Facility Dude

Maintaining a Safe Office Environment

By Mary Beth Ormiston
Oct 05, 2015

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people in a conference room Injuries are frequent occurrences in YMCA facilities! We generally overlook, however, a site with many potential dangers that can cause severe injuries if not addressed-the office and individual workstations. Opportunities for injury to staff are numerous-ergonomic inadequacies, trip hazards, electrical exposures, storage practices, health issues, and more abound.  Employees can and do injure themselves in an amazing variety of ways involving routine tasks or common fixtures. Some of the potential causes of office injury are identified below:

Cabinet Dangers

Cabinets are found in most offices and are one of the leading causes of office injuries. Putting heavy items in upper drawers, opening a drawer too far, or opening multiple drawers at the same time can cause cabinets, especially taller ones, to tip or fall. Leaving drawers open creates trip hazards, sometimes even for the one who left it open. Caution staff to open only one drawer at a time and to close it immediately after retrieving what they sought. Taller cabinets should be anchored to the wall, floor, or one another to reduce the potential for tipping and falling. Also, give some thought to how you place items cabinets-heavy things go at the bottom.

Electrical Hazards

Today’s office space is filled with gadgets, most of which require electrical current. All of these wires and plugs can create several hazards-one if a rat’s-nest of wires and cables; another is fire danger if too many are connected to the same outlet (e.g., via a power strip); a third is loss of data-not any injury, but an important loss to avoid. Reduce the potential for loss and injury by using separate outlets whenever possible, unplugging devices not actively in use, and gathering and securing the cords-they should go down the back of the desk, never up the front of through the space where feet are normally positioned. Eliminate the extension cords and always use a cord channel when cords must cross area where people walk.

An extension cord poses more than just trip hazards-if not rated for the energy demanded by all the devices it feeds, a significant fire hazard exists. If one is used with a power strip strips that have internal overload protection should be used whether with an extension cord or not.
Because a small fire in an office environment can quickly grow, your local fire department is usually happy to conduct a safety inspection to help you identify your facility’s fire sources.

Storage Perils

Clear aisles and exit pathways are essential at all times and are critical in the event of fire or other emergency. Boxes or other materials sitting in aisles or exit pathways pose a hazard and should not be left there even temporarily. Electrical panels and fire sprinkler controls need to be clear at all times. Sprinkler heads are another part of the fire system that need to be unobstructed-to function properly they need to be 18” above that which they are to protect. Material handling is not frequently considered in the office environment, but it exists in storage areas as well as at the individual workstations. Position bulky and heavy things low, but up off of the floor. Any items stored above shoulder level should be light and infrequently accessed.

Ergonomic Pitfalls

Eye strain irritation can result from improper illumination levels, from in inadequate or excessive illumination sources, and from excessive or improper computer monitor exposure. Make certain that the lighting level is neither too dim nor too bright to see comfortably.

For office workers a good chair is crucial-it should fit them, they not have to fit it. An appropriate chair for this environment should be adequately padded and have wheels that are set on a least a pentagonal base for stability. If the floor is carpeted, a rigid mat should provide a smooth surface to allow ease of movement.

The keyboard should be lower than normal desk height and should have a wrist pad. Laptops used in the office should always have a docking station and a separate keyboard. A larger separate monitor is also beneficial, as is an ergonomic mouse, but you have to provide right-and left-handed versions.

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