Office Safety Training for Employees
When was the last time you said, “be careful!” to a coworker as you bid goodbye or left a meeting?
We usually say “be careful” to friends and family on a regular basis. When they leave on a road trip, we say “be careful” as a reminder to pay special attention on those long drives. We say “be careful” when our kids go to the local amusement park or out with friends. When our spouse goes out to do yard work on the weekend, we call out “be careful please!” (and maybe say a little prayer under our breath).
We don’t often say “be careful” to co-workers but, honestly, we do want them to be careful. When most people think of workplace safety, their minds go to factory or warehouse workers wearing hard hats and using forklifts. We can't forget safety for office employees and prevention is the key to staying safe.
HSI recently developed a safety course dedicated to office safety and the common hazards one can encounter in a non-industrial work site. Whether you work in an office with co-workers or a home office, these common hazards apply to all types of “office” settings and include:
- Slips, trips and falls*
- Poor ergonomics
- Fire hazards
- Chemical hazards
- Security hazards
Slips, Trips, and Falls
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), slips, trips, and falls made up over 200,000 of the nonfatal injuries and illnesses in the private industry in 2020. Typically, this OSHA category is at the top in terms of number of cases with days away from work. One doesn’t often think of slips, trips and falls as causing death, but with over 800 in 2020, a year with many more employees working from home than ever, it was a top cause death; over 16% of all work-related fatalities being due to slips, trips and falls.
OSHA has rules and regulations pertaining to nonfatal injuries to slip, trip, and fall hazards. For example, OSHA requires employers to regularly inspect the workplace and address any issues they find.
*Personally, I’m fond of the inclusion of “your mental state” as a factor covered in the course in this category; how many of us feel distracted, ill, or fatigued at work?
When one thinks about ergonomics or “back smarts” in the area of office safety, they likely envision mailroom employees lifting heavy boxes with those black lumbar support belts with suspenders. Yes, back smarts training would apply to them, but it also applies to anyone who sits all day in front of a computer. Setting up an ergonomic workplace requires adjustments to your body positioning, desk, chairs, and even things you keep on your desk. Think about your sitting and standing posture. Does the floor support your feet, or do you need a footrest?
In general, one of the best ways to care for your back is to keep yourself moving regularly and staying in good shape. Many health apps have reminders to stand and move around, or even setting a reminder in your work computer calendar to move around and stretch can be helpful. With more office employees working from home, evaluating the home office for ergonomic health is often overlooked. Reach out to your HR department to evaluate your office space, whether at home or in an office with others, to ensure it’s safe and ergonomically healthy.
It’s a little sad how most people take safety for granted. We don’t think about it until there is an incident and at that point, it’s too late. Nobody comes to work thinking they are going to start a small fire in the microwave when they forget to add water to their cup o’ noodles (true story). Safety needs to be more than a one-time, annual event. All employees need to be reminded about common office fire dangers, as well as the nearest fire extinguisher and proper use.
You may be thinking, "Why do I need to review chemical hazards in an office setting?" Often people think of chemical management and Safety Data Sheets (SDS) as more appropriate for a factory or plant setting, not an office. However, you’d be surprised how many common chemicals are present in an office and the lack of awareness of how to properly store, use, and manage a spill when it happens (note we’re not saying “if”).
An unconventional topic for office safety is harassment. The media may be fatigued from covering the celebrity offenders, but harassment and discrimination don’t seem to be going away. As managers, human resources and training professionals, it’s up to us to make efforts every day to create a safe environment and a culture that supports keeping employees safe.
In an ideal world, training covers more than what the law requires. Everyone should have a basic understanding of the behavior of offenders and potential targets. What are the warning signs? What is the bystander's role? What can everyone do to support a healthy culture?
Reinforce Office Safety Training
These are just a few topics to consider when training office employees on safety. Additional safety training topics could include electrical safety, driving safety, first aid, and much more.
Now look up from your phone or desktop and give your neck a stretch.