Maintaining a Safe and Healthy Office Environment
A person going into the field of office technology may have the misconception that working in an office is a rather safe occupation, free from serious injuries, except for the occasional paper cut. Unfortunately, once going to work in an office, a person soon learns that an office environment has several safety hazards which can produce bodily harm, and illness, if caution and common sense are not implemented into the daily routine.
It is important for the modern office worker to be educated on the risk factors involved on the job. Recognizing a potential hazard, and taking proper measures involved to avoid an injury can be crucial. Also, understanding the company policies, and obeying all rules and regulations that apply to safety is the first step to working in a safe environment.
Some of the most common types of disabling injuries in the office are due to slips, trips, and falls. The cause for most of these kinds of accidents can be easily avoidable by concealing loose or dangling wires, wiping up spills, and picking up heavy objects in a safe and correct manner.
The area in the office that has hidden risks of injury is at the desk. The height and angle of the seat on the office chair can cause back and leg problems; therefore, it is important to have a backrest that supports the lower back. Having an adjustable seat for a more comfortable position can help as well. When retrieving an item from a desk drawer, it should be closed immediately. An open desk drawer can be a disaster waiting to happen; the worker could easily bump into a drawer, or possibly trip over it. A top heavy filing cabinet can become dangerous as it can simply tip over, perhaps falling on the worker. Therefore, it is safer to keep heavier records stored in the bottom drawers of the cabinet.
The computer monitor can be a source of eye strain, especially when sitting for long periods of time. The monitor should be positioned so that the top of the screen is at or below eye level, and be between 18-28 inches from the eyes. Tilting the monitor so that it reflects less light can also be helpful. Looking away from the monitor and resting the eyes about every 10-15 minutes can help to reduce eye strain. Blinking is good to help keep the eyes moisturized and cleansed. Having proper lighting can also help to reduce eye strain.
The keyboard is another target for concern. Positioning of the wrists in a neutral position as to not flex or bend them can help to eliminate injury. Striking the keys with the least amount of pressure can help as well. To avoid neck and shoulder pain, the forearm should not be raised. Keeping all material that is being worked on close to the computer will reduce twisting of the body, and having to reach. Shifting positions, standing, and taking breaks away from the computer periodically can reduce physical stress on the body.
Repetitive motion or strain, sitting or standing in awkward positions, vibrations, and forceful exertion, all contribute to developing a disorder. They can be painful and crippling to the office worker, developing gradually over time. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, which is a compressed nerve in the wrist that causes swelling of tendons is one injury that is quite common with office workers. Tendonitis is another injury which is caused from swelling of the tendons due to overuse of the hand, wrist, arm, or shoulder. Low Back Disorder is caused from strained or pulled muscles, tendons, and ligaments, due to lifting incorrectly. Fortunately, if caught in early stages, these disorders can be treated. However, if left untreated, can eventually lead to surgery.
Mental stress can be a contributing factor to accidents in the workplace. Having a new task added to a workers existing workload can bring on stress. Working additional hours on top of the regular scheduled hours can trigger stress and cause fatigue as well. This in turn, can lead to the worker not being as alert as they should be while on the job causing them to be more at risk in becoming injured, and jeopardizing the worker losing their job. It is important to keep home stress separate from job stress as it can damage the workers performance while on the job.
Having a well ventilated office with a satisfactory indoor air quality can help to reduce ailments including: headaches, congestion, fatique, sore throat, cough, and skin rash. This in turn will help to lower absenteeism and increase work productivity.
In today’s world, many companies are looking into Ergonomics. In following the principles of Ergonomics, the risks for potential injuries, disorders, and stress, would be greatly reduced. This would include furnishing ergonomic designed equipment consisting of : adjustable office chairs, glare-free computer monitors, and special keyboards. By doing so, the rate of injured office workers would be decreased which would lead to fewer workers having to take time off from work, and make the field of Ergonomics an advantage to the employer, and the employee.
Employers can overcome the increase of injuries on the job by supplying ergonomic equipment for the workers, and having a well-ventilated office. It may also help for the employer to provide training seminars periodically for the employees. Learning the potential safety risks, and taking the necessary steps to avoid injuries and illnesses, is the key to maintaining a safe and healthy workplace.