When most people think about job safety and hazards in the workplace, they think about construction and manufacturing work environments.

Office hazards are either forgotten or ignored because the general assumption is that they are minor when compared to those in more labor-intensive work environments. But, office work environments often have some of the same hazards as other workspaces.

Office personnel are exposed to a number of dangers, including:

  • Chemicals
  • Lifting hazards
  • Ergonomic issues
  • Slip and trip hazards

Office work environments are also required to comply with some of the same OSHA regulations as other workspaces, and that includes training your staff in injury prevention and having the safety program in writing in the form of an injury and illness prevention plan.

Below are a number of safety issues that you and your employees should be aware of.

Fire prevention — All employees should know where fire extinguishers closest to their workstation are located. They should only be used by staff who have been trained.

Store combustible materials in their proper locations away from ignition sources, such as hot equipment, electrical equipment and smoking areas.

Damaged electrical cords with kinks, pinches and torn insulation are fire hazards. Space heaters have always been a concern when used in the office. They are often located under desks and could be kicked over, igniting rugs, papers of files stored nearby.

Chemicals — Most offices do not have many chemicals. Copy machine and printer toner, liquid correction fluid and cleaning chemicals are some of the most common chemicals found in an office environment.

You and your staff should know the chemicals in your environment, and also know where the Material Safety Data Sheets are located — and how to use them.

Medical emergencies — Medical emergencies can occur in the office just like anywhere else. Make sure first aid kits are available with adequate supplies to treat injured employees.

Review your Emergency Action Plan in case of an earthquake, fire or explosion.

Getting a handle on safety

OSHA’s General Duty Clause specifically states: “Each employer shall furnish to each of its employees, employment and a place of employment which is free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.”

Currently, there is no federal regulation that requires you to have a written office safety policy. But, to make sure you cover all of the safety issues that can arise in your office, you may want to consider creating one that states company guidelines for office safety.

There are many safety issues relevant to the office setting that you might choose to address in a written office safety policy, including such things as:

  • Ergonomic issues
  • Housekeeping and/or office cleanliness
  • Security issues
  • Dress code when going from office areas to production areas
  • First aid
  • Earthquake and fire safety
  • Use of space heaters and small appliances in the office area.
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