Play It Safe!

Simple Office Safety Tips for National Safety Month

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 2.9 million reported on-the-job injuries in 2013. Yikes! No wonder they’ve named June National Safety Month. What better time to take a look around your office, pinpoint potential accidents-in-waiting, and work to eliminate them? Not sure what to look for? We’re here to help. Here are some tips for avoiding some of the most common office safety hazards.

1. Slips, trips, and falls

The National Safety Council says that people are 2 ½ times more likely to suffer a serious fall at work than anywhere else. Casting a critical eye on your everyday surroundings can help make sure your coworkers don’t end up sidelined by a fall.

  • Clean up the clutter. Boxes and other items left in walkways can pose a tripping hazard, so make sure that hallways and common areas are obstacle free zones. Don’t let boxes and piles creep out of offices and storage rooms into hallways. Assign a designated storage area for overflow items and encourage everyone to store items in their proper locations. Pick up dropped paper and other items right away to reduce slips and trips. Keep desk and file drawers completely closed when not in use so coworkers won’t trip over them.
  • Watch those cords. There’s a reason you see tripwires all the time in TV and movies. Those pesky things work. Don’t inadvertently booby trap your office. Avoid stretching electrical cords across rooms or walkways. It’s better to use longer cords to go around the edges of the room. If you have no other choice but to go across a walkway, use a cord cover and make sure it’s properly secured to the floor.
  • Cover your floors. Tile, marble, and highly waxed surfaces can be very slippery, especially when wet. Use a rubber-backed carpet mat or other non-skid mat to cover floors, especially in high traffic areas like entrances and exits.

2. Lifting injuries

A Bureau of Labor survey says that 4 out of every 5 back injuries is to the lower back, and that 3 out of 4 occur while lifting. And it’s not just people who lift all day, like delivery drivers and warehouse personnel, with the injuries. Office workers can be just as easily hurt trying to move a storage box or case of paper. If you have to do some heavy lifting, at least do it safely.

  • Use proper technique. Start by standing close to the item you’re lifting. Bend at the knees, not the waist. Keep your back straight. Grasp the box at opposite corners and then lift slowly while straightening your legs.  Never twist your upper body while lifting.
  • Use the right equipment. If you’re trying to move a large or especially heavy item, use a hand cart (dolly) or push cart. Work gloves can help you keep a firm grip on your box. If your job requires lifting on a regular basis, consider buying a lift belt or back support. They will help you maintain proper posture so you don’t strain your back.
  • Don’t be Superman or Superwoman. If you need to carry a heavy load or a large or awkward object, ask for help. Teamwork will make the job easier (think The Avengers). If you can’t find any help, consider moving the contents in stages. So, rather than carrying the entire case of copy paper, carry a few reams at a time. Your back will definitely thank you.

3. Ergonomic injuries

Most of us spend a lot of time at our desks each day. Poor posture and repetitive movement can cause strains, tendon or ligament injuries, lower back pain, and other discomforts and injuries.  If you want to be happier and more comfortable at work, take a look at the set up of your workspace.

  • Check your posture. It turns out that our bodies weren’t really built to sit all day, and that’s why so many of us go home achy at the end of the day. The easiest way to relieve some of that pain is to adjust your posture. Sit up straight with your back against the back of the chair. Your feet should be flat on the floor and your knees should be a right angle. Arms should be bent at a 90 degree angle and the muscles in your forearms should be relaxed. (If you need a visual, check out this infographic.)
  • Your workspace should fit you. There’s no such thing as one size fits all. Everyone is at least a little different from their neighbor. That’s why one office configuration doesn’t fit all. Today’s ergonomic aids and office chairs can do a lot to help. You just have to make sure they’re adjusted to fit you. Remember that your monitor should be at eye level to reduce neck strain. If it isn’t, get a monitor stand or stack your monitor on books or reams of paper.  A keyboard tray can help ensure that your keyboard is sitting at the right height so your arms will stay relaxed. And a good office chair should have a number of adjustments that will keep you comfortable. If you aren’t sure how your chair works, ask. There should be someone in your office who knows. If not, the company that sold you the chair should be able to provide a diagram or send someone out to demonstrate the controls.
  • Get up every once in a while. We’re all busy and when you’re involved in a project, time can fly by without you noticing it. Until your back, neck, and eyes start to hurt. Taking occasional breaks, even small ones, can help reduce strain on your body. Getup and stretch your back. Close your eyes for a minute or two to give them a rest. Walk down to the water fountain to get some water. This will give your body some time to recover from sitting.