Many of my articles in the Safety Perspectives blog series tell stories of workplace accidents and injuries to illustrate the safety topic I’m discussing that week. The vast majority of these stories come from blue collar employees at inherently dangerous work environments, such as chemical plants and construction sites. This isn’t surprising, as these types of jobs tend to have the highest incident rates and are in the greatest need of thorough safety training and leadership. Consequently, one work environment frequently overlooked when discussing workplace safety is the office.
A large percentage of employed individuals work white collar jobs in office buildings. We tend to think of the office environment as generally safe because there is much less risk exposure than is seen in plant work, for example. However, several hazards exist around the office that expose employees’ personal safety blind spots and lead to thousands of injuries and fatalities every year. Furthermore, office injuries can happen to any employee, whether it be a line employee coming off the floor for a meeting or an executive going about their day. Let’s take a look at some common office safety incidents and injuries.
SLIPS & FALLS
Slips can occur for a variety of reasons, such as wet floors on rainy days or when a careless coworker spills their coffee and doesn’t wipe it up. It is important to be aware of your surroundings as you move around the office to avoid these danger spots.
Did you know that the staircases in your building represent a major office safety hazard? All too often, employees rushing to another floor trip on a step in their haste and fall down the stairs. According to the CDC, falling is the most common office accident and is responsible for the most disabling injuries. Individuals with strong SafetyDNA are less likely to experience a fall because they exhibit caution by and taking the stairs slowly and carefully.
BUMPING INTO OBJECTS & FALLING OBJECTS
We’ve all bumped into a piece of furniture at home or a stranger on the street, but injuries from these types of incidents at work, such as walking into an open file cabinet drawer, can have greater implications for the employee and the organization. Again, displaying awareness of your surroundings by looking at where you are walking will help prevent these safety incidents.
Office employees are at risk of being struck by falling objects when things around the office are improperly stored in high places or when an employee tries to retrieve an object from a high place. For these types of exposures, following safety rules and cautiously performing a task will reduce the risks. However, simply having the awareness that an object in your office could fall from where it is placed is not sufficient; you must take action to remove the hazard and prevent an accident from happening.
CUTS, BURNS, & PINCHING
These types of injuries, including slamming your hand in a file cabinet or slicing off the tip of your finger with a paper cutter, usually occur when employees are distracted or not being cautious as they do things around the office. Thankfully, It does not matter how mundane or trivial a task may seem - maintaining awareness of your surroundings throughout the day is critical to staying safe in the office.
The daily commute is a major work-related activity shared by many office workers that requires strong safety behavior. It can certainly be tough at times to exhibit caution on the road when you’re only half awake, possibly multi-tasking in the car, and fighting all the traffic around you, but the few minutes you save by driving recklessly is not worth risking an accident. You definitely won’t have a productive work day if you don’t even make it into the office!
If you’re anything like me, you’re constantly rushing around the office trying to finish three tasks simultaneously or make a meeting on time. However, safety in the office should be taken as seriously as in any other work environment. Learn to recognize your own SafetyDNA blind spots and adjust your behaviors at work accordingly. Avoid potential injuries by slowing down just a little bit and watching where you are going, rather than your mobile device or the document in your hand. Just as you would instruct employees on an assembly line to do, always be aware of potential dangers around the office so that they can be addressed.
Lastly, take pride in your safety record, even in an office environment, and do NOT let yourself become complacent with workplace safety if it has been a while since your last safety incident, injury or near miss.