When you think of environments and physical danger, office spaces probably aren't first on the list. Believe it or not, these seemingly cushy places of work are the scene of millions of injuries each year.
Whether it's from slipping on wet floors, falling off chairs, or being struck by falling objects, office workers take a hit (pun intended) by going to their jobs each day. Working in an office needn't mean certain injury, though. There are steps that can be taken to help reduce the instance of bodily harm in the office.
Keep walkways clear
Falling is the most common office accident, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among the most common fall causes: tripping over loose cables or wires, low open drawers, or items left in walkways. So keep any areas where people walk or stand clear. Remind people to close drawers -- in their own cubicles and offices, but especially in common areas such as the kitchen, printer-and-fax areas, and the like.
Go ergonomic and encourage movement
Not all workplace-related injuries happen with a sudden crash. Some take weeks, months, or even years to build before they become apparent. Among these are musculoskeletal disorders (think tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome). Known collectively as MSDs for short, these injuries are estimated to cost businesses tens of billions of dollars each year, according to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.
Luckily, prophylactic measures are effective, and one of the best such measures is ergonomic office furniture. If you don't already have them, ergonomic office chairs -- which can be surprisingly affordable -- can help reduce lower back pain, the most common office-worker complaint. Height-adjustable desks (also available at multiple price points) allow workers to stand while working, reducing the strain on the lower back.
Discourage on-the-job injuries even further by getting workers to exercise. After all, the more fit you are, the better able you are to keep your muscles strain-free. Try offering a free monthly at-lunch yoga session in a conference room. Hold walking meetings. Offer paid exercise time during the week. The options are many.
Don't allow clutter
Clutter, such as bags, shoes, boxes, and paperwork can create tripping hazards, even if they're in your 'personal' space. Reduce the risk of stepping into the strap of your purse and sending yourself flying into your computer monitor, or backing into a box of old files and coming down, hard, on your rear end, by ensuring that everything gets put away as soon as you're done using it. Finished your research with that pile of binders? Resist the temptation to create a giant Jenga-like tower on the edge of your desk -- put them back on the shelf immediately. That email you just got will wait while you do.
Put down rugs
A common reason for office falls? Slipping, which happens more frequently in wet weather (when people in track rain, ice, and snow on their shoes). Reduce the likelihood of people falling when it rains, sleets, or snows by putting down carpeting or other temporary, non-skid surfaces wherever you have slippery-when-wet floors. Make sure the carpeting or rubber matting you use lies flat, or it will create its own hazard.
Get a ladder
Another common cause of falls in the office? Standing on an unstable chair (often a wheeled office chair). Buy and place around the office several cost-effective safety step ladders, and you will make it less likely that your team will reach for their desk seat the next time they need something off the highest shelf in the supply room.
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