10 Common Office Injuries – and How to Avoid Them

Common office injuries

The last thing on your mind as you sit in that cozy corner office, furiously typing those never-ending reports, is the work-related risk you are exposed to. 

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, truck driving, fishing, farming, and logging are some of the most unsafe jobs in existence today. Working in the great outdoors is fantastic, but the associated risks put off many a people. 

Well, that is to be expected of blue collar jobs. If you want safety, get a white collar job, right?

You might be safe from most fatal injuries, but you are very much exposed to a different set of workplace injuries. And no, we’re not talking about the angry office cat Stan who attacks you every morning.

Research shows that in 2016, 2.9 million non-fatal workplace accidents were reported. 892,270 of them resulted in days off work. Yes, common office injuries are rarely fatal, but the modern office has become one of the most hazardous places of our time.

For this reason, most workplaces now have a myriad of extensive safety measures to prevent office injuries. In this age where working long hours has become the norm, learning how to avoid office accidents can make the difference between getting hurt and going back home safe.

Here are 10 Common office injuries and tips on how to avoid them.

1.Trips and Falls

It comes as no surprise that 1/5 of all workplace accidents are falls. In fact, 18% of all reported non-fatal office injuries are slips and falls. These can be caused by a multitude of trip hazards like electronic wiring, random objects on the floor, or loose carpeting. 

The scarier types of falls are those from a height – like a fall down the stairs or from an office ladder –which account for 7% of all reported non-fatal office injuries.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that these kinds of falls often result in the most disabling injuries in offices. 

You may not know it, but an office worker is 2.5 times more likely to experience a disabling injury from a fall than a non-office worker.

Some common causes of office falls include:

  • Inadequate lighting
  • Tripping over obstacles like loose wires, open drawers, or other office objects
  • Bending and reaching for items while in unstable chairs
  • Slipping or sliding on wet floors
  • Using chairs instead of stable ladders
  • Sliding or tripping on stairs

How do you avoid falls in the office?

  • Close any drawer once you’re done using it
  • Don’t walk absentmindedly, watch where you’re going – you’ll be sure to see if there are hazards ahead
  • Read safety signs to see if the floor has just been cleaned
  • Implement a clean-as-you-go policy in the office to ensure all spills are cleaned up right after they happen
  • Always get up and pick what you need. Avoid stretching to get it
  • Use a stable step ladder to pick overhead items
  • Make sure that all loose electrical cords and carpeting are reported and fixed as soon as possible
  • Keep all the walkways clear of things and use stripped hazard tape for any wires that have to be on traffic paths

2. Incorrect Manual Lifting of Heavy Objects

Lifting heavy objects with an incorrect posture can cause you untold misery due to neck and back pain, strains, or sprains. Incorrect body positioning in areas that require you to stretch and twist to fit can also be a cause of the injuries we’ve mentioned.

According to a published report, incorrect manual handling of heavy objects constitutes 33% of all non-fatal, work-related accidents. It is the main cause of working days lost over ill health.

Here’s how to prevent incorrect manual lifting of heavy objects

  • All employees must take a course on handling heavy objects to improve their handling techniques and also learn the correct way to assess loads before lifting them
  • Mechanical aids should be used for loads that are too heavy, big, or awkward
  • If possible, big heavy loads should be divided into smaller loads for safe lifting
  • Always ask your colleagues for help where possible
  • When lifting a heavy load, squat on the floor and then use your legs – not your back – to straighten up, and keep your back straight
  • Lift up objects with your entire hand, rather than your fingers, and hold them close to your body
  • Keep your back in a straight position when lifting any heavy objects from the floor to a higher position
  • When putting a big load on the floor, use your legs for strength, not your back

3. Electrical Accidents

Voltages as low as 50 volts can cause shock, and electric shock can cause muscle spasms and difficulty in breathing. If the voltage is high enough, it can cause a nasty burn or even death.

To avoid the danger of electric shock or burns, do this:

  • Ensure that you do not use any faulty electrical equipment or those with live wires exposed
  • If the electrical equipment has passed the electrical safety test, check whether it has a sticker that says so

4. Ergonomic Injuries

Working in an office means that you sit on your desk typing on a computer for hours on end. Having large office projects can make you to prolong your work hours in a bid to beat tight deadlines or impress your new supervisor. And while your desk does look like a very safe environment, this is not always the case.

There are office injuries that will sneak up on you when you least expect it. At first, you will only sense some numbness or tingling in your wrist or experience dull, intermittent pain. You might brush it off as general fatigue, but with time, this strain will do a number on your musculoskeletal system.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), estimates that over 34% of working days are lost because of illnesses and injuries that result in musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). 

Another study showed that 24 to 44% of office workers will suffer from these injuries if they are exposed to its triggers in a period of one year or less. MSDs will affect your nerves, muscles, blood vessels, ligaments, and tendons, causing conditions like tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, or trigger finger.

Overuse of a specific group of muscles, through repeated bodily movements, can cause an injury known as repetitive stress injury (RSI). Most office tasks require continuous repetition of particular motions to fulfill the duties assigned.

The minor, dull aches may be subtle in the beginning, but will result in severe problems if left unattended. You should act on repetitive stress injury as soon as you detect it to give yourself a better chance of quick recovery.

What situations cause ergonomic injuries?

  • Using too much force when carrying out tasks can strain the muscles and joints involved
  • A wrong posture can strain your wrists and spine
  • Repetitive tasks done over an extended period, even with good posture and the right force, can lead to injury

The best way to avoid a Repetitive Stress Injury

  1. Use an ergonomic chair. These chairs have the best arm and back support for long working hours
  2. Get an ergonomic keyboard. This handy gadget is specially designed to reduce unnecessary stress on your wrist, forearms, and fingers. It helps you to position your hands correctly at all times
  3. Take a break. Sitting down for 8 hours straight is not healthy, even with state-of-the-art equipment. Stand up for a few minutes every hour or so and stretch your body or walk around the office. Always ensure that you take your designated breaks to stay healthy.
  4. Use the right posture. Always maintain a good sitting posture, your thighs should be horizontal and your feet should be flat on the ground. Use a footrest if your feet are not in this position.
  5. Adjust your computer's monitor. Your eye line should always be at the same level with the top of your screen. This ensures that you are not continually looking downwards, and straining your neck in the process.
  6. Apply less force. Use the least amount of force to staple papers, type, or perform other office tasks
  7. Use a document holder. This helps you to keep your documents at the same level as your monitor as you type

5. Eye Damage

Continually staring at your computer screen for hours on end will not only cause stress to your eyes, it will eventually cause long-term damage. Poor office lighting can also damage your eyesight and cause migraines and headaches. It can also be the cause of accidents because you are unable to clearly see what’s ahead.

How do you avoid this type of injury?

  • Ensure that your computer’s screen text is large enough
  • Eliminate all types of glare on your screen to reduce eye strain. Use window blinds or the correct lighting fixtures
  • Take a break and rest your eyes every few hours
  • If you can’t change the lighting, wear eyeglasses that block out light which causes eye strain
  • Position your monitor properly
  • Use proper task lighting at each workstation
  • Get an eye test annually or biannually

6. Hazardous Substances

Injuries caused by dangerous chemicals in the office are quite common. These substances can be inhaled, splashed onto the eyes or skin, or ingested. Caustic substances such as glue, bleach, or acids can cause poisoning, headaches, rashes, burns, disorders of the body, or congenital disabilities, sometimes resulting in fatalities.

Preventing injuries caused by dangerous substances is not hard. This is what you should do.

  • Store hazardous substances in a safe, designated spot
  • Put warning labels on the substances
  • Stop using them if possible and substitute them with less dangerous alternatives. For instance, to clean the office, a simple detergent can be used instead of a chlorinated solvent
  • Use appropriate protection when handling hazardous substances – for example, gloves or goggles

7. Falling Objects and Head-On Collisions

Since you are always seated in the office, chances are there are many items placed at a higher level, directly above you. These objects can hit your head at any moment if they slide or get out of position. Things may fall off shelves, cupboards, and signs or decorations suspended from the ceiling may become loose and hit you. They can cause you serious physical injury.

The best way to avoid such accidents is to:

  • Ensure that everyone in the office is informed about proper storage
  • No shelves or cabinets should be overloaded
  • Most of the items should be stored on low shelves
  • Use secure fastenings for suspended items

The number of employees who have collided with each other, a shelf, or a blind cabinet are innumerable. To avoid these sharp, mind-numbing injuries and swollen foreheads, use convex mirrors at intersections and close all drawers that are not in use. Also, remember that nothing can replace focus and attention when walking around the office.

8. Hot Liquid Scalding

All office workers appreciate a nice warm cup of coffee, so much so that you cannot separate coffee from office folk – it’s like the two go hand in hand. Well, you also can’t separate hot liquids from nasty scalds and burns.

So, how do you keep these accidents at bay?

  • Do not carry multiple cups with hot liquids at the same time
  • Always keep hot liquids like soups sealed

9. Bruised Fingers & Staple Injuries

Getting your fingers stuck in drawers, paper cutters, windows and other office equipment is very common. Avoid these by staying alert, and always pay close attention to your tasks.

And yes, stapling has wounded many an office worker, although most adults are a bit embarrassed to admit it. Do not staple papers while scatterbrained. It is a staple for disaster 🙂

10. Hearing Loss

One of the most common office hazards is noise. In a regular office, there is continuous noise from electronic equipment – which may translate to irritable employees. Office workers are at risk of hearing loss if they are exposed to noise levels above 75 decibels for a long period of time.

Counter this type of injury by doing the following:

  • Allocate a separate space for noisy equipment
  • Use building acoustics. This is the art of controlling noise in buildings – from one space to another or within a space itself

There you have it! We’ve explained in detail the 10 common office injuries and told you exactly how to avoid them. We want to ensure you stay safe as you work. Have any question to ask? Don’t hesitate to, it’s what we’re here for.

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