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Keeping an Injury-Free Office

​This Tailgate Talk is part of the NLTAPA collection.

Although accidents involving office personnel generally occur less frequently than mishaps to industrial workers, the resulting injuries can be just as painful and severe. Each year in the United States between 300 and 400 deaths occur in an office setting.

A broken bone sustained from a fall in an office costs just as much to treat as a broken bone caused by a fall in the plant. Of course, not all office injuries are serious, but even slight injuries may result in lost workdays, which interfere with normal operations.

Office safety is everyone's responsibility. It involves two major factors; first, developing employee interest in safe practices both on and off the job; and second, correcting unsafe conditions.

Falls are the most common office accident, accounting for the greatest number of disabling injuries. The disabling injury rate of falls among office workers is 2 to two 2.5 times higher than the rate for non-office employees.

Walking, climbing ladders or stairs, and even sitting in a chair--all of these activities can result in a fall. To prevent these accidents, keep floors clean, dry, and free of refuse. Also, make sure they're in good repair. Telephone and electrical cords should not be placed where you or your co-workers could trip over them. Where collision hazards at blind corners exist, properly angled mirrors could be installed to eliminate this hazard. Special walkway or aisle way problems may be handled by painting a center line on the floor to define the direction of pedestrian travel.

Replacement or repair of defective chairs will reduce the number of falls from chairs. Chairs should never be used as ladders.

Ladders should be equipped with nonslip material on the feet and treads; they should also be suited for the purpose intended and properly maintained. Braking attachments on rolling and trolley-type ladders must be checked to make sure they function properly.

Stairs are safer when equipped with anti-slip treads, approved handrails and adequate lighting.

Striking against an object can also cause many office injuries. These accidents result when employees do not notice open desk or file drawers and other office equipment. Whether seated at your desk or walking, you should be aware that hurrying can produce such injuries. Always walk in designated aisles--avoid shortcuts.

Striking against sharp burrs on metal filing cabinets and office furniture can cause injuries. These burrs may also tear or damage clothing; they can be eliminated by filing the rough metal edges. Splinters and loose veneer on desks and chairs can produce similar results. Repairs to chipped or broken furniture should be made immediately. Workers being struck by objects are usually attributed to falling equipment.

Small index card files, calculators and typewriters, for example, should not be placed near the edges of desks, filing cabinets or tables because these items can slide onto the floor.

If a filing cabinet is unbalanced, with heavier material in the top drawers, it could easily fall over when drawers are pulled out. Personnel may also sustain injuries when caught in or between machinery and equipment.

When closing drawers in desks or filing cabinets make sure your hands, with the fingers brought into the palm, are held against the drawer face to avoid caching your fingers. Always use the handle when opening or closing the spring-loaded shelf on a typewriter desk; these shelves may open and close rapidly and present a definite hazard. Doors, windows and some office machinery are similar hand-traps.

Strains from overexertion often disable employees. These injuries usually occur when employees move heavy or awkward loads. By avoiding sudden movements and getting help for heavy tasks, you can avoid a serious strain or back injury.

Numerous fires causing loss of life and property have been the result of neglecting some simple fire prevention rules. You should be familiar with fire escapes, fire alarm systems and firefighting equipment. By observing strict housekeeping standards, storing flammable substances in approved receptacles and extinguishing matches and cigarette butts before  discarding them, the ravaging effects of fire can be minimized.

Through a program of scheduled inspections, unsafe conditions can be recognized and corrected before they lead to serious injuries. Take a few moments each day to walk through your work area. You will be surprised how many unsafe conditions exist. Look for items previously pointed out, such as objects protruding into walkways, file cabinets that are weighted toward the top, or frayed electrical cords

Keep in mind that office machinery and equipment can be hazardous if used improperly. Even a simple procedure of adding developing fluid to a copier requires special precautions. Some copier fluids are extremely flammable or caustic. Care should be taken to prevent this fluid from splashing into your eyes. Flammable liquids require special storage; they should be locked in fireproof cabinets and the rags used to wipe up duplicating fluid should be appropriately stored.

Although many injuries sustained in an office affect only the employee involved, remember that your actions can also affect others. New employees may learn many of their work habits observing co-workers. Bear in mind that you may be one of those "teachers."

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