When you’re running a small business, the world may be your oyster, but often, time is not on your side. Time, energy, and other resources are generally fully devoted to growing, scaling, and keeping things humming along in your core business. As a result, details like office safety can fall by the wayside.
Businesses operating in industries like manufacturing, agriculture, and construction have to keep safety top of mind—but companies who employ workers chiefly in office settings need to consider their safety culture, too. The numbers don’t lie: the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes annual statistics showing tens of thousands of work-related injuries and health problems suffered by office workers every year.
Some of the most prevalent risks to office safety are:
Common Office Safety Hazards
Slips, trips and falls
Lack of emergency preparedness
Office Safety Guidelines
In this article, I’ll review these common occupational health and safety risks one by one. I’ll also cover 12 of the most helpful office safety guidelines and tips that small businesses can implement right now, so you can protect your office workers.
Setup desks & chairs properly
The Cleveland Clinic reports that poor sitting posture can lead to real health damage long term. According to Dr. Andrew Bang, “Poor posture forces you to overwork the muscles in your neck and back. Your immune system’s efforts to heal those muscles spur inflammation that, over time, can lead to arthritis in nearby joints.”
Observance of appropriate office ergonomics is critical to employee quality of life. Help your office workers maintain good sitting posture by making sure their chairs are adjustable and can accommodate different heights and sizes. Employees should also be instructed to maintain a neutral posture with their feet flat on the floor, their elbows at 90-degree angles and their computer screens at a comfortable eye level.
Correctly position the keyboard & mouse
According to the University of California, improper keyboard and mouse positioning are a common source of repetitive strain in the hands, wrists and fingers. Employees’ keyboards should be either flat or tilted slightly away from them, rather than propped up toward them on kick-stand legs.
Mouses should also be the right size for each employee. Mouses that are too big can lead to over-gripping, which causes discomfort in the wrists and elbows, while too-small mouses lead to pinching and fatigue in the fingers and hand.
Practice safe use of electrical equipment
Employees should be instructed to avoid overloading outlets, and they should never plug multi-outlet bars (or “power strips”) into other multi-outlet bars. Surge protectors should always be used.
Ensure proper wiring & outlet use
Covering electrical outlets that are not in use can be a good workplace safety practice, especially if young children frequent your place of business (such as in industries like retail, childcare, health, food and hospitality, etc.), or where the outlets might be exposed to dust or liquids.
Outlet covers can help prevent objects from being inserted into the outlets and reduce the risk of electrical shock. However, it is not necessarily a requirement in all workplaces. The specific requirements for your workplace would depend on your local electrical codes, safety regulations and the specific conditions in your workplace.
Outlets can be covered with various types of safety devices, such as:
Plug-in covers or caps
Sliding plate covers
Your office space should be inspected at regular intervals, and all electrical devices, including computers, printers and other larger items should be properly maintained.
Know fire extinguisher locations & usage
All office spaces are required to provide portable fire extinguishers. The National Fire Protection Association recommends that offices keep one fire extinguisher in their building for every 3,000 square feet of space they maintain. Employees should be trained on the proper use of fire extinguishers.
Practice regular fire drills
Double-check your compliance with all applicable fire safety laws. Depending on your business’ size and location, you may be required to have a written fire drill plan in place. One of the best ways to protect your workers in the event of an office fire is to be proactive. All employees should practice a well-vetted fire drill periodically.
Whether your office space is new or old, potential workplace safety hazards could be in the way of your employees’ paths around the office. Check your carpeting for ripples and rips, keep cables clear from walkways, and use caution signs for wet floors and uneven grounds. All employees should be instructed to close cabinet and file drawers after using them—they should not be left open for any period of time.
OSHA reports that “loss of traction” is the leading cause of workplace slips. Whether ice, snow, or rain is the usual culprit, employers should ensure that the out and indoor paths of ingress and egress for their office space have anti-slip measures in place, including signage, salt, and entry rugs.
Promptly cleanup spills
All employees should be responsible for immediately cleaning up or alerting maintenance staff of spills as soon as they occur. Be sure to have safe and environmentally friendly cleaning supplies available and well-stocked for employees to use.
Stock first aid kits & provide training
First aid kits should be stocked, in a visible and accessible area, and all items within the kit should be checked against their expiration date periodically.
Develop evacuation plans & practice routes
Do you have a plan in place for your response to natural disasters or other emergencies? Check your compliance with federal, state and local laws; develop an evacuation plan, and review and practice it with your workforce.
Air vents should remain open and unblocked within your office space, air ducts should be cleaned and air filters should be replaced on a regular basis. Some of the most common air pollutants in office spaces are radon, particle pollution, carbon monoxide and Legionella bacterium.
Testing for and remediation of indoor pollutants is typically only performed when required or if there are signs of contaminants present.
Maintain a clean & hygienic workspace
Encourage employees to maintain a clean workspace in order to prevent the spread of germs and diseases. If employees share spaces or use desks interchangeably, you may consider asking them to disinfect the surfaces they touch at the end of each workday.
Axcet HR: Your Partner for Office Safety Training, Risk Management & More
Emphasizing a culture of workplace safety isn’t just about adhering to a list of rules, it’s about prioritizing employee health, wellness and occupational safety for the long-term benefit of all.
If you could use a hand in reviewing your occupational health and safety practices or implementing a training program, or if you’d like to speak with risk management and HR compliance experts, schedule a quick consultation with Axcet HR Solutions. We’re here to help you stay compliant, keep your employees safe, and so much more—so you can get back to your core business.