Working in an office might seem safer than other types of employment such as construction where accidents are fairly common. Right? Wrong. The office environment is not and never has been devoid of hazards. The trick is knowing what poses a problem and taking steps to avoid it. Let’s look at what unique office injuries and hazards might be waiting to happen.
Some injuries are specific to the type of work that is performed in an office, and others are common to any environment. For instance, the number one injury is related to slips, trips and falls. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that falls account for a significant number of office-related injuries, and aside from certain professions, office workers are up to 2.5 times more prone to falls than other workers.
The causes of slips, trips and falls in the office setting vary and include:
- Trips due to electrical or computer cords, loose carpeting or objects left in walkways
- Slipping on spills or wet surfaces
- Tripping over a drawer that is left open
- Inappropriately overreaching for something while seated
- Forsaking the use of a ladder and using a chair instead
- Poor use of lighting in the workplace
Employers can easily avoid this with proper office maintenance and a proactive plan for making sure floor surfaces do not pose a risk. Instructing workers on using ladders or making the effort to stand rather than risk leaning too far in a chair to reach a file or object is another way to help workers stay safe from falls.
Being careful to be cognizant of hazards, and watching out for the safety of other workers helps too. If you are done with a task that involved opening a drawer, close it afterward. Refrain from putting your coffee cup too near the edge of your desk, and if you notice a surface is wet, notify maintenance immediately. Working together can be an enormous step forward in preventing office slips, trips and falls.
Musculoskeletal Injuries Due to Poor Ergonomics
Sitting at a desk day after day, sometimes for eight hours or longer, takes a toll on your muscles and can cause back, extremity and neck injury. This can result in muscle discomfort and long-term musculoskeletal disorders, including tendonitis and carpal tunnel. The Bureau of Labor Statistics makes note that 33 percent of injuries are related to musculoskeletal disorders costing billions of dollars in workers’ comp costs. There are things that can be done to prevent these types of injuries.
Your employer can help by making a commitment to your safety. Taking certain steps such as providing stable, ergonomic chairs, allowing breaks during which the employee can get away from the workstation and instructing employees on safe practices are good first steps.
How a Worker Can Avoid Musculoskeletal Disorders Associated with Desk Work
It is important to sit at your desk properly. Thighs should be horizontal and feet flat on the floor. Ideally, the back part of your chair should support your back. Your elbows should be at a 90-degree angle. When you are using the keyboard, make sure that your wrists are flat in front of you.
In order to avoid neck strain, the height of your monitor should be adjusted to suit you. For instance, looking straight on, the top of your monitor should be level with your eyes. If you refer to documents as you type, using a document holder is a good choice. Generally, get up every 30 minutes to stretch, and take your eyes off the computer monitor every 10 minutes for at least 30 seconds. Doing both of these helps keep eye strain and muscle damage away.
Other Precautions You Can Take
Lifting heavy objects can cause back pain and assorted problems. The same is true of lifting and carrying objects at the office. For instance, lugging files, a computer screen or even paper for the copier can result in injury. Following a safe protocol for lifting is a wise proactive measure.
If you are lifting something off the floor, squat and lift with your legs, not your back. Keep your back as straight as possible too. Make sure to hold files securely with both hands, distributing the weight, and always look where you are going. Looking up is not a good idea.
If you have been injured in an office accident, particularly where the business did not follow a plan to ensure your safety, it is wise to call an attorney. Getting advice on whether you are eligible for workers’ compensation (you most likely will be depending on your status) is important. A slip and fall attorney can also help you file a workers’ comp claim due to a slip and fall accident. Since many claims are initially denied, you might need help with an appeal. David Azizi has experience handling claims in the Los Angeles area and is available to answer your questions and review your case when you need him. Call the law firm at 800-991-5292 anytime day or night to set up an appointment.