If you work at a closed, controlled, and comfortable office, it may come off as a surprise to you that you, too, may potentially be exposed to workplace hazards. Workplace hazards are not always toxic fumes or acidic chemicals for miners or people working in large manufacturing plants. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are thousands of reported accidents and injuries at offices every year. While you may not have to dodge a forklift while getting your morning coffee, office workers need to be aware of safety hazards, too.
The first step in preventing hazards at workplaces is awareness. This awareness does not just extend to becoming aware of your surroundings but also the hazards that you may be exposed to. This way, you may eliminate the chances of an injury occurring.
The core job of HR management in most industrial and commercial office settings is to identify these hazards and offer plausible solutions. While some of these office accidents may be as minor as tripping or falling over a wet surface, others may include extreme noise hazards, electrical hazards, improper indoor air ventilation, and random acts of violence.
Ranging from ergonomic injuries to fire hazards, this article covers the 5 most common workplace hazards and suitable ways to prevent them.
Many people wonder how sitting at a desk for most of their day would lead to injuries. Well, our bodies require regular motion and the use of both upper and lower limbs to prevent muscle strain or spasms. With many people working tirelessly hunched over their laptops for hours on end, there is a fair increase in posture and spinal injuries. While this workplace hazard is most difficult to detect in its early stages, multiple steps could be taken to prevent its occurrence in the first place.
Make sure you stand up, stretch, and move around for a while after every 20 minutes of being seated in one position. If you have trouble keeping a track of time, set reminders on your phone for every 20 to 30 minutes. In the modern world, many of us own smartwatches, which remind you to stand up and move around if you have been sitting for longer than half an hour.
When shopping for a computer/office chair, always prioritize your health and comfort. Do not worry about spending a great deal on the best quality chair as it is an investment that will go a long way!
Other tips to keep in mind when working for continuous hours hunched over your laptop include:
- Adjust the seat of the chair in a way that your feet touch the ground firmly and your back is aligned with the backrest
- Align the mouse and keyboard beside one another in a way that you do not have to reach out to grab either of them
- Keep your elbows at a 90-degree angle when typing
- Maintain a relaxed and neutral position
Additionally, if you are working from home on most days, invest in a standing desk so you do not have to sit in one position throughout the day.
With technology being mankind’s best friend in the modern age, everybody seems to be spending most of their time on gadgets. Computers and laptops are most common in office settings. Workplaces nowadays even tend to conduct large-scale business meetings via an LED screen.
This coupled with increased phone usage by the employees in their free time causes irritation and dryness in their eyes. Early symptoms of eye strain may also include redness of the eyes, a constant headache, and trouble focusing.
The best way to prevent your eyes from straining when looking at the computer screen is to adjust the brightness. With technological advancements, you can now easily switch between brightness levels and choose a yellow hue to prevent excessive straining.
Workplaces that involve every person in the room to use computers or laptops should have relatively dimmer lighting than those places that require manual labor. Cutting down on the excessive glare caused by bright, white lights and daylight through large windows helps alleviate eye strain.
Furthermore, if you wear prescription glasses or think that there is a high risk of your eyes straining, we suggest using glasses with a blue-light filter. Other ways to reduce eye strain include increasing the computer font and positioning the monitors slightly below eye level.
Fire and Electrical Safety
The construction industry is at an equal risk of fire and electrical hazards. Industries spend billions of dollars to recover from almost fatal accidents involving fire and/or electricity every year. Fire and electrical hazards can cause a scene at practically any workplace.
If you have an industrial plant, you likely have electrically conductive materials or those that catch fire easily lying around. Where a small spark could lead to massive fires, electric hazards could also be as minor as a mediocre electric shock or a large power breakdown.
While anyone could be at risk of a fire or electrical hazard, usually people whose daily jobs involve direct exposure to either of these are at a greater risk. According to a survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2013, 148 workplaces were involved in fire and explosion accidents that year.
Offices with lunchrooms that have microwaves or other electrical equipment may blow up due to voltage fluctuations and result in a fire. Similarly, wiring issues in wall sockets or extensions put its users at risk of electrocution.
The first step to the prevention of both fire and electrical hazards is to ensure that the higher bodies approve the machines, motors, and other tools for commercial use. Placing space heaters in a safe space away from conductive or combustive materials, such as paper, is also a means to prevent hazards at your workplace.
Portable fire extinguishers with clear instructions written on them should be placed in every office or work area. Furthermore, frequent drills should be carried out to train people regarding what should be done in case of a fire or electrical hazard.
Routine checks and repair of electrical equipment throughout the workspace should be conducted to ensure the wiring is safe and there are less to nil chances of any employee being electrocuted.
Hiring only qualified employees to work near live electrical equipment in industrial plant settings further decreases the hazard risks.
Workspaces should invest in conducting frequent workshops to train employees about what needs to be done in case a fellow employee is electrocuted or gets burned due to a fire. Placing first aid kits throughout your office ensures immediate medical treatment for the employees in case of an accident. This reduces the severity of an accident and allows responsive treatment.
Indoor Air Quality
While the lungs are supposed to filter the air for you, consistently breathing in poor-quality air may lead to respiratory diseases, allergies, specific chemical sensitivities, and occupational asthma. Most offices are centrally air-conditioned with no room for fresh air.
The lack of adequate ventilation, overcrowded spaces, mold growth, pesticide or toxic cleaning chemicals, and poor sanitation are considered workplace hazards that compromise indoor air quality.
The prevalence of an unsanitary environment is probably one of the easiest workplace hazards to prevent. Proper cleaning and maintenance of the desks and other furniture prevent dust allergies and occupational asthma.
Similarly, regular filtration of ventilators, cleaning of the crooks and edges of walls to prevent mold growth, and deep cleaning of air conditioners or heaters also prevents severe respiratory illnesses.
Another way to prevent hazards at a workplace is by limiting the use of pesticides and keeping the indoor environment clean enough that it does not warrant frequent fumigation services. However, if fumigation is necessary, make sure your office is thoroughly sanitized and ventilated to prevent pesticide particles in the air.
Cleanliness of the carpeted floors, restrooms, breakrooms, refrigerators, and lunch areas should be maintained. This limits the spread of infectious diseases and other illnesses.
Slips and Falls
Cluttered spaces, exposed cords on the floor, loose carpeting, uneven flooring, unstable work surfaces, unattended spills, and wet floors are the usual culprits of slipping or tripping accidents. Other causes of a trip or a fall include rough weather conditions.
Rainy and snowy conditions result in outdoor slip hazards. Wet or snow-covered outdoor floorings, steps, entry and exits, walkways, ramps, and parking lots add to the risks of workplace hazards. In most cases, people even tend to carry rainwater or snow inside the workplace due to wet shoes and outerwear.
In rainy or snowy conditions, lay dry mats or rugs on the entrance for employees to dry off their shoes before entering the office space. This way, not only would you be ensuring a clean environment but also be preventing wet patches on the floor that may cause someone to slip and fall. Placing coat racks in the rainy or snowy season at the entrance also ensures the indoor workplace remains dry and safe.
Preventing hazards outside your workplace in rainy seasons could include using non-slip runners and sprinkling chemicals that melt the ice quickly. Placing caution signs near wet surfaces and safely tucking away electrical cords also avoid tripping accidents.
Minimizing or even eliminating workplace hazards is neither too expensive nor time-consuming if done the right way. The key is to be aware of potential hazards and work in association with your peers to make your workplace a safe and comfortable place for all employees.
Once you invest in training your employees regarding first aid and emergency drills, regular maintenance of electrical equipment, and adequate ventilation at your workspace, you will notice drastic progress in employee activity and revenue generation.
Prepare and protect your people from harm. Everyday. Reduce your ongoing job-related risks with job hazard assessment tools and bring daily safety defense training to the field. Contact Field 1st for a free consultation today!