Safe Practices in the Office
This Month’s Expert: Beverly Ament, President, Island Insurance
Q: How do I reduce injuries in our office?
It is in companies’ best interests to ensure a comfortable and safe work environment for their office workers. That’s because safer offices not only help to reduce workplace injuries and insurance costs, they also make employees happier.
Technology has created many conveniences that help us to be productive employees – like high-powered computers, email and video conferencing – but those conveniences also mean that workers can spend virtually their whole workday seated at their desks. Without thoughtful planning of workspaces, these repetitive activities can cause injuries or health-related problems over time.
Here are simple tips to make an office safer:
- Ergonomics: An ergonomic workspace can help employees feel and perform their best, which can also help to reduce insurance claims. Design or modify the workspace to allow for good posture, less exertion, fewer motions and better heights and reaches.
- Invest in office chairs with armrests that support the spinal curve. Chairs should be adjustable so both feet can rest flat on the floor or on a footrest with thighs parallel to the floor.
- The computer mouse should be within easy reach and on the same surface as the keyboard. When typing, wrists should be straight with one line from the fingertips to the elbows.
- The computer monitor should be about arm’s length in front of the user with the top of the screen at or slightly below the user’s eye level.
- Air Quality: The federal Environmental Protection Agency ranks indoor air quality as one of the top five potential hazards to public health. The regular maintenance and cleaning of air conditioning and air filtration systems is important to preventing respiratory disorders, allergies and chemical sensitivities. The EPA also recommends that building air ducts be serviced every three to five years.
- Lighting: Proper office lighting is another critical factor in reducing eye strain and fatigue. There should be enough lighting to read printed materials, yet not so much that it casts a glare on computer screens.
- Safety Plan: Companies – whether operating in an office or an industrial facility – should have safety plans and a management culture that encourage a wide range of healthy workplace behaviors and practices. In an office environment, for example, these plans would aim to reduce employee eye strain by incorporating recommendations from the American Optometric Association, such as taking 20-second breaks to view something 20 feet away every 20 minutes.
Creating a safety culture not only benefits employees, it can also have a positive impact on a company’s bottom line.