Offices present a unique set of potential risks and injuries for employees and staff. Office work might not be as risky as a construction or manufacturing job, but it does come with its own employee risk factors.
Office employees tend to work indoors for long hours in seated positions that aren’t ergonomically sound. This opens the door to back, neck, vision, hand, and wrist problems, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and back pain.
Injuries can also occur as a result of tripping hazards, faulty electrical cords, and poor lighting, just to name a few. And what about equipment failures, like a burst pipe or leaky water heater?
Read on to learn how about common risks in office environments and how you can prevent or minimize them, so you don’t have to file a business insurance claim.
Tip #1 – Develop a Safety and Wellness Plan
Workplace accidents can greatly impact your business through lost productivity, workers’ compensation costs, and decreased employee morale. One of the best ways to maintain a safe office environment is by developing a safety and wellness plan to document what constitutes a safe workplace environment and what needs to be done to maintain that environment.
The first step is to inspect your workplace for hazards and find ways to reduce or eliminate them.
Next, you can conduct a job safety analysis to outline safe procedures, processes, and controls. This includes regularly monitoring problem areas and making improvements as needed.
Third, transform your analysis into safety guidelines that detail effective processes and expectations to mitigate risk. These guidelines can help create a culture of accountability and responsibility while also helping you manage risks.
Then, it’s time to train your employees on the safety resources available, what to do in an emergency, and how to properly maintain a safe working environment. If you want them to follow your guidelines, you must also help them understand why safe practices are important.
Pro Tip: Make safety training a part of your onboarding process for new employees.
Finally, document and analyze any accidents or injuries on the job. If you can figure out how and why they happened, you can take steps to avoid them in the future. You may find previously unnoticed problem areas or identify recurring issues.
There are other measures you can take to mitigate risk as well:
- If a job requires physical activity, consider screening applicants with pre-placement physicals to ensure the job matches their physical capabilities.
- Continually educate employees and managers to cultivate a safety-minded workplace.
- Provide protection equipment such as gloves, goggles, eyewash stations, and first-aid kits.
- Inspect and maintain all company assets (offices, vehicles, buildings, and grounds).
- Reinforce safety measures with additional or recurring training.
Tip #2 – Prevent or Reduce Falls
Falls, trips, and slips are among the most common accidents in an office environment that lead to insurance claims. Office workers are 2 to 2.5 times more likely to suffer a disabling injury from a fall than non-office workers. A slippery floor can easily lead to broken bones, damaged tendons and ligaments, and concussions for staff, customers, and third parties.
These hazards are often caused by the following:
- Open desk or file cabinet drawers.
- Electrical cords or wires.
- Loose carpeting.
- Uneven flooring.
- Objects in hallways or walkways.
- Wet floors
- Poor lighting.
- Lifting objects.
- Using items like chairs as stepladders.
Taking care to remove these hazards can help avoid the pain of an insurance claim and result in a better, safer environment for staff and customers alike.
Keeping an orderly workplace can help avoid serious health and safety hazards. The workplace layout should have adequate egress routes and be free of debris.
Train your staff to maintain tidy work areas and always close drawers as soon as they’re done with them. If they need to reach something overhead, provide them with a stepladder, so they don’t use a chair.
Be aware of your surroundings, and be proactive about identifying workplace hazards. When you find them, look for ways to reduce or eliminate them, and encourage employees to report unsafe areas or practices to management.
You can also ensure your maintenance team is proactive in handling wet floors and reducing the risks at your office, such as loose carpeting or stray electrical cords.
Tip #3 – Know How to Lift Objects
Have you ever heard the saying, “Lift with your knees, not with your back?”
It means you should never bend forward to lift an object, especially a heavy object, because it predisposes you to back injuries. Even lifting small loads like a monitor or reams of paper can lead to injury if done repeatedly, improperly, or both.
These proper lifting tips can help reduce or prevent injury in your office environment:
- Squat to secure the load. Don’t bend over.
- Secure the object with your entire hand, not just your fingers.
- Stand slowly by straightening your legs.
- Keep your back straight or slightly arched.
- Hold the load close to your body.
- To set it down, bend your knees and use your legs for strength, not your back.
Make sure to review safe lifting practices as part of your safety and wellness plan. For more information on safe lifting practices, we recommend visiting this OSHA page.
Tip #4 – Use Proper Ergonomics
Ergonomics is the study of people in their working environment to eliminate discomfort and injury by designing or modifying the work environment to fit the worker. Poor ergonomics for workers who spend long periods at a desk can lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Rotator cuff injuries (affects the shoulder)
- Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow)
- Trigger finger
- Muscle strains and lower back injuries
In fact, MSDs account for more than $15 billion in workers’ compensation costs annually. These injuries can lead to expensive insurance claims and lost productivity and are among the most frequently reported causes of lost or restricted work time. Therefore, it makes sense to ensure that your office workers have ergonomically sound workstations.
You can take the following actions to help your employees reduce the risk of injury by properly positioning workstations:
- Elbows should be at 90 degrees on the arms of a chair. While typing, it should be at a 90-degree angle and wrists should be straight.
- Computer monitors should be at eye level and an arm’s length away.
- The viewer’s eyes should naturally focus 2/3 to 3/4 of the way up the screen.
- Look away from your computer screen every thirty minutes for five minutes.
- Stand up and stretch every thirty minutes.
- Adjust chairs so the thighs are parallel with the floor, feet are flat, and the backrest supports the lower back.
- Use a footrest if your feet don’t rest comfortably on the floor.
- Make motions such as typing and stapling with the least amount of force possible.
Tip #5 – Maintain Your Building
One common claim for office environments is water and weather damage and building risks such as poor lighting or wet floors that lead to injuries like slips and falls. Make sure your building is safe and well-maintained.
Walkways – Maintain all internal and external walkways, including sidewalks, corridors, hallways, stairways, and elevators. They should be free of trip, slip, and fall hazards such as electrical cords, broken pavement, and snow and ice.
Fire Protection – Use a licensed fire protection company to maintain fire alarm systems such as sprinklers, smoke alarms, and carbon monoxide detectors.
Lighting – Your office environment should be well-lit so people can exit safely, even during a power outage. A backup generator or battery system can provide emergency lighting, but you should also consider having flashlights available for staff members in case they need extra light.
Landscaping – Make sure your property is free of hazards such as tree limbs hanging over parking areas or power lines and that bushes and other landscaping items don’t block lines of sight for drivers.
Water – Maintain gutters, downspouts, and drainage systems to keep water from your building.
Roof – Check your roof for loose shingles, rips, tears, and other signs of damage or wear.
Security – A system with motion lights and cameras can help deter thieves and vandals.
Tip #6 – Know Your HVAC, Electrical, and Plumbing Systems
A failure like a broken AC system on a scorching summer day can make the office environment intolerable. A frayed electrical line from a space heater under someone’s desk can result in electrocution or a fire. A leaking pipe can cause significant water damage in the blink of an eye.
The best way to ensure that your office environment stays safe, comfortable, and operational is to give your HVAC, electrical, and plumbing systems the TLC they deserve. Schedule annual preventative maintenance with licensed professionals to ensure your office runs efficiently.
For added protection, you can also install low-temperature sensors and water leak detectors to detect when water pipes are in danger of freezing or leaking.
If you have to file a business insurance claim because of a fire, theft, injury, weather event, or some other catastrophe, then these tips will help make the process easier for you.
- Contact the police if necessary.
- Contact your insurance provider immediately; they may need to send out an adjuster.
- Review your insurance policy to determine what’s covered and in what amounts and circumstances.
- Prepare an inventory of damages to substantiate your losses, including pictures and videos.
- Provide a proof of loss, a signed document containing all the information needed to investigate a claim accurately.
- Prepare for the insurance adjuster, who may need to review the property, damages, and records.
- Make temporary repairs, if necessary.
- Save receipts for reimbursement, and remember that payments for temporary repairs are part of the total claim settlement.
- Get multiple bids for repairs.
- Stay organized and record everything regarding the claim.
Hopefully, you’re not part of the 40% of businesses that will file an insurance claim within the next ten years, but if you are, these steps will help you get through the claims process quickly and more easily.
In the meantime, do you have the right office insurance coverage?
*Disclaimer: We offer content for informational purposes; Co-Op Co-operative Insurance Companies may not provide all the services or products listed here. Please contact your local agent to learn more about how we can help with your insurance needs.