. Know where to find and how to use the fire extinguishers in your building.
3. Don’t overload strip cords or surge protectors, and don’t leave cords tangled together. Keeping electrical cords neatly organized doesn’t just address the hazard of tripping, but reduces the hazards of shock, electrocution, and fire. Absolutely do not handle electrical equipment with wet hands.
4. If you’re using a piece of electrical equipment and it’s not functioning properly, don’t continue. Remove it from use until an authorized maintenance person has performed the necessary repairs. Faulty equipment is just a shock waiting to happen.
1. Your physical behavior and habits at work can turn into your own worst enemy if you don’t take care of yourself. Repetitive movements such as keyboarding, awkward postures and improper lifting can cause long-term or permanent damage to your body.
2. Avoid bending your hands at the wrist while typing – keep them straight. Use a keyboard wrist rest if this is hard to maintain.
3. Sit up straight in your chair (no slouching!) and directly face your computer. Keep your feet flat on the floor and pointed forward.
4. When lifting heavy objects such as equipment or boxes, use proper lifting techniques. Keep your back straight, feet apart and pointed forward, lift with your legs, and never twist while lifting. Don’t try to lift something that’s beyond your physical capabilities; asking for help is a lot less painful than a slipped disc.
An office environment can be a dangerous place if you let its safety hazards get the best of you. By being informed and training yourself to implement positive, safe behaviors and habits into your work day, you’ll be that much closer to getting home in one piece.