Protecting Yourself from Hidden Office Hazards

July 17, 2014

no entryEach morning, workers enter their well-kempt offices and prepare for another day of work. While it may seem like your potted plants and computer screen post no threats, even the most benign spaces have hidden office hazards that a safety specialist may be able to point out.

Let’s start with your walk through the door. Placing items like coat racks or filing cabinets directly inside the door are sure to lead to stubbed toes, and boxes or open filing cabinet drawers are your shins worst enemies. It may seem like common sense that loose cords, bunched up floor rugs or slippery tiled floors are a tripping hazard, but many people fail to add no-skid rubber grips to mitigate this hazard.

Once you make it through your office and over to your desk, you may think you are safe. However, many workers fail to realize that an improper desk setup can be quite hazardous to the health of your eyes. Light glaring on a computer screen can quickly cause eye strain, so monitors should be placed so that light shines from above and behind the monitor. The farther up you have to look to focus on your screen, the more likely you are to forget to blink and dry out your eyes, increasing your risk of eye strain and nasty scratches on your cornea. Monitors should be lowered so you have you are looking slightly down at your screen.

In addition to making sure your monitor is set up to support eye health, the rest of your workspace should be set up ergonomically as well. Ideally, your chair should be ergonomically designed and adjusted to a height that allows your feet to touch the floor and your arms to be placed in a neutral, comfortable position while using an ergonomic keyboard. It may seem silly to place so much emphasis on desk placement, but repetitive use injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome are one of the leading office hazards for typists. Document holders placed to the side of your monitor can prevent neck aches and tension headaches caused by repeatedly looking up and down to transcribe documents as well.

Even with a comfortable desk setup and ergonomic furniture, sitting all day is bad for your health. Get up and take stretch breaks every 1-2 hours, and don’t forget to spend at least 30 seconds staring at a distant object out the window to give your eyes a chance to relax. Just a five minute break to walk to the restroom and back can help to prevent blood clots and sore muscles.

Outside of your own cubicle, the office kitchen can possess countless hidden office hazards. Common sense tells us not to put metal in the microwave or touch the hot pot of coffee, but many people don’t realize just how often those coffee pots need to be cleaned out to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses. The entire coffee pot, including water reservoir, should be cleaned daily, and fresh coffee should be brewed every few hours. A creative solution is to draw a timeline around the edge of an overturned coffee cup and stack a second cup on top with an arrow drawn. This way, you can easily turn the top cup to indicate when the coffee was made.

By taking the time to scrutinize your office for hidden hazards, you will find that a few quick fixes will make for a much more pleasant work experience. Office safety should be a number one priority and is necessary even in offices where no dangerous equipment is used.

Many thanks

Mark Williams

Head of Training and Development

Mark Williams 3

(Image by artur84 at

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