Absences among UK workers are at an all-time low, with an average of 4.1 days off per person per year (2017). However, with that said, there were still 600,000 non-fatal workplace injuries in 2017/18 alone; that equates to 30.7 million lost working days!
Compared to other working environments, offices are relatively safe but they do still present dangers that can easily lead to an injury. With the correct Health & Safety precautions and training in place, however, many of these injuries can be easily prevented!
Having your workstation equipment set up incorrectly can lead to aches, pains, and ultimately, musculoskeletal disorders. According to research carried out by the HSE, 469,000 people suffered from work-related musculoskeletal disorders in 2017/18, which resulted in around 6.6 million lost working days!
Musculoskeletal disorders are easily preventable! Our DSE Training teaches you how to set up your workstation correctly, but here are some practical tips to help you get started:
- Make sure your computer screen is roughly an arm's length away so you don't have to hunch forward to see it. The top of the screen should be in line with your eyes;
- Always use a chair with an adjustable height, back, and armrests;
- Have your keyboard and mouse close to you so that you can keep your elbows by your sides when you use them;
- When you're sitting, your feet should be flat on the floor with your hips slightly higher than your knees.
Slips, Trips & Falls
In 2017/18, 31% of non-fatal injuries in the workplace were caused by Slips, Trips, & Falls on the same level, whilst falls from height accounted for 8%. However, 35 out of the 144 fatal injuries in 2017/18 in the workplace were caused by falls from a height!
Offices present many trip hazards such as stairs, wiring, loose carpet, or random objects that are lying around. Staff should be encouraged to keep the areas around their workstations clear and make sure that there are no wires on show, particularly around walkways! If it is not possible to remove objects or wires from walkways, use signs or hazard tape to alert people of the trip risks.
Slip hazards in an office can range from things such as water, sugar, oil, or tea/coffee spilt on the floor, to shiny surfaces, type of footwear, and recently cleaned floors. If a floor has just been cleaned or something has recently been spilt, then make sure you have caution signs to make it clear to employees that there is a slip hazard present. Any spills should be cleared up as soon as they happen!
Falls from height are the most dangerous type of accident in this category, as the statistics prove. In an office environment, these can include falls from chairs, ladders, and stools. Using chairs to reach something up high is never a good idea - they are very unstable so you should always use a proper ladder or step-ladder instead. When using a ladder, make sure that you maintain three points of contact with the ladder at all times; for example, both feet and one hand. Never over-reach!
Preventing Slips, Trips & Falls in the workplace:
Incorrect Manual Handling
Just like bad workstation ergonomics, incorrect manual handling can result in injury too; back and neck pains, as well as strains and sprains. The most common cause of injuries when lifting objects is trying to lift something that is too heavy, or by using an incorrect posture, which makes it difficult to move objects safely.
Manual Handling Training should be considered in all workplaces because all workplaces require staff to engage in Manual Handling of some kind at some point. However, staff should always be reminded to ask colleagues for help if it’s needed. If help is not available, the load should be broken down into smaller amounts if possible, or put off until help becomes available.
Manual handling, awkward or tiring postures or keyboard work, and repetitive actions are estimated to be the main causes of work-related musculoskeletal disorders based on 2009/10-2011/12 LFS data.
Things like bleach, glue, acids, and caustic substances can all be found in various workplaces and the International Labour Force estimated that hazardous substances are responsible for over 650,000 occupational deaths a year across the world.
Preventing injuries from hazardous substances is simple - store them away in places where staff are unlikely to come into contact with them, and if staff need to use them, provide them with suitable protective equipment.
View our CoSHH Training for more information.
In 2017/18 the HSE recorded that electrical accidents accounted for 3 fatalities that year! It really doesn't take much to cause an electric shock - even voltages as low as 50 V are enough to cause a shock. Common electrical shocks can cause difficulty breathing and muscle spasms, but more serious shocks can cause severe burns and stop a human heart from beating.
A simple PAT test will determine whether or not a piece of electrical equipment is safe for office use, but if a piece of equipment looks faulty or stops working as it should, it's recommended you dispose of it.
Take a look at our Electrical Safety Training V2, which is ideal for office environments!
Further Reading and More Resources:
- All Office related training courses
- Defibrillators in the workplace
- Just how dirty is your workstation?
- How many toilets should a workplace have?
- Do you know what Health & Safety regulations apply to you?