10 common office hazards and how to reduce their risks
By Joanna Weekes
Office environments are generally considered low-risk workplaces, but this doesn’t mean you should neglect your health and safety duties.
Offices still contain health and safety hazards that must be monitored and controlled.
Just like any workplace, offices need to have hazards identified, and risk assessments carried out to implement control measures to reduce the likelihood of a workplace incident occurring. Look for these 10 common hazards in your office:
1. Poor or inadequate lighting
Poor or inadequate lighting is a typical office hazard. It can cause eye strain and fatigue, making it easier for people to make mistakes. Poor lighting also can cause accidents. In one study, researchers found that poorly lit bathrooms caused workers to take longer breaks because they were worried about tripping or falling on their way back to their desks. Inadequate lighting can also lead to increased absenteeism if workers who suffer from claustrophobia don't come to work when they feel stressed by poor lighting conditions.
2. Ergonomic hazards
Ergonomic hazards are the leading cause of injuries and illnesses in the workplace. Ergonomics is the science of fitting workplace tasks and environments to the worker, rather than forcing workers to conform to a job that may be uncomfortable or inefficient.
Ergonomics can also be applied to everyday life situations. For example, when working out at home, it's essential to use good posture and proper lifting techniques, so you don't injure yourself.
3. Extremes of temperature
Extreme temperatures can also affect the safety of your workplace. For example, in hot weather, workers may be more likely to take risks if they feel too warm or uncomfortable at work. In cold weather, people are less likely to take appropriate care of themselves or others around them when working outside in the cold.
4. Manual handling hazards
Manual handling hazards are the risks to workers posed by manual handling of loads. Manual handling is a straightforward concept, but it can be hazardous. The definition of manual handling is lifting, moving or carrying of items by hand. These activities can be classified into two groups; heavy lifts and repetitive motion.
5. Slip, trip and fall hazards
Slip, trip and fall dangers are one of the most common causes of accidents in the workplace. If you are involved in a work slip, trip or fall accident, you could be entitled to workers' compensation benefits.
6. Electrical hazards
The most common electrical hazard involves voltage levels that are too high for the work being done. For example, if employees use a hand tool on a 220V circuit without taking proper precautions, they risk electrocution. This type of hazard is hazardous because it may not be immediately noticeable and can result in injuries that are difficult to treat.
7. Contagious illnesses spread by sick workers
Contagious diseases spread by sick workers are passed from person to person. Most infectious illnesses can be prevented by following simple hygiene guidelines and good personal health habits. Some contagious illnesses can be spread through touch or airborne particles and others through bodily fluids such as saliva, urine, sweat and tears.
8. Fire hazards
Fire hazards can be caused by many factors, including poor housekeeping and the use of flammable materials. Fire hazards can occur at work as well as in your home. It is essential that employers take steps to ensure that their workers do not create a fire hazard.
9. Chemical hazards
Chemical hazards are a large and diverse group of substances that can be dangerous to the health of workers and people who come in contact with them. Some chemicals can cause immediate harm, while others may not harm you until months or years after exposure.
10. Stress hazards
Stress hazards can be challenging to identify – make sure you take the proper action to locate and remove stress hazards for your workers.
What to do once you have identified an office hazard
Once identified, all health and safety hazards need to be risk assessed and controlled. To do this, you need to determine the likelihood of the risks causing severe injury and, based on the assessment, put control measures in place to reduce or eliminate the risks.
After implementing control measures, it’s essential that you monitor and review them to ensure they remain effective.
Remember, other hazards may also exist for office workers outside the workplace, including workers working from home and workers who attend work-related social functions. Although liability can be a grey area, you still have an obligation to manage the health and safety of workers in these scenarios. As long as the connection between employment and an incident can be made, you may be liable; therefore, you must manage the risks.
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