Five Ways to Improve Office Safety
Most people don’t think of an office as a hotbed of workplace injuries; that’s a distinction given to warehouses or industrial areas. Sadly, this lax attitude towards workplace safety puts office workers at significantly greater risk than their counterparts in other industries, especially when considering easily preventable injuries. The Department of Commerce found that office workers are more than twice as likely as any other group to suffer from falling injuries at work, largely because of a lack of proper safety equipment, and much more likely to suffer a back injury due to a lack of training.
Office managers and employees can dramatically improve the safety of their workspaces and quality of life in the office through the use of five simple steps.
Analyze Problem Areas
The first, and most important, step is to analyze problem areas in the office. Where are employees most likely to get hurt? Which safety procedures need the most review? It is essential that managers receive input from the staff, rather than implementing safety procedures from the top down. Employees are intimately aware of the dangers that they face on a regular basis, and can provide valuable feedback to improve the quality of the safety programs.
One area that companies often overlook is an update to their emergency evacuation protocols. Many of the safety plans in office buildings are outdated by several years, and staff has no idea what to do during an emergency. When analyzing potential safety issues, management and staff should make an annual review of the emergency action plan.
By far, the most common cause of injury for office workers is falling, and more often than not, office workers fall because of a lack of proper equipment. Offices need a basic set of safety equipment to protect employees, and it should include:
• Fire alarm and fire extinguisher for minor fire emergencies
• Gloves and hand protection for cleaning any mess that involves bodily fluids
• Stocked first aid kit, with cold packs, bandages, and disinfectants
• Warning signs for wet floors in bathrooms or tiled areas, as well as warnings for trip hazards on the floor
• Ladders and stepstools for placing items on shelves
• Back braces to protect employees when moving heavy items
Removing the root causes of accidents, and providing employees with the necessary tools to prevent the escalation of a minor problem to a major injury, will make the office more safe and secure for everyone involved.
Over time it’s easy to let minor maintenance tasks slip, believing that if everyone knows a problem exists, they will do what is necessary to avoid problem areas. This is especially true of loose carpeting in hallways, weak spots in the floor, and shelves that are a little too unsteady to hold a full load.
In the evaluation of safety procedures fro the office, employees and management should compile a list of all maintenance issues that could cause employee injuries. Fixing each of the issues, from most pressing to least, is of the utmost importance for the business owner or manager. Some of the issues will need to be addressed by the building owner, but many common causes of falls, such as loose cords and open drawers, are problems that employees must handle on their own. The best training and equipment in the world are little match for a working environment that is hazardous to employees and undermines safety protocols.
As with every program in a company, training is vital to ensure everyone is on the same page, and performing procedures the right way. In most cases, a brief safety meeting once a month is more than enough to cover important safety topics, but training programs should include more thorough instruction periodically.
Test runs of emergency procedures are essential to keeping safety procedures top of mind for employees. A fire drill every few months, or a tornado/hurricane drill before the beginning of disaster season will make safety responses in an emergency automatic. Employees won’t spend precious moments wondering about what they need to do to get to safety, because they’ve practiced the procedure so many times before.
At this point, management should consider dividing office safety duties to responsible parties within the office. A safety coordinator can oversee equipment and schedule safety meetings as needed, while safety chairs within each department can serve as a liaison for safety issues between employees in the department and management.
Review and Improve
No plan is ever perfect from the beginning, and safety programs are no exception. Managers and business owners much commit to a consistent pattern of review for all safety and emergency plans that should occur no less than once a year.
The evaluation of the program should follow the previous four steps, addressing and refining the needs of the company as they change. Suggestion boxes and bulletin boards can help management stay on top of new environmental hazards and equipment shortages as they arise.
Office safety is an often overlooked area of workplace safety. Failure to protect workers in an office environment not only exposes companies to potential lawsuits, but erodes employee morale and negatively affects productivity. The use of these five steps can greatly improve safety in the office, and avoid many major injuries.
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OSHA Emergency Action Plan
Office First Aid Kit