It's fairly obvious that safety and health hazards can exist on worksites filled with heavy machinery and equipment, where employees often are required to engage in strenuous manual labor.
A job where most of the work tasks are completed while sitting in a chair in a climate-controlled office building would seem less fraught with danger. However, a surprising number of hazards can be present in an office setting.
Here are 10 steps you can take to reduce the risk of injury while at work.
1 Provide adjustable equipment
One size does not fit all in an office workstation. Adjustability is the key, chairs, work surfaces, monitor stands, etc., should all be adjustable in order to accommodate the widest range of employees. Presenting a variety of options to employees is recommended. Although employers may be reluctant to pay for expensive ergonomic equipment, experts insist the equipment is a wise investment. A good keyboard tray may retail around $300; a good chair may retail around $500 to $700. Health claims that stem from not having these devices is much higher. Some of these hard claims cost many tens of thousands of dollars just in medical treatment, let alone cost of replacement, absenteeism, loss of work production, etc.
2 Train workers on how to use equipment
Providing adjustable furniture and equipment is only the first step in creating an ergonomically sound workstation. A big issue that has been encountered a lot lately is employee inability to properly adjust their own office chairs. Many times, employers can invest $500 in an excellent adjustable chair, but employees still experience a bad workstation fit. The problem often is twofold: Workers do not know how to adjust their equipment, and they do not know the most ergonomically beneficial way to set up their workstation. Train workers on both the ideal setup and how to operate adjustable equipment accordingly. Warden's can help you in providing this training.
3 Step on up
Standing on chairs – particularly rolling office chairs – is a significant fall hazard. Workers who need to reach something at an elevated height should use a stepladder. The Chicago-based American Ladder Institute cautions that stepladders must be fully opened and placed on level, firm ground. Workers should never climb higher than the step indicated as the highest safe standing level.
4 Get a grip
Carpeting and other skid-resistant surfaces can serve to reduce falls. Marble or tile can become very slippery – particularly when wet, according to the National Safety Council. Placing carpets down can be especially helpful at entrance ways , where workers are likely to be coming in with shoes wet from rain or snow.
5 Correctly position monitors
Prevent Blindness America recommends workers place their computer monitors slightly below eye level and 20-26 inches from their eyes. Screens that can tilt or swivel are especially beneficial. Your eyes’ resting position is a few degrees below the horizon when you’re looking straight ahead. Monitor arms can be a key in maintaining the proper adjustability.
6 Wear the right glasses
Workers should tell their eye doctor if they spend a large portion of the day working on the computer, the association recommends. The doctor can check the efficiency of vision at 20-30 inches – the typical distance a computer monitor should be placed. Glasses are available for computer use that allow the wearer to see the full monitor without having to excessively strain the neck. Don't forget safety eyewear in the warehouse environment as well.
7 Keep your feet on the floor
One of the first questions to ask workers is whether their feet touch the floor when seated at their desk. It sounds like an incredibly simple question, but very often workers have their keyboard tray on the desktop, so in order to reach it, they need to jack up their chair so high that their feet can barely touch the floor. Unless an employee’s feet are on the floor, a chair will not be able to reduce pain and discomfort. Options such as adjustable keyboard trays or height adjustable tablesadjusted to the proper height eliminate this problem. Footrests are a second-best option.
8 Inspect space heaters
If employees use space heaters, verify the devices are approved for commercial use and have a switch that automatically shuts off the heater if the heater is tipped over, the Office of Compliance suggests. Further, make sure space heaters are not placed near combustible materials such as paper. Space heaters can void many Panel System warranties. Make sure space heaters are plugged directly into the wall, not into cubicle partitions or powered through an extension cord.
9 Shut the drawer
File cabinets with too many fully extended drawers could tip over if they are not secured. Additionally, open drawers on desks and file cabinets pose a tripping hazard, so be sure to always completely close drawers when not in use.
10 Conduct walk-throughs
Periodically walking around the office can help with hazard recognition and maintenance of ergonomic task design. Consider conducting an ergonomics screen of every workstation at least once a year. Employee complaints are invaluable in the process, but yearly reassessments can help to ensure that a good fit is maintained between employee and workstation.