Cost of workplace injury
Workplace injuries affect not only the workplace; they have far reaching effects into personal life. The costs of workplace injury can be divided into 4 areas:
- economic, and
The costs can directly or indirectly affect the organization.
- incapacity payments for lost earnings
- medical costs
- rehabilitation costs
- time lost from work by the injured employee = lost productivity
- loss of skills, experience and knowledge
- cost of recruitment, replacement and training
- increased workload pressure and uncertainty for co-workers
- higher risk of injuries to other staff and lowered morale
- absenteeism, turnover, workplace conflict
- the cost of replacement equipment
- damage to the organization’s reputation as an attractive workplace
- cost of investigation reports
7. Medical cost
– all treatment needs to be paid.
Loss of wages
8. Workplace safety is regulated by laws, legislation and Work Cover.
9. Correct lifting techniques are as follows:
- Identify the hazards of the task first – can it be carried out safely by one person/people?
- Visualize the route and assess the load – any slip or trip hazards? Handles or hand holds?
- Is the load wet or slippery? Might the load’s centre of gravity shift in lifting?
- Ensure you can execute handling safely
- Step close to the load – straddle it if appropriate
- Use the semi – squat technique
- Face the load directly and use both hands equally to grip it
- Balance your weight equally over both feet
- Think about the best place to grip the load
- Test the load. If too heavy or difficult to handle, stop and get help.
- Position the load to minimise forward – reaching and handling from below mid-thigh height or above chest height
- Avoid twisting, turning, bending the trunk
- Use smooth, slow movements throughout
- Hold or carry the load close to the body
- To alter direction while moving, step in the right direction rather than twisting your body
- Pace yourself – take micro-breaks.
- Be aware that lowering can be as hazardous as lifting – the above applies equally to setting down the load.
Source: Participate in OHS processes – Stephen Harvey (handbook)
10. The most common hazards in an office are:
Falls are the most common office accident, accounting for the greatest number of disabling injuries. The disabling injury rate of falls among office workers is 2 to 2.5 times higher than the rate for non-office employees. Once of the most common causes of office falls is tripping over an open desk or file drawer. Bending while seated in an unstable chair and tripping over electrical cords or wires are other common hazards. Office falls are frequently caused by using a chair or stack of boxes in place of a ladder and by slipping on wet floors. Loose carpeting, objects stored in halls or walkways, and inadequate lighting are other hazards that invite accidental falls. Fortunately, all of these fall hazards are preventable. The following checklist can help stop a fall before it happens.
- Be sure the pathway is clear before you walk.
- Close drawers completely after every use.
- Avoid excessive bending, twisting, and leaning backward while seated.
- Secure electrical cords and wires away from walkways.
- Always use a stepladder for overhead reaching. Chairs should never be used as ladders.
- Clean up spills immediately.
- Pick up objects co-workers may have left on the floor.
- Report loose carpeting or damaged flooring to the work control center (x2485)
- Never carry anything that obscures your vision.
- Wear stable shoes with non-slip soles.
Although a typical office job may not involve lifting large or especially heavy objects, it’s important to follow the principles of safe lifting. Small, light loads (i.e., stacks of files, boxes of computer paper, books) can wreak havoc on your back, neck, and shoulders if you use your body incorrectly when you lift them. Backs are especially vulnerable; most back injuries result from improper lifting. Before you pick up a carton or load, ask yourself these questions:
Is this too heavy for me to lift and carry alone?
How high do I have to lift it?
How far do I have to carry it?
Am I trying to impress anyone by lifting this?
If you feel that the lift is beyond your ability, contact your supervisor or ask another employee to assist you.
Safe Lifting Steps
Take a balanced stance, feet placed shoulder-width apart. When lifting something from the floor, squat close to the load.
Keep your back in its neutral or straight position. Tuck in you chin so your head and neck continue the straight back line.
Grip the object with your whole hand, rather than only with your fingers. Draw the object close to you, holding your elbows close to your body to keep the load and your body weight centered.
Lift by straightening your legs. Let your leg muscles, not your back muscles, do the work. Tighten your stomach muscles to help support your back. Maintain your neutral back position as you lift.
Never twist when lifting. When you must turn with a load, turn your whole body, feet first.
Never carry a load that blocks your vision.
To set something down, use the same body mechanics designed for lifting.
Lifting from A Seated Position
Bending from a seated position and coming back up places tremendous strain on your back. Also, your chair could be unstable and slip out from under you. Instead, stand and move your chair out of the way. Squat and stand whenever you have to retrieve something from the floor.
Ergonomic Solutions to Backbreaking Tasks
If you are doing a lot of twisting while lifting, try to rearrange the space to avoid this. People who have to twist under a load are more likely to suffer back injury.
Rotate through tasks so that periods of standing alternate with moving or sitting. Ask for stools or footrests for stationary jobs.
Store materials at knee level whenever possible instead of on the floor. Make shelves shallower (12-18") so one does not have to reach forward to lift the object. Break up loads so each weighs less.
If your must carry a heavy object some distance, consider storing it closer, request a table to rest it on, or try to use a hand truck or cart to transport it.
Striking against objects is another cause of office injuries. Incidents of this type include:
Bumping into doors, desks, file cabinets, and open drawers.
Bumping into other people while walking.
Striking open file drawers while bending down or straightening up.
Striking against sharp objects such as office machines, spindle files, staples, and pins.
Pay attention to where you are walking at all times, properly store materials in your work area and never carry objects that prevent you from seeing ahead of you.
Objects striking employees occur as a result of:
Office supplies sliding from shelves or cabinet tops.
Overbalanced file cabinets in which two or more drawers were opened at the same time or in which the file drawer was pulled out too far.
Machines, such as typewriters, that were dropped on feet.
Doors that were opened suddenly from the other side.
Proper material storage and use of storage devices can avoid these accidents.
The last category of leading disabling incidents occurs as a result of office workers who get their fingers or articles of clothing caught in or between objects. Office workers may be injured as a result of:
Fingers caught in a drawer, door, or window.
Fingers, hair or articles of clothing and jewelry caught in office machines.
Fingers caught under the knife-edge of a paper cutter.
While working on office equipment, concentrate on what you are doing. If the equipment is out of date, missing safety devices such as guards and shields, place the equipment out of service until it can be repaired or replaced. Make sure equipment is tagged so others will not use it.
Office materials that are improperly stored can lead to objects falling on workers, poor visibility, and create a fire hazard. A good housekeeping program will reduce or eliminate hazards associated with improper storage of materials. Examples of improper storage include - disorderly piling, piling materials too high, and obstructing doors, aisles, fire exits and fire-fighting equipment. The following are good storage practices:
Boxes, papers, and other materials should not be stored on top of lockers or file cabinets because they can cause landslide problems. Boxes and cartons should all be of uniform size in any pile or stack. Always stack material in such a way that it will not fall over.
Store heavy objects on lower shelves.
Try to store materials inside cabinets, files, and lockers.
Office equipment such as typewriters, index files, lights or calculators should not be placed on the edges of a desk, filing cabinet, or table.
Aisles, corners, and passageways must remain unobstructed. There should be no stacking of materials in these areas.
Storage areas should be designated and used only for that purpose. Store heavy materials so you do not have to reach across something to retrieve them.
Fire equipment, extinguishers, fire door exits, and sprinkler heads should remain unobstructed. Materials should be at least 18 inches minimum away from sprinkler heads.
Electrical panels should remain unobstructed. Materials should be at least 36" away from all sides of panel.
Ergonomics means fitting the workplace to the workers by modifying or redesigning the job, workstation, tool or environment. Workstation design can have a big impact on office workers health and well-being. There are a multitude of discomforts which can result from ergonomically incorrect computer workstation setups. The most common complaints relate to the neck, shoulders, and back. Others concern the arms and hands and occasionally the eyes. For example, poor chairs and/or bad postures can cause lower back strain; or a chair that is too high can cause circulation loss in legs and feet.
Certain common characteristics of computer workstation jobs have been identified and associated with increased risk of musculoskeletal problems. These include:
Design of the workstation
Nature of the task
Repetitiveness of the job
Degree of postural constraint
Personal attributes of individual workers
The key to comfort is in maintaining the body in a relaxed, neutral position. The ideal work position is to have the arms hanging relaxed from the shoulders. If a keyboard is used, arms should be bent at right angles at the elbow, with the hands held in a straight line with forearms and elbows close to the body. The head should be in lined with the body and slightly forward.
Arranging Your Workstation to Fit You
Adjust the height of the chair’s seat such that the thighs are horizontal while the feet are flat on the floor.
Adjust the seat pan depth such that your back is supported by the chair back rest while the back of the knee is comfortable relative to the front of the seat.
Adjust the back rest vertically so that is supports/fits the curvature of your lower back.
With the arms at your sides and the elbow joint approximately 90 degrees, adjust the height/position of the chair armrests to support the forearms.
Adjust the height of the keyboard such that the fingers rest on the keyboard home row when the arm is to the side, elbow at 90 degrees, and the wrist straight.
Place the mouse, trackball, or special keypads, next to the keyboard tray. Keep the wrist in a neutral position with the arm and hand close to the body.
Adjust the height of the monitor such that the top of the screen is at eye level. If bifocals/trifocals are used, place the monitor at a height that allows easy viewing without tipping the head back.
Place reference documents on a document holder close to the screen and at the same distance from the eye.
A footrest may be necessary if the operator cannot rest his/her feet comfortably on the floor.
Applying Good Work Practices
The way a task is performed and the workstation environment it is performed in can influence the risk of injury and general work productivity. Good technique can make a job easy and safe to accomplish.
*Adjusting the drapes or blinds
*Moving the monitor away from sources of glare or direct light.
*Tipping the monitor slightly downward
*Using diffusers on overhead lighting
*Placing an anti-glare filter on the screen
*Clean the monitor screen on a regular basis
*Avoid cradling the telephone between the head and shoulder. Hold the phone with your hand, use the speaker phone, or a headset.
*Keep frequently used items like the telephone, reference materials, and pens/pencils within easy reach.
*Position the monitor directly in front of the user.
*Move between different postures regularly
*Apply task lighting as to your needs.
*Use the minimum force necessary to strike the keyboard/ten-key keys.
*Use the minimum force necessary to activate the hole punch and stapler.
*Vary your tasks to avoid a long period of one activity.
*Take mini-breaks to rest the eyes and muscles. A break does not have to be a stop of work duties. However, it should be a different style of physical activity such as changing from keyboarding to using the telephone or filing.
*Neutralize distracting noise by using ear plugs, playing soft music, or turning on a fan.
*Maintain a comfortable workplace temperature by using layers of clothing or a fan.
EH&S personnel are available for consultation on setting up your workstation. Call x4444 to set up an appointment.
Indoor air quality (IAQ) is an increasingly important issue in the work environment. The study of indoor air quality and pollutant levels within office environments is a complex problem. The complexity of studying and measuring the quality of office environments arises from various factors including:
1. Office building floor plans are frequently changing to accommodate increasingly more employees and reorganization.
2. Office buildings frequently undergo building renovations such as installation of new carpet, modular office partitions and free-standing offices, and painting.
3. Many of the health symptoms appearing are vague and common both to the office and home environment.
4. Guidelines or standards for permissible personal exposure limits to pollutants within office buildings are very limited.
Many times odors are associated with chemical contaminants from inside or outside the office space, or from the building fabric. This is particularly noticeable following building renovation or installation of new carpeting. Out-gassing from such things as paints, adhesives, sealants, office furniture, carpeting, and vinyl wall coverings is the source of a variety of irritant compounds, In most cases, these chemical contaminants can be measured at levels above ambient (normal background) but far below any existing occupational evaluation criteria.
NIOSH has conducted hundreds of building studies which indicate that the most likely sources of this problem are - poor ventilation, poor thermal conditions, too high or low humidity, emissions from office machines, copiers and other building contaminants and poor ergonomic layout of workstations.
If you suspect IAQ issues in your work area contact us at x4444.
Indoor Air Pollution
An inadequately ventilated office environment or a poorly designed ventilation system can lead to the build up of a variety of indoor air pollutants. Air pollutants can originate within the building or be drawn in from outdoors. Examples of sources that originate outside a building include: (1) pollen, dust and fungal spores; (2) general vehicle exhaust; (3) odors from dumpsters; and (4) re-entrained exhaust from the building itself or from neighboring buildings. Examples of sources that originate from within the building include: (1) building components and furnishings; (2) smoking; (3) maintenance or remodeling activities (painting, etc.); (4) housekeeping activities; (5) unsanitary conditions (standing water from clogged drains or dry traps) and water damage; and (6) emissions from office equipment or special use areas (print shops, laboratories, or food preparation areas).
Controls to Prevent Indoor Air Pollution
The following recommendations and guidelines are useful in preventing indoor air quality problems:
1. HVAC systems should receive periodic cleaning and filters should be changed on a regular basis on all ventilation systems.
2. The ventilation system should introduce an adequate supply of fresh outside air into the office and capture and vent point air pollutant sources to the outside.
3. Office machinery should be operated in well-ventilated areas. Most office machinery does not require local exhaust ventilation in areas that are already provided with 7-10 air changes per hour. Photocopiers should be place away from workers’ desks. Workers should vary work tasks to avoid using machines excessively.
4. Office equipment should be cleaned/maintained according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Properly maintained equipment will not generate unhealthy levels of pollutants.
5. Special attention should be given to special operations that may generate air contaminants (such as painting, pesticide spraying, and heavy cleaning). Provisions for adequate ventilation must be made during these operations or other procedures, such as performing work off-hours or removing employees from the immediate area, utilized.
Lighting is one of the most important factors affecting personal comfort on the job. The best lighting system is one in which the light level is geared to the task, where brightness ratios are controlled (no intensely bright or dark areas in one field of vision) and where ceilings, walls, and floors are carefully chosen to minimize glare. Glare is defined as a harsh, uncomfortable bright light that shines directly in the eyes. Glare may be either direct, coming from lights or sunshine, or indirect, coming from a reflected surface.
Different tasks require different levels of lighting. Areas in which intricate work is performed, for example, require greater illumination than warehouses. Lighting needs vary from time to time and person to person as well. One approach is to use adjustable task lighting that can provide needed illumination without increasing general lighting.
Vision problems are one of the leading sources of complaints among office workers. Poor office lighting can cause eye strain and irritation, fatigue, double vision, watering and reddening of the eyelids, and a decrease in the power of focus and visual acuity. Headaches as well as neck and back pains may occur as a result of workers straining to see small or detailed items. Poor lighting in the workplace is also associated with an increase in accidents. Direct and reflected glare and shadows as well as delayed eye adaption when moving from bright surroundings into dark ones (or vice versa) may prevent an employee from seeing tripping and other similar hazards.
There are a number of measures that can be used to prevent and control poor lighting conditions in the work environment:
1. Regular maintenance of the lighting system should be carried out to clean or replace old bulbs and faulty lamp circuits.
2. A light-colored matte finish on walls, ceilings, and floors to reduce glare is recommended by the Illuminating Engineering Society.
3. Whenever possible, office workers should not face windows, unshielded lamps, or other sources of glare.
4. Adjustable shades should be used if workers face a window.
5. Diffuse light will help reduce shadows. Indirect lighting and task lighting are recommended, especially when work spaces are separated by dividers.
6. Task lamps are very effective in supplementing general office lighting for those who require or prefer additional lighting. Some task lamps permit several light levels.
Noise can be defined very simply as unwanted sound. Office workers are subjected to many noise sources including video display terminals, high-speed printers, telephones, fax machines, and human voices. Noise can produce tension and stress as well as damage to hearing at high noise levels. For noise levels in offices, the most common effects are interference with speech communication, annoyance, and distraction from mental activities. The annoying effect of noise can decrease performance or increase errors in some task situations. If the tasks require a great deal of mental concentration, noise can be detrimental to performance.
Government standards have set limits for exposure to noise to prevent hearing loss in employees. The level of noise one can safely be exposed to is dependent on the intensity of the noise as well as the duration of exposure. In an office setting OSHA noise standards are rarely approached or exceeded. However, problems could arise in areas with a high concentration of noisy machines, such as high-speed printers or copy machines.
When employees are subjected to sound levels exceeding OSHA standards, feasible administrative or engineering controls must be utilized. If such controls fail to reduce sound levels, personal protective equipment must be provided and used to reduce sound levels.
For many of the annoying sounds in the office environment, the following measures are useful for reducing the level of noise or its effects:
1. Select the quietest equipment if possible. When there is a choice between two or more products, sound levels should be included as a consideration for purchase and use.
2. Provide for proper maintenance of equipment, such as lubrication and tightening of loose parts that can cause noise.
3. Locate loud equipment in areas where its effects are less detrimental. For example, place impact printers away from areas where people must use the phone.
4. Use barrier walls or dividers to isolate noise sources. Use of buffers or acoustically-treated materials can absorb noise that might otherwise travel further. Rubber pads to insulate vibrating equipment can also help to reduce noise.
5. Enclose equipment, such as printers, with acoustical covers or housings.
6. Schedule noisy tasks at times when it will have less of an effect on the other tasks in the office.
Electricity is essential to the operations of a modern automated office as a source of power. Electrical equipment used in an office is potentially hazardous and can cause serious shock and burn injuries if improperly used or maintained.
Electricity travels through electrical conductors which may be in the form of wires or parts of the human body. Most metals and moist skin offer very little resistance to the flow of electrical current and can easily conduct electricity. Other substances such as dry wood, porcelain, or pottery offer a high resistance and can be used to prevent the flow of electrical current. If a part of the body comes in contact with the electrical circuit, a shock will occur. The electrical current will enter the body at one point and leave at another. The passage of electricity through the body can cause great pain, burns, destruction of tissue, nerves, and muscles and even death. Factors influencing the effects of electrical shock include the type of current, voltage, resistance, amperage, pathway through body, and the duration of contact. The longer the current flows through the body, the more serious the injury. Injuries are less severe when the current does not pass through or near nerve centers and vital organs. Electrical accidents usually occur as a result of faulty or defective equipment, unsafe installation, or misuse of equipment on the part of office workers.
Types of electrical hazards found in an office environment include the following:
Grounding is a method of protecting employees from electric shock. By grounding an electrical system, a low-resistance path to earth through a ground connection is intentionally created. When properly done, this path offers sufficiently low resistance and has sufficient current-carrying capacity to prevent the build-up of hazardous voltages. Most fixed equipment such as large, stationary machines must be grounded. Cord and plug connected equipment must be grounded if it is located in hazardous or wet locations, if operated at more than 150 volts to ground, or if it is of a certain type of equipment (such as refrigerators and air conditioners). Smaller office equipment, such as typewriters and coffee pots, would generally not fall into these categories and therefore would not have to be grounded. However much of the newer office equipment is manufactured with grounded plugs as a precaution (three prong plugs). In such cases, the equipment should be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. In any case, never remove the third (grounding) prong from any three-prong piece of equipment.
Insufficient or overloading of electrical outlets should be avoided. A sufficient number of outlets will eliminate the need for extension cords. Overloading electrical circuits and extension cords can result in a fire. Floor mounted outlets should be carefully placed to prevent tripping hazards.
The use of poorly maintained or unsafe, poor quality, non-approved (by national testing laboratory) coffee makers, radios, lamps, etc. (often provided by or used by employees) should be discarded. Such appliances can develop electrical shorts creating fire and/or shock hazards. Equipment and cords should be inspected regularly, and a qualified individual should make repairs.
Defective, frayed or improperly installed cords for electrically-operated office equipment
When the outer jacket of a cord is damaged, the cord may no longer be water-resistant. The insulation can absorb moisture, which may then result in a short circuit or excessive current leakage to ground. If wires are exposed, they may cause a shock to a worker who contacts them. These cords should be replaced. Electric cords should be examined on a routine basis for fraying and exposed wiring.
Improper Placement of Cords
A cord should not be pulled or dragged over nails, hooks, or other sharp objects that may cause cuts in the insulation. In addition, cords should never be placed on radiators, steam pipes, walls, and windows. Particular attention should be placed on connections behind furniture, since files and bookcases may be pushed tightly against electric outlets, severely bending the cord at the plug.
Electrical Cords across Walkways and Work Areas
An adequate number of outlet sockets should be provided. Extension cords should only be used in situations where fixed wiring is not feasible. However, if it is necessary to use an extension cord, never run it across walkways or aisles due to the potential tripping hazard. If you must run a cord across a walkway, either tape it down or purchase a cord runner.
Live Parts Unguarded
Wall receptacles should be designed and installed so that no current-carrying parts will be exposed, and outlet plates should be kept tight to eliminate the possibility of shock.
Pulling of Plugs to Shut Off Power
Switches to turn on and off equipment should be provided, either in the equipment or in the cords, so that it is not necessary to pull the plugs to shut off the power. To remove a plug from an outlet, take a firm grip on and pull the plug itself. Never pull a plug out by the cord.
Working on "Live Equipment"
Disconnect electrical machines before cleaning, adjusting, or applying flammable solutions. If a guard is removed to clean or repair parts, replace it before testing the equipment and returning the machine to service.
Blocking Electrical Panel Doors
If an electrical malfunction should occur, the panel door, and anything else in front of the door will become very hot. Electrical panel doors should always be kept closed, to prevent "electrical flash-over" in the event of an electrical malfunction.
The best time to think about fire safety is before a fire starts. Learn the location of fire escape routes and how to activate the fire alarm. Participate in practice fire drills on a regular basis. Become familiar with stairway exits - elevators may not function during a fire, or may expose passengers to heat, gas and smoke.
1. Heat-producing equipment - copiers, work processors, coffee makers and hot plates - are often overlooked as a potential fire hazard. Keep them away from anything that might burn.
2. Electrical appliances can be fire hazards. Be sure to turn off all appliances at the end of the day. Use only grounded appliances plugged into grounded outlets (three prong plug).
3. If electrical equipment malfunctions or gives off a strange odor, disconnect it and call the appropriate maintenance personnel. Promptly disconnect and replace cracked, frayed, or broken electrical cords.
4. Keep extension cords clear of doorways and other areas where they can be stepped on or chafed and never plug one extension cord into another.
5. Do not allow combustible material (boxes, paper, etc.) to build up in inappropriate storage locations (near sources of ignition).
6. By City of Houston Fire Code: All live christmas trees must be treated with a fire retardant mixture. Fire resistive artificial trees are recommended.
7. Avoid the use of space heaters of any type in your office. Oftentimes, these heaters are placed under desks or in closed quarters. The heat from these units can catch paper on fire or melt the insulation around electrical appliances.
8. Good housekeeping is essential to fire safety.
8. Good housekeeping is essential to fire safety.