Office workers are exposed to a number of workplace hazards like slip and fall accidents, ergonomic hazards, electrical fires, poor indoor air quality and other dangers that result in tens of thousands of work-related injuries and illnesses every year. In 2016, about 78 workers lost their lives to occupational injuries and illnesses in office environments throughout the U.S. and thousands more became injured so severely that they required ongoing medical treatment. By becoming familiar with the dangers that may be lurking in the office, workers can help reduce their risk of becoming seriously injured or killed.
Common Office Hazards
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports thousands of on-the-job health problems and injuries suffered every year by office workers. Common office-related accidents and injuries include:
Slip and Fall Accidents
Slips and fall accidents account for the most common type of disabling office injury. Trips, slips and falls often occur as a result of wet or uneven floors, loose or frayed carpeting, liquid and food spills, unstable work surfaces, exposed cords, and cluttered office areas. In areas with cold winters, freezing rain, snow, and ice often create slip and fall hazards on outdoor surfaces such as walkways, exterior steps and parking lots.
Office workers commonly spend most of their day sitting at a desk working on a computer. They are prone to carpal tunnel syndrome, muscle and joint injuries that result from repetitive movements and poor posture, as well as eye strain from staring at a computer screen all day. To reduce ergonomic injuries, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) stresses the importance of properly setting up an office workstation, taking regular breaks and stretching.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, city fire departments responded to approximately 17,500 office fires in 2012. Most office fires are caused by damaged electrical cords, overloaded outlets, and space heaters that are not equipped with an automatic shut off feature in case of the heater tips over. The most common cause of office fires is faulty extension cords plugged into overloaded circuits.
Poor Indoor Air Quality
According to the National Safety Council, respiratory infections, asthma, and allergic reactions have become prevalent problems in many office environments. Poor indoor air quality is attributed to insufficient ventilation systems; exposure to cleaning chemicals and pesticides; water damage and mold growth; cubical workstations that block airflow; overcrowded offices; and poor housekeeping.