What are the Top Injuries in a Typical Office (and How Can You Avoid Them)?
An office environment presents a unique set of potential
injuries from other lines of work. Working virtually 100 percent
indoors, in a seated position and usually talking on a phone,
writing or typing on a computer paves the way for some of
the top injuries -- back and neck pains, vision strains, pain
in the hands and wrists -- to develop.
Many distracted office workers are injured when they
bump into drawers, file cabinets or doors that have
been left open.
Other injuries occur from mistakes that could happen anywhere
-- objects left out to trip on, furniture that is not well-maintained,
faulty electrical cords -- and even from the office, via poor
ventilation, lighting and air quality, itself.
With Americans working increasingly long work weeks, and
much of them spent inside an office environment, knowing how
to avoid these top office injuries is a now a necessity.
1. The Most Common Accident: Falls
down is not only the most common office accident, it is
also responsible for causing the most disabling injuries,
according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
In fact, office workers are 2 to 2.5 times more likely to
suffer a disabling injury from a fall than non-office workers.
The most common causes of office falls, according to the CDC,
Tripping over an open desk or file drawer, electrical
cords or wires, loose carpeting, or objects in hallways/walkways
Bending or reaching for something while seated in an
Using a chair in place of a ladder
Slipping on wet floors
How to Avoid Falls in the Office: The good news is that falls
are preventable, and following these tips should help.
Look before you walk -- make sure the walkway is clear.
If you're done with a drawer, close it immediately.
Don't stretch to reach something while seated. Get up
Report any loose carpeting, electrical cords, etc. to
someone who can have them fixed.
Help keep the office fall-proof. This means cleaning
up spills from the floor (even if you didn't spill it),
picking up objects that are out of place, etc.
Use a stepladder, not a chair, if you need to reach something
2. Be Wary While Lifting
Lifting even small loads (stacks of files, computer paper,
a computer monitor, etc.) can lead to injury if done improperly.
Your back, neck and shoulders are all susceptible to this
type of injury. Before you decide to lift anything, be sure
it is not too heavy for you (if it is, ask a co-worker or
supervisor to help).
Safe Lifting Tips: Whenever you need to life something, follow
these tips to reduce your risk of injury.
Lift by squatting toward the floor (when lifting something
from the floor) and then using your legs (not your back)
to straighten up.
Allow your back to stay in a straight position.
Pick up the object with your entire hand (not just your
fingers) and hold the load close to your body. Refrain
To set something down, again use your legs for strength,
not your back.
3. Be Careful of Flying, and Stationary, Objects
According to the CDC, office workers are often struck by
objects, bump into objects themselves, or get caught in or
between objects, and as a result are injured.
A properly positioned workstation, in which your elbow
is at 90 degrees and your computer monitor is at eye
level, will reduce your risk of musculoskeletal problems.
This includes bumping into desks, other people, file cabinets,
copy machines, etc., and getting hit by objects that fall
from cabinet tops, items dropped on feet, doors opening unexpectedly
or cabinets that fall over if not properly balanced.
Meanwhile, office workers get their fingers caught in drawers,
windows and paper cutters, and their hair and jewelry caught
in office machines.
Avoid Getting Hurt by Objects in the Office: You can avoid
these types of injuries, first and foremost, by staying alert,
watching where you are walking and putting your fingers, keeping
jewelry and hair away from machinery and concentrating on
what you're doing. Meanwhile, open doors slowly in case someone
is walking by.
You can also ask your office manager to purchase proper storage
devices so all materials can be safely stored out of the way,
and to ensure that office machines have the proper safety
4. Get the Proper Workstation Ergonomics
Over time, using a workstation that does not fit your body
(i.e. your chair does not support your back, your computer
screen is too high or low, your wrists are at an uncomfortable
angle while typing, etc.) can result in musculoskeletal problems
of your neck, shoulders and back, poor posture,
eyestrain and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Along with setting up your workstation properly, it's essential
to take breaks and change your position (whether seated or
standing) frequently. For instance, look away from your computer
screen for 30 seconds every 10 minutes, and get up to stretch
every half hour. This will help to take some of the strain
away and reduce your risk of being injured from making repetitive
movements (such as typing) without a rest.
How to Set up an Ergonomically Correct Workstation: Ergonomics
is a complex field and you can bring in an expert to help
you get things perfectly fitted to you. However, you can use
these basic guidelines to improve your workstation right now.
Adjust your chair so that your thighs are horizontal
with the floor, your feet are flat, and the backrest supports
your lower back. If your feet do not rest comfortably
on the floor, use a footrest.
Adjust your keyboard or chair height so that, while you're
typing, your elbow is at a 90-degree angle and your wrists
Adjust your computer monitor so the top of the screen
is at your eye level.
Use a document holder so your papers can be kept at the
same level as your computer monitor.
Make motions such as typing and stapling with the least
amount of force possible.
Adjust the window blinds or lighting so there is no glare
on the computer screen.
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