Working Well: Common Hazards in the Office Workplace

By Dana Rawl, MD, MPH

Even though we tend to minimize dangers in comfortable, environmentally controlled office settings, there are still hazards contributing to injury or illness. Recognizing and eliminating or mitigating these office hazards is a primary prevention goal to reduce workplace injury and illness. Three of the common causes for injury in the office setting are slips, trips and falls, ergonomic-related injuries, and eye strain.

Slips, trips and falls are the most common cause of injury in an office setting. Wet floors, uneven floors, exposed electrical cords or computer cables, loose rugs or cluttered areas contribute to most slips, trips and falls. Anticipate icy, snowy or wet weather by placing non-slip matting at door entrances and exits, treating outdoor walkways with ice-melting products or sand, and posting notices for potential hazards, such as washouts or curbs. Clean up spills immediately and use wet floor warning signs. Using skid- resistant carpet on otherwise slick flooring helps reduce falls. Do not stand on chairs, tables or any surfaces other than an appropriate step ladder to reach something at an elevated height. Maintain clutter-free walkways and offices to avoid trips over boxes or stacked files. Keep file drawers closed, and route computer cables and electrical cords out of walkways or rolling chairs. Consider corner mirrors to reduce collisions with other workers coming around a blind corner.

Ergonomic injuries are usually repetitive or positional injuries leading to musculoskeletal strains, tendon or nerve injuries. These injuries are prevalent in the office workplace as most workers are primarily seated during the day as they perform repetitive tasks. Understanding and implementing proper ergonomic design with training can reduce ergonomic-related injury. Adjustable workstations that accommodate body size variations of workers are key in fitting the workstation to the worker. Adjustable chairs with lumbar supports help maintain a neutral posture with both feet on the floor to reduce back fatigue and strain. Positioning of the mouse and keyboard to keep the elbows at a 90-degree angle with the wrists in neutral alignment with the forearms and hands helps reduce hand pain, fatigue and numbness.

Dr. Dana Rawl

Neck strain can be reduced by positioning the computer monitor slightly lower than eye level and by providing document holders to reduce repeated head and neck movement. Make sure the worker is familiar with how to adjust furniture correctly.

Eye strain is another frequent complaint in the office workplace. Long hours of computer use can contribute to eye strain. Taking a 10-minute break periodically to focus the eyes on more distance objects may help reduce eye strain. Headaches are common with eye strain. Florescent lights may be too bright for computer work and should be dimmed, or desk lamps may be more suitable. Glare from outside lighting should be reduced with window shades and/or computer glare screens, or the monitor should be positioned opposite windows to reduce eye strain. Monitors are optimum for viewing at 20 to 26 inches from the eyes and slightly below eye level. Avoid any squinting to see the computer screen. Change font size if needed and have your eyes examined for accurate vision correction by your eye doctor if necessary.

Reducing injuries and illnesses in the office setting involves an understanding and awareness of potential hazards on the part of supervisors, as well as an active program to provide education and training to employees on hazard recognition, prevention and intervention. Observations and monitoring of the worksite with an honest reporting system can lead to elimination or reduction in workplace hazards and, in turn, work-related injuries and illness.

References
Maurer, Roy. “Five Common Office Hazards to Prevent.” Society for Human Resource Management. Oct 29, 2013.
Claussen, Lauretta. “Recognizing Hidden Dangers: 25 Steps to a Safer Office.” Safety + Health. National Safety Council. June 1, 2011.

Lexington Medical Center’s Occupational Health has certified doctors focused on workplace wellness and specializing in occupational and environmental medicine. Read more articles like this one by visiting OccuapationalHealthLexington.com and clicking on Working Well Magazine.

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Run. Walk. Honor Our Heroes. Register for the Tunnel to Towers 5K!

The fifth annual Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers South Carolina 5K Run & Walk is set for Friday, September 15 at 7:00 p.m. in Columbia’s Vista.
Along a picturesque course spanning the Gervais Street and Blossom Street bridges at sunset, the race celebrates and appreciates first responders and military service members who serve, save and sacrifice on our behalf every day. Lexington Medical Center is the presenting sponsor.

Stephen Siller

The race is named in honor of Stephen Siller, a New York City firefighter and father of five who died on September 11, 2001. That day, Siller was off-duty and on his way to play golf. When he heard what was happening at the World Trade Center, he strapped on 60 pounds of gear and ran from the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the World Trade Center. He gave his life to save others. The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation is committed to ensuring that Americans never forget 9/11 and that our children understand the sacrifices made by many on that day.

The route for the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers South Carolina 5K Run & Walk begins near the First Responders Historic Remembrance Memorial next to the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center on Lincoln Street. Participants will travel down Gervais Street, across the Gervais Street Bridge, into Cayce, up the Blossom Street Bridge and back to Columbia’s Vista in the early evening.

The goal of Tunnel to Towers is to support first responders and military service members who have been catastrophically injured in the line of duty. Proceeds from the 5K will benefit the building of smart homes for quadruple and triple amputee veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation’s “Building for America’s Bravest” program. So far, the Foundation has built 56 homes. Some of the proceeds will also benefit the 9/11 Memorial.

Register for South Carolina’s Tunnel to Towers 5K Walk and Run at www.t2trunsc.org. The entry fee is $30, with discounts for students, first responders and military service members. Importantly, businesses and organizations are encouraged to build a team of participants.

When participants register, they are also encouraged to start their own fundraising pages where they can accept donations online. The proceeds will go to the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. The race will recognize fundraising milestones with prizes.

Additionally, firefighters can compete for the Stephen G. Siller Steel Award, a piece of steel from the Twin Towers. Each fire department with at least five firefighters running in turnout gear will be entered in the competition. The team with the fastest combined time will receive the award to display in their fire station until next year’s run.

In previous years, event participants included more than 800 Fort Jackson soldiers running in formation, South Carolina first responders, law enforcement officers, military service members from all branches of the Armed Forces, avid runners, families and teams from businesses and organizations. More than 2,000 people participated.

Participants this year will include several JROTC groups from around South Carolina.

There will be an opening ceremony at 6:30 p.m. and an after party with an awards ceremony, music, food, beverages, vendor booths and family friendly activities after the race.

For more information about the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers South Carolina 5K Run & Walk, contact Jamie Lomas at (803) 600-1800 or jaime@eggplantevents.com