Health and safety hazards in the office and what you can do to protect yourself and your office staff

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There’s no safer place than working in an office, right? After all, what could possibly happen to you when you are working quietly at your desk? However, while you might not be at risk of industrial hazards in the office, such as accidents with heavy machinery and inhaling noxious fumes, there are still some health and safety issues that you and your staff might experience that could have a profound effect on your life. Here are some health and safety hazards found in the office environment and what you can do to protect yourself and your office staff.

Covid-19

No list of office health and safety hazards compiled in 2021 would be complete without considering Covid-19. As offices are enclosed spaces with often many people working in them and passing through, they are the ideal transmission ground for the virus. If you are considering reopening your office following months of working from home to facilitate social distancing, there are certain things you should put in place to ensure that your office is Covid compliant. For instance, introducing a one-way system to maintain social distance and ensure the right flow of traffic to prevent crowding in busy areas and adding Perspex desk dividers and screen protectors as an extra layer of protection for staff. Providing hand sanitizer and regularly cleaning surfaces to prevent the spread of the virus.

Asbestos

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was commonly used as insulation in any building built before the year 2000, including office blocks. However, it has since been found that it is a huge carcinogen, with exposure to asbestos fibers causing the devastating and painful cancer of mesothelioma. As such, steps are being taken to remove any asbestos found in buildings and replacing it with a safer alternative. If your office is an older building and you are unsure whether it has been checked for asbestos, bring in asbestos removal experts to assess your building and remove any harmful asbestos materials. Replace with insulation that is safer for humans, such as polyurethane foam.

Trips and falls

With many different people each having their own hectic to-do list to get through each day, the office can quickly become a hectic environment. This can be exacerbated by a poorly designed workspace with a cluttered layout. Poorly spaced desks, miles of tangled cables, and clutter in the gangways can all lead to people experiencing trips and falls, which can result in devastating injuries. The most common injuries from these accidents are fractures and dislocated joints, particularly to the wrist, ankle, and shoulder. Additionally, providing your employees with a fall protection course can significantly reduce the risk of falls and injuries. This course can teach your employees about the different types of fall hazards in the workplace, how to identify them, and the necessary precautions to take to prevent them. Your staff member might need months of medical treatment and recovery time off work before they are fully healed, and they could even decide to sue your firm for damages. To prevent trips and falls, reorganize your office space to keep it as streamlined and free of clutter as possible. You might benefit from having a new office fit out from an interior design company, like Source One Consulting, which will be able to maximize your space and safety.

Eyestrain

From computers to smartphones, tablets to TVs, screens, and technology are an integral part of modern life, and nowhere more so than in the office. However, too much uninterrupted screen time can result in eyestrain, which can make working on the computer painful and uncomfortable, and even result in impaired vision and migraines. Fortunately, there are several tools and techniques you can use to guard against eyestrain. Computer glasses and anti-glare screen protectors for your monitor can help to filter out blue light and improve visibility in bright sunlight, contributing to a more comfortable screen time. You should also incorporate regular screen breaks into your working day, perhaps by following the 20-20-20 rule. This stipulates that for every 20 minutes spent looking at a screen, look away at an object 20 meters away for 20 seconds at least. Doing this will relax your optic nerve, helping to reduce strain on your eyes.

Ergonomic injuries

Office work is often very sedentary. While this obviously has an impact on overall fitness levels, sitting at a desk for hours each day can also result in ergonomic injuries due to poor posture and incorrect equipment. However, with a few tweaks to your working style and additional supportive equipment, you can prevent such injuries for a more comfortable working day. For instance, if you do a lot of typing, you could be at risk of developing repetitive strain injury; prevent this by wearing a wrist support and adding a keyboard wrist rest to your computer set-up. If your seat is not sufficiently padded and too low or high in relation to your monitor, you might find yourself crouching at all sorts of unnatural angles to see your screen, which can lead to muscle pain and back problems. An ergonomic office chair will support your back and facilitate good posture, and make sure that you have set up your chair and monitor to be at the correct height for you.

Fire safety

Fire safety is an essential part of any workplace, and while they are not necessarily common, they can be devastating, so it is important that you have the correct procedures and equipment in place to protect yourself and your staff should the unthinkable happen. Reduce fire hazards by ensuring that cables are in good condition, power outlets not overloaded, and all electrical items regularly assessed for safety. Install emergency lighting, fire extinguishers, and fire doors. Have sufficient emergency exits and make sure that these are kept clear at all times. You should provide your staff with thorough fire safety training and make sure that you practice a fire drill in the office at least every few months. This will ensure that all staff members know exactly what to do in the case of an emergency, thereby reducing panic and increasing evacuation times that could quite literally be the difference between life and death.

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