Working in an office may seem like a breeze compared to working in a factory, an oil rig, or a construction site. However, it is important to note that even general office buildings pose several health and safety hazards. These could be due to several reasons ranging from allergens, poor indoor air quality, ergonomic hazards, to persistent sounds, or even uncomfortable temperatures. Believe it or not, trips and falls are as common in office buildings as in shopfloors.
Therefore, the assumption that health and safety processes are critical only for specific industries such as manufacturing, oil & gas, pharmaceuticals, construction, and mining, is misplaced. While compliance and regulatory requirements are a lot more in some of these industries, it is critical that every enterprise designs and implements a robust health and safety program suited to the nature of their operations.
Are you a health and safety leader who is worried you may have left out something important in your H&S workflow?
At ComplianceQuest, we published a 38-point Health & Safety Assessment Checklist, designed for a general office building. Tick-off each of these items and gain confidence in your enterprise’s safety management process.
Download it here: https://www.compliancequest.com/checklist/health-and-safety-assessment/
Common Health Hazards in the Office
A common hazard people face in the office environment is that of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) due to improper ergonomic conditions that may arise from:
- Sitting for a long duration of time
- Working for long hours without breaks
- Working in awkward positions or wrong postures
- Performing repetitive manual tasks
- Lifting awkward or heavy objects
- Cuts or wounds from office tools such as scissors, mail openers, etc.
- Physical stress
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII) published in May 2020 showed that in 2018: 272,780 (or 30 percent) of the total 900,380 days away from work (DAFW) was due to MSD. Of this, 50 percent was in industries like retail, trading, manufacturing, healthcare, and social assistance.
Other common hazards include:
- Slips, trips, and falls: Accounting for nearly 30% of all injuries, slips and falls are common across all workplaces and can be caused by a slippery floor, exposed wires, cluttered areas, loose flooring, and so on.
- Ergonomic injuries: Office jobs involve prolonged sitting, sometimes in an awkward posture, which can cause a variety of strains and other injuries. In fact, in these days of working from home, more than 37.7% of MSD cases were reported in 2020 as against 1.4% in 2019, with keyboard work being the third biggest culprit responsible for 11.3% of cases, after heavy lifting (27.8%) and materials manipulation (19.4%).
- Stress: Being overloaded with work and the inability to cope with pressure is a significant cause of stress and losing workdays.
- Eye-strain: Many jobs today require working with display screen equipment such as laptops or computers for prolonged periods, leading to eye strain or problems such as CVS (Computer Vision Syndrome). Prolonged exposure to displays can lead to vision-related problems such as headaches, blurred vision, and neck/shoulder pain.
- Fire Hazards: In the current prevailing conditions, with remote working taking the forefront, incidents resulting from fire may be uncommon, but it is a serious potential risk.
Making offices safe and the need for a robust health & safety program
The purpose of a well-designed health and safety program is to protect the workers, sub-contractors, customers, and other visitors to the office. It is certainly up to the organizations to set up processes to increase workplace safety and proactively enhance employee well-being. While in some cases, regulatory requirements mandate enterprises to increase safety parameters, it is good business ethos to adhere to health and safety best practices.
In a post-Covid-19 world, businesses are gradually reopening offices and allowing employees to return to work. The Centre for Disease Control has listed the potential risks, that companies must know about and plan for, before reverting to work-from-office scenario. The key is to design and implement health and safety measures to boost workplace hygiene and set new processes for sanitization, social distancing, etc.
At ComplianceQuest, we recently published a checklist to conduct a health & safety assessment for a general office building. The 38-point checklist is designed to help leaders and decision-makers ask all the right questions and help build a robust health & safety program.
Download the checklist here: https://www.compliancequest.com/checklist/health-and-safety-assessment/