Although our workday takes place in a “harmless” office, we’re all exposed to certain risks. The office can be a dangerous place.
Every day, millions of people face long working days, spending between eight to nine hours (or longer) sitting in front of computer screens, with artificial light and little ventilation. This results in frequent headaches, postural problems (neck or back pain), irritation, permanent stress and poor work performance.
According to several research studies, about 25% of sick leave and low work efficiency are related to lack of healthy habits in the office, in addition to the physical environmental conditions.
While companies must ensure wellness at work for their employees, it’s also the responsibility of each employee to adopt the right attitude towards their own health and wellbeing while in the office.
What risks are there in the office and how can you avoid them?
A simple daily activity like going up and down stairs in the office can become dangerous if we don’t pay attention. Always look where you’re going and pay attention to your footing.
It’s essential to avoid the rush and use the stair handrail, as well as be aware of other people or objects. Walk slowly, without running, and use a non-slip shoe to avoid slipping.
Tables, chairs, boxes or shelves should not be used as makeshift ladders. And if you use a ladder, make sure it’s stable, if you’re not convinced of its strength, don’t use it.
Some desks and shelves have a lot of piles of paper and other objects accumulated that we naturally accumulate over time, which can end up falling if not kept clear.
Avoid stacking materials on top of cabinets and cupboards, if you’re going to put them on a shelf, try to distribute the weight evenly to avoid unbalanced or overloading.
If you have to move many objects from one place to another it’s better to make two trips. If the objects are of significant volume and/or weight, ask for help from a co-worker.
- Never manipulate electrical equipment with wet hands
- Don’t clean equipment connected to the power supply with liquid
- Don’t overload plug sockets with multiple electrical devices
- If you need to disconnect something, pull the plug, never the cable
- In the case of an electrical accident, first cut the power supply and separate the affected item from the power source using a non-conductive object (wood, cardboard, etc)
Cuts and punctures
Putting your hand into a drawer full of drawing pins without looking can be painful. The sharp objects must be placed in a way that they’re not a danger and have their protective covers on.
But the risks in an office are not only physical. Overwork, anxiety, stress, accumulated fatigue or a bad environment can affect the psychological health of an employee.
Work stress and health consequences are a serious problem, as stress is directly linked to musculoskeletal, cardiac and digestive diseases. If prolonged, this kind of stress can cause serious cardiovascular disorders. What can you do to reduce these effects?
- Try to sort your tasks by priority and consider a margin of time for unforeseen circumstances
- Your objectives should be realistic and you should plan the necessary resources in advance
- It’s good to alternate tasks that require different levels of concentration
- If you’ve a lot of meetings, try to plan them in advance and limit their duration to make them more efficient
Spending all day sitting in a chair in front of your computer directly affects your bloodstream and can cause fatigue and musculoskeletal problems. Also, if your work station is not properly set up or you adopt a bad posture, your neck, arms and/or back can suffer. Additionally, repetitive movements when using the computer can also result in injuries, especially in the hand-wrist area.
- Adjust your chair to be as comfortable as possible and invest in an ergonomic type if possible
- Place the keyboard in a way that you have your hands and forearms on the table
- Sit down with your thighs resting on the seat so that you form a right angle with your legs; also, your back may be straight or slightly leaning back and resting on the chairs backrest
- Your feet should rest on the floor or on your footrest
- Take regular breaks or change between activities to give yourself a rest from working on a screen
- Walk as much as you can during your breaks
- Place your computer screen at a distance of not less than 40 cm from your eyes
- Point the screen perpendicularly to any windows and your line of vision, tilting it slightly forward to avoid reflections
- If you have to work with written documents, place them at the same distance as the screen
Crashing against stationary objects
- Ensure any tripping hazards, such as bins, are placed against walls and out of the way
- Close drawers that aren’t in use
- When storing materials you should place them so they don’t protrude from shelves
It’s not something that happens every day, but it’s important to be aware of what can cause a fire and what to do if it occurs:
- Never put a bin near an electrical outlet or any combustible material next to a heat source
- Avoid overloading electrical sockets
- The fire fighting equipment, halls and emergency exits must be free of obstacles and easily accessible
- All employees should be aware of the fire evacuation/safety procedures
It’s not very usual in an office environment, but if you do have to carry heavy objects, remember that it must not exceed 25 kilos for men and 15 kilos for women.
If it exceeds the weight, you’ll need the help of another employee.
To avoid injuries when lifting, place your feet slightly apart, bend your legs and never arch your back; firmly grab the load with your palms and lift it giving impulse to the muscles of the legs and keeping your back straight.
During the movement, move your body closer to the object and fully stretch your arms. Avoid raising objects over your shoulders and remember that it’s better to push than to pull.
On the descent of the load, take advantage of the force of gravity and just slowly control the movement. Remember to always flex your legs.