Office Safety

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ID #58
Office Worker Safety
Disclaimer: This material is being provided as part of our organization’s on-going commitment to ensuring a safe, respectful and legallycompliant workplace. These materials have been developed in accordance with applicable federal laws and regulations and recognized
best practices in force at the time the materials were created. The materials do not render any legal or professional advice; they are
being provided for educational and informational purposes only. These materials should not be used as a substitute for legal or
professional advice or services.
Learning Objectives
At the conclusion of this presentation, you will:
• Be familiar with the leading causes of accidents
in the office environment
• Be prepared to implement safe work practices
that will reduce the risk of injury
Presentation Agenda:
• Overview of Office Safety
• Safe Work Practices for the Office
• Ergonomics
Section 1
Overview of
Office Safety
The Office Work Environment
When you think about workplace hazards or an employee suffering
an injury:
• You probably envision a construction site or a large
manufacturing plant
• You would not normally think of an office setting when you
envision a worker injury scenario
• Offices don’t typically have as many safety
hazards as a construction site, for example,
but there are still hazards present
• If we understand these hazards, and take
steps to minimize the risk, there’s no
reason why the potential for worker
injury can’t be greatly reduced
Reducing the Risk
• Rate of office accidents declines when office
workers are informed of potential hazards and
safe work practices
• Training regarding general safety precautions
reduces the number and severity of accidents
• Employee awareness is a critical step in
hazard control and elimination
The Employer’s Responsibilities
Employers have responsibilities under the Occupational
Safety and Health Act of 1970:
• Provide a workplace free from serious recognized
• Comply with standards, rules, and regulations issued
under the OSH Act
• Examine workplace conditions to make sure they
conform to applicable OSHA standards
• Make sure employees have and use safe tools and
equipment, and properly
maintain this equipment
Employee Responsibility
Employees have responsibilities as well:
• Understand the risks in the workplace
• Identify workplace hazards
• Follow safe work practices
• Look out for co-workers
Managing Safety in the Office Environment
The process for controlling hazards in the office is
similar to that for controlling hazards in industrial
Controlling the hazards:
• Preferred means is to eliminate the hazard
• Another means is minimizing exposure to the
Section 2
Emergency Planning
Regardless of whatever event might arise in
the work environment, the negative
consequences of that event can be mitigated
through proper planning and preparedness:
• A fire can spread out of control in a matter
of minutes
• During cardiac arrest, survival rates fall
drastically with every minute without
medical intervention
• So, it only makes sense that we should
have a plan of action for these events
• Emergency planning is a critical component of
managing safety in the office environment
• Don’t lull yourself into complacency by
thinking that nothing could ever happen in
your workplace
Preparedness is the Key
After the attacks of September 11, the National
Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States
• Building occupants were unprepared to deal with this
catastrophe in terms of both training and mindset
• Occupants did not know that roof doors were locked,
that rooftop areas were hazardous, and that no
helicopter evacuation plan existed
• Occupants descending were confused by deviations in
the stairways and the presence of smoke
• Know what actions to take in an emergency,
where the building egress routes are, how to
contact emergency services, and what role you
play in an emergency
• All phones should have a “911” sticker affixed
The Most Common Office Accident
The most common office accident is falling:
• Falls account for greatest number of
disabling injuries
• They result in the most severe injuries
and the highest percentage of lost
workdays due to such injuries
Falls occur:
• When workers lean back to tilt their
chairs, place their feet on a desk, sit down
without looking, and rise from or move
around in a chair
• On stairs
• When workers stand on chairs or other
office furniture to reach elevated objects
Preventing Falls
Preventing falls requires remaining aware of your
surroundings (situational awareness):
• Always look at your chair before you begin to sit
• Make sure wheels are not going to begin to roll
For reaching anything at height, use the proper
stepladder or platform:
• Don’t be tempted to use anything else as a
• Inspect the stool or ladder to
make sure it is in proper
working order before you climb
Back Injuries
Back injuries are also common in the office
• Over one million workers suffer a back injury
each year
• Back injuries account for 25% of all workers’
compensation expenditures
• Back injuries are seldom caused by one
• Back injuries tend to be recurrent
• Prevention requires a comprehensive
Injuries frequently occur when office workers:
• Attempt to move or improperly lift heavy
• Carry books, office furniture, equipment, and
Preventing Back Injuries
Preventing back injuries requires a combination of
workplace factors with personal skills and
• Office layout and design
• Lifting aids
• Proper lifting techniques
Fire in the Workplace
There are some pretty disturbing facts when
it comes to fire safety in the work
• Workplace fires kill nearly 500 and injure
more than 5,000 workers each year
• The costs to businesses each year
associated with rebuilding, product loss,
and other costs can reach into the billions
of dollars
• Experts estimate that at any given time up
to half of all installed smoke detectors are
not operational due to dead batteries
Do not:
• Block fire extinguisher access – maintain a 36”
clearance in front
• Prop open fire rated corridor doors
Fire Safety and Preparedness
Questions to ask yourself when it comes to fire safety:
• Do you know the fire prevention rules for your work
• Are you expected to evacuate the building, or are
you expected to attempt to extinguish the fire?
• Do you know how to properly use a fire extinguisher?
• Do you know where the closest extinguisher is?
• Do you know where the nearest pull stations are?
• Do you know two exit pathways from
the building?
Electrical Hazards
Basic rules to follow to ensure electrical
system safety:
• All electrical appliances should be
equipped with electrical plugs that have a
ground prong, or the appliance should be
marked “double insulated”
• Plug temporary power strips directly into a
wall outlet
• Heavy duty appliances must be plugged
directly into wall outlets, not unigroup
• Electrical panel boxes should be
unobstructed for a distance of 36 inches
in front of the panel box
• Light switches and outlets should be
completely covered so there are no
exposed wires
Extension Cords
The safe use of extension cords:
• Extension cords are for temporary usage only, they are not a
replacement for permanent wiring
• If the jacket of an extension cord is compromised, or the wires
have been cut, the cord must be replaced
• Extension cords should not be covered by rugs or hidden
above ceiling tiles
• All extension cords should be plugged directly into wall outlets
• Do not plug a surge suppressor into
an extension cord
• Extension cords should not be used
with heavy duty appliances such as
copiers and refrigerators
• Do not run extension cords through
doorways where there is a risk of
getting pinched and cracked
Office Equipment
Around the office is an impressive array of
• Building infrastructure (electrical panel
boxes and elevators)
• Equipment specific to company
operations (copiers)
• Creature comforts for the occupants
(refrigerators and space heaters)
• Hand tools (scissors, laser presentation
pointers, and paper cutters)
File Cabinets
When using filing cabinets, follow these safety tips:
• Close all file drawers immediately after use
• Close the file drawer with the drawer handle
• Open only one file drawer at a time
• Never leave an open drawer unattended
• Never climb on open file drawers
• Keep the bottom drawer full
• Secure file cabinets that are not weighted at the bottom
• Ensure file cabinet drawers cannot be
easily pulled clear of the cabinet
• Do not block ventilation grates with
file cabinets
• Do not place heavy objects on top of
Desks and Workstations
Safety tips for desks:
• Desks should be kept in good condition,
free from sharp edges, nails, and other
• Desks should not be placed where they
will block corridors and exit routes
• Desk drawers should be kept closed
when not accessing contents, due to the
potential for contact and trip injuries
• Do not climb on desks
• Ensure that glass-top desks do not have
sharp edges
• Repair or report any desk damage
We’ve previously discussed chairs and their
involvement in many office falls:
• Do not lean back in office chairs, particularly
swivel chairs with rollers
• Take care when sitting in a chair with rollers so it
does not roll out from under you when you sit
• Never use a chair of any type as a ladder or
• Don’t roll the chair over electrical cords
• Learn how to use the adjustable features
and adjust them for your specific comfort
Shelves, storage racks, and tall furniture
present several hazards:
• These items should be secured to the
floor or wall
• Heavy objects should only be placed on
lower shelves to keep the entire structure
more stable
• Ensure there is at least 3 feet between
the top shelf items and the sprinkler
• Do not block ventilation grates with
shelves and furniture
• Never climb on shelves, use an approved
ladder, or platform
Personal Property
• What hazards have you introduced into the work area?
All household electrical appliances that have a
heating element should be plugged into a timer:
• The timer should cut off the electrical circuit at a
convenient time, no later than the end of the
Space heaters should be:
• Equipped with automatic shut-off
devices that will actuate if the heater
tips over
• Plugged directly into a wall outlet
• Located at least three feet from any
Organizing Material Storage
Good organization of stored materials is
• As materials are being brought into the
building, the floor loading rating – as well
as the rated shelving capacities – should
be known and observed
• Materials should be stacked or piled so as
to maintain stability
• Stacking cartons and drums on a firm
foundation and cross tying them, where
necessary, reduces the chance of their
Material Storage
The location of stored materials should:
• Be clearly marked
• Allow at least 3’ of clear space under sprinkler
• Not obstruct aisles, stairs, exits, fire
equipment, emergency eyewash fountains,
emergency showers, or first aid stations
• Flammable, combustible, toxic, and other
hazardous materials should be stored in
approved containers in designated areas
appropriate for the hazard
• Effective housekeeping can eliminate some
workplace hazards and help get a job done
safely and properly
• Poor housekeeping can frequently contribute
to accidents by hiding hazards that cause
Housekeeping is not just cleanliness:
• Good housekeeping is also a basic part of
accident and fire prevention
• Effective housekeeping is an ongoing
operation, not a hit-and-miss cleanup
done occasionally
• Periodic "panic" cleanups are costly and
ineffective in reducing accidents
A good housekeeping program:
• Plans and manages the orderly storage and
movement of materials from point of entry to
• Ensures that work areas are not used as
storage areas by having workers move
materials to and from work areas as needed
Imagine your file drawers if there was no
system for organization:
• The entire workplace can have those
same problems if housekeeping is
• Be sure to play your part in the
housekeeping plan
• Corridors need to remain clear
• Storage in corridors should be temporary
Corridors that serve as exit pathways are
especially critical:
• Exit corridors needs to remain at least as
wide as the exit doorway
Proper attention should be given to the act of
ascending or descending stairs:
• Stairways should not be areas for congregation
• Those using the stairs should not crowd or push
• Falls on stairs occur when people are distracted
through conversation or by turning to another
person while descending
• Individuals should not stand near doors at
When stepping onto a stair, do so at a
right angle:
• Stepping onto a stair at an angle
increases the potential for your
foot to slip
Slips and Trips
There are many causes of slips in the
• Spills and splashes of liquids and solids
• Wet floors
• Unsuitable footwear
• Loose mats on polished floors
• Inclement weather
• Change from a wet to a dry surface
• Unsuitable floor surface or covering
• Dusty floors
• Sloping surfaces
Slips and Trips
Prevention of slips/trips requires a
comprehensive approach:
• Promptly respond to spills as soon as
you notice them
• Arrange traffic patterns around wet
• Clearly mark any difference in floor level
• Secure throw rugs and mats
• Report or repair tripping hazards such
as defective tiles, boards, or carpet
It is critical that all workers wear footwear
appropriate for the work environment:
• Shoes with soft rubber soles and heels
with rubber cleats provide good traction
on most surfaces
• Inadequate illumination caused by glare or shadows
that interfere with vision can contribute to accidents
Illumination levels should be consistent when
moving from areas of bright light to lower levels:
• Make sure levels are sufficient and consistent
• Get those burned-out lights replaced quickly
• Adjust your workstation so you do not face windows,
unshielded lamps, or other sources of glare
• Exits should be well illuminated
• Inspect these devices at least monthly
Section 3
• Poorly designed computer workstation and
work habits can lead to discomfort and chronic
• Ergonomics means the laws of work
Musculoskeletal Disorders
Musculoskeletal disorders are disorders of the soft
• Muscles
• Tendons
• Nerves
They are associated with:
• Repeated exertions of the body
• Awkward postures
• Extreme force
• Static posture means maintaining stationary
position for extended periods of time
• Awkward posture means any fixed or
constrained body position other than neutral
• Neutral posture means the natural tensions of
the muscles are relaxed
Improving the Workstation
• Focus items for evaluating your workstation
• Top of the screen should be at eye level
• Approximately 16–22 inches away
• Back should be fully supported
• Feet either flat on the floor or on a
More Tips to Improve the Workstation
Continuing on with the other equipment:
• Keyboard should be at a height so that
wrists are straight and elbows
approximately 90 degrees
• Place document holder and screen at the
same height
• Reduce glare on the screen
• Change positions
• Organize work
• Exercise
Additional Information
• OSHA e-Lesson on ergonomics:
• A Guide to Office Safety and Health, N.C. Department of
Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Program
• Principal Emergency Response and Preparedness
Requirements and Guidance, Occupational Safety and
Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA
3122-06R, 2004
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