Many workers think that the office environment is the safest workplace area. But, some of OSHA’s Top 10 most frequently cited workplace safety violations can occur in an office environment. A safe office workplace requires hazard control, good housekeeping, and safe work practices.
This week we'll talk about organizing the office to prevent falls, maintain storage, protect electrical equipment, and inspect the facility.
Monday – Arranging the Office
An office should have clear walkways and aisles throughout the rooms and near exits. Attach tall and heavy office furniture to the wall to avoid tip-overs in an earthquake. Do not store heavy items or hang pictures over your head in your office or cube. Close file cabinet drawers, file doors, and pull-out work tables when not in use. To avoid jamming your fingers or hands, make sure that cabinet and desk drawers do not open into walls or other furniture. Close drawers and doors with the flat of your hand.
Tuesday – Fall Prevention
Prevent falls in the office by keeping floors and walkways clear of trash, cords, cables, and other items. Clean up work areas after each project and periodically throughout the day. Ensure liquid spills are cleaned up immediately and mark the hazard area with a “wet floor” sign until the floor dries. Remember to wear proper footwear at the office; a non-slip sole and a back strap are safest.
Proper lighting inside and outside of the workplace can help illuminate areas that may be common places for employees or customers to trip or fall. More often than not, steps or other hazards can be hidden by darkness or shadows. By installing proper lighting (such as spotlights or illuminated steps), you can reduce the chance that an individual will slip or fall.
Providing ladders and accessible step stools can help reduce the chances of a fall by helping employees reach heights safely. By ensuring supportive options are present, there is less of a chance that an employee (or customer) will decide to rely on unstable chairs, desks, or tables.
Wednesday - Storage
Storing supplies and materials properly is important to maintaining a safe workplace. Arrange storage so that heavier items are stored on lower shelves and lighter items on upper shelves. Keep a sturdy step stool in storage areas to avoid reaching. Use good body mechanics when lifting and moving items.
Keep storage of combustible materials to an absolute minimum as they can pose both fire and trip hazards. Never store combustibles near electrical outlets. Ensure all shelves are sturdy and will be able to handle loads placed on them. Never block hallways, doors, and stairwells with stored office materials. There should always be clear access to electrical panels, fire extinguishers, AEDs, and fire pull stations.
Thursday – Electrical Equipment
The high volume of electrical equipment in a typical office can expose workers to serious electrical hazards. Use only approved electrical equipment in the office and examine cords and plugs for any breaks, tears, or frayed wires before use. Do not use extension cords as a permanent source of electrical power; install an extra electric outlet if necessary. Do not create chains of extension cords and surge protectors (“daisy-chains”) because they can overload your electrical outlets and create fire hazards.
How to protect against electrical incidents:
- Even when using a surge protector, make sure the electrical load is not too much for the circuit.
- Avoid overloading outlets with too many appliances. Never plug in more than one high-wattage appliance at a time.
- Unplug appliances when not in use to save energy and minimize the risk of shock and fire.
- Inspect electrical cords once a month to ensure they are not frayed, cracked, or damaged in any way.
- Do not run electrical cords through high-traffic areas, under carpets, or across doorways.
- Consider having a licensed electrician install additional outlets where needed, rather than relying on extension cords or power strips.
- Ensure all electrical equipment is certified by a nationally recognized laboratory, and read all manufacturers’ instructions carefully.
Friday – Safety Inspection
Periodic workplace safety inspections can keep your office safe. Report hazards to your supervisor immediately and make sure they are corrected as soon as possible. Be prepared for an emergency in your building. Know your building emergency procedures, evacuation routes, and assembly area. Know how and when to use a fire extinguisher. Keep exits and aisle walkways clear to allow for quick evacuation. Request an ergonomic evaluation from your supervisor if you feel discomfort while at your desk or performing other tasks at work.
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