To the over 40 million North Americans working in cubicles, spilling their Starbucks probably seems the worst catastrophe that could befall them. After all, just how dangerous can it be to sit at a desk in an air-conditioned office where turning on the computer is the most complicated, mechanical action required on an average day?
Pretty dangerous it turns out. There are over 76,000 workplace injuries in office environments each year according the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Falls cause most of these accidents. The National Safety Council reports that more than twice the number of workers in offices will suffer a fall considered disabling than workers in other environments, including outdoors and in areas like warehouses.
What Causes Falls?
Clutter is the biggest culprit. Workers slip on papers on the floor and trip over boxes of files in walkways. A tangle of electrical cords to feed the modern office’s glut of gadgetry makes any pathway an obstacle course.
If you’re trying to reach a ream of paper on the shelf above your computer, don’t stand on a chair with casters. Sounds pretty obvious, right? Apparently not. After standing on chairs that aren’t steady, workers regularly fall off them.
Cubicle walls are portable. Since they can be moved, the interior landscape can change from day to day. The result is one worker colliding with another because sight lines have been blocked.
Too much of a good thing? If the floors have just been waxed by cleaning staff, they can be unusually slippery, causing falls among unsuspecting office staff. Tile and marble are especially dangerous when wet. Frayed rugs can trip people walking on them.
Fix the Problem by Reinforcing Your Health and Safety Plan
Most falls can be avoided with a little foresight on the part of management and common sense on the part of workers. Implementing an effective health and safety plan can remove hazards that routinely lead to injury.
The National Safety Council recommends several easy-to-implement precautions that will aid in your health and safety plan:
Make a clutter-free environment the office norm. Using the expertise of your safety officer, training should be written down and enforced in cubicles, offices, walkways and common areas. Insist that files, paper, boxes and typical office detritus find a home. Keep stuff off the floor.
Never stretch a cord across a walkway. Move machinery close to outlets or install new outlets. Or use a plastic guard to shield the cords. Sometimes called a surface cable raceway, it covers wires and cables that snake across office walkways.
Keep step stools and small step ladders readily available to workers. Educate them about the chance for injury falling from an unsteady platform, like the rolling chair commonly used by computer workers. Have them check that the ground beneath is always level and firm before stepping on the stool or ladder.
Install convex mirrors at blind corners in the office and on cubicle walls. Like the National Safety Council says, if it works at car and truck intersections, it will help at people crossroads. Install good lighting to avoid dimly lit spots.
Since most falls can be prevented, educating workers on your health and safety plan is the first step to reducing accidents. Make sure every new employee goes through your company’s health and safety course so she knows what is expected. Update workers on changes to the safety management plan in the monthly newsletter and with emails.
The more information they get, the more sensible will be the choices that members of the cubicle culture make. With a few precautions, you can prevent falls and injury in your office.
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