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Health and Safety Hazards in the Office

Image shows an office areaOffices may not seem like dangerous places to work, but they can pose serious health and safety risks. An estimated 609,000 non-fatal injuries were sustained by workers in 2016/17, according to the Labour Force Survey - and that’s just those that were officially reported.

Given the size of the problem and the fact that employers have a legal responsibility to protect their staff’s health, safety and welfare, it’s in everyone’s interests - employers and staff alike - to recognise the risks and take steps to protect themselves and their colleagues.

What to look out for in the office

In an effort to ensure employers and employees are aware of accident risks in office environments and that relevant systems are in place to protect them, we have identified common health and safety hazards in the office that everyone should look out for.

Misuse of office furniture

Workers are often injured when they use their desks or chairs on wheels as substitute stepladders. Employers and workers should always use an appropriate stepladder safely when they need to reach for something.

Uneven floors

Poor floor surfaces are among the most common causes of slips, trips and falls in the office. Upturned edges of carpets, slippery tiles and messy work areas can all lead to accidents. Employers can limit the risk by ensuring the upturned edges of carpets and rugs are flattened with tape and identified, and work areas are uncluttered. If the floor is wet, display a wet floor sign.

Poor workstation setup

Not having your workstation appropriately set up is one of the main causes of aches, pains and bad posture among office workers. It is the worker’s responsibility to work with their employer to ensure their desks are appropriately equipped and adjusted so that they are ergonomically correct. Computer screens should be positioned at eye-level and chairs appropriately adjusted. Workers should flag any damaged or broken equipment to their supervisors or health and safety representatives to prevent an accident from happening. They should also raise any concerns they have, or if have an injury that’s caused by their workstations, to their employer in writing.

Fire hazards

Offices present numerous fire hazards. It is an employer’s responsibility to check all office cables and leads are plugged in properly and do not have electrical defects that could cause a fire. They should also ensure everyone in the office knows what to do in the event of a fire by testing alarms and practicing evacuation procedures. Employees are also responsible for making employers aware of any potential fire hazards, and following procedures in the event of a fire.

Lack of storage

Files stacked high, drawers left open, and papers on the floor are all accidents waiting to happen. It is everyone’s responsibility to make sure their workstations are kept tidy, which means keeping desks and work areas clean and uncluttered.

Poor lighting

Poor office lighting can contribute to ill-health at work. Not only can inadequate lighting increase a worker’s risk of tripping and falling over objects in the office, but it can also cause eye-strain, migraines and headaches. It is an employer’s responsibility to assess the office’s lighting, ensuring all lights are fitted properly and that they don’t cause glare on the computer screens.

Unhealthy workplace

With so many people working in one space, offices present plenty of opportunities for workers to become ill. Germs can linger on desks, keyboards, telephones and surfaces, causing infections and viruses to spread easily among colleagues. Employers can reduce the risk of illness among their workers by ensuring everything is adequately cleaned on a regular basis and offering free flu jabs.

If you have had a workplace accident as a result of one of these hazards, you should contact your health and safety representative as soon as possible. They will be able to make sure the hazard is dealt with and put the necessary procedures in place to avoid the accident from happening again.

 

Author Bio: Thompsons Solicitors is the leading personal injury law firm in the UK. Our solicitors have decades of experience in fighting injured workers’ cases and securing compensation for their accident at work claims.

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