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Preventing Workplace Injuries

For many, work makes up a large portion of day-to-day life. While in the office, potential hazards and threats exist, from natural disasters to crime or injuries. Although these things can occur during one's off time, most people are prepared to some degree and have an idea of what should be done. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case when at the office. Ideally, employers should have plans in place to keep their workers safe and healthy, whether this means protecting them from outside influences or taking steps to ensure that they are not harmed while performing their job. It is important that employees not only know what guidelines their office has in place to protect them but also what part they can play to ensure their own safety and good health.

The workplace isn't an exception when it comes to the threat of robbery, assault, or other crimes. Any employee can fall victim to crime, whether they are in a building or outside in the parking lot. While it isn't always possible to prevent bad things from happening, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of anyone being harmed. To cut down on the risk of theft, there should be a safe and out-of-sight location for workers to keep valuables such as purses and wallets. These personal items should be secured in this location during business hours. Valuable business property should also be safeguarded and serial numbers documented in case items are stolen. To ensure the safety of employees, all outside workers who come to an office should have identification, their arrival should be scheduled and expected, and they should be supervised during their stay.

After business hours, keep office doors locked, avoid letting customers or clients in after closing, and whenever possible, avoid working alone, particularly at night. During the evening hours, the building and its parking lot should be properly illuminated to reduce dark hiding areas. Always park cars in a location that is well-lit, highly visible, and close to the office building. In addition, walk to your vehicle with a coworker or with a security guard. Ideally, people should avoid walking out to their car alone. At all times, regardless of whether it is business hours or not, it is crucial that suspicious behavior in guests or even coworkers is reported.

Violence isn't the only safety concern during office hours. Health problems and injuries can develop as a result of doing certain types of work on a daily basis and may result in workers' compensation claims. People who sit at a desk all day, for example, may develop problems with their back or neck that can cause extreme discomfort. Other workers may use a mouse and keyboard on a daily basis and develop problems such as pain or numbness and weakness in their palms and wrists. These problems can often be prevented by purchasing ergonomic chairs that provide lumbar support or using keyboards that provide wrist support. Other solutions may include a desk that is the appropriate height for the user, using a headset when talking on the phone to avoid holding it between one's ear and shoulder when writing, or using a computer screen that is adjusted so that the top of the monitor is at eye level to reduce strain.

Eye strain is another serious problem that many employees encounter. In addition to adjusting their monitor, people should make certain they are blinking regularly as they work and taking regular breaks from looking at the computer screen. Setting monitors at least 20 inches away can also reduce strain and associated vision problems, as can reducing the amount of glare by adjusting the amount of light coming from windows or using anti-glare filters. For some, corrective glasses are necessary for computer use only, and their use can drastically reduce eye strain.

Other injuries in the office can be avoided with caution and safety measures in place. Businesses that use machines, for example, face the threat of injuries that could result in anything from cuts to the loss of a limb, digit, or eye. These types of injuries are often caused by a person getting caught by moving parts. Machine guards or goggles can help prevent individuals from coming into contact with these dangerous parts, and as a result, they can help prevent these types of injuries.

Fire is yet another way that people can be seriously injured or even killed while in the office. One of the best ways to stay safe from fire is to know how to prevent it from happening in the first place. Fires can be prevented if all employees use caution and stay alert to potential hazards such as damaged electrical cords or frayed wires. Power plugs or outlets should not be overloaded, and combustible items must be properly disposed of. If a computer or other electrical equipment feels hot, develops an odd smell, or sparks in some way, its use should be discontinued, and it should be reported to management, as the equipment may be on the verge of catching fire with continued use. Even throwing out the trash can help prevent fires, as paper and paper products are highly flammable. Before throwing out items that contain combustible materials, check the label for any proper disposal methods. In the event of a fire or any other emergency, it is important for employees and employers to have a means to exit the office space. Keeping hallways and doorways clear reduces the risk of people being blocked or tripping and falling during evacuations.

An employer should also keep the work environment clean and tidy to ensure that slips, trips, and falls cannot easily happen. To help prevent others from falling, every employee who works in the office should clean up spills when they happen and place "Wet Floor" warning signs around the area until it has thoroughly dried. When reaching for an item that is beyond their reach, it is important that people avoid standing on chairs or other objects that are not stable or meant to be stood on. Dark areas can also increase one's risk of tripping and falling, so it is important to keep buildings properly lit for visibility. During winter weather, the risk of falling indoors or outdoors increases due to slick, wet surfaces. To avoid falling, people must tread carefully during these months and wear footwear with better traction. After walking in rain or snow, dry the bottoms of shoes to prevent slipping on indoor surfaces. Ideally, the employer should have absorbent mats properly anchored at entrances specifically for this purpose. At any time, regardless of the weather, it is important to report damaged steps or stairs and uneven flooring, pavement, or walkways to management or the employer.

It is important that offices have emergency procedures in place for their staff members. These procedures should be discussed with employees in a training session to ensure that everyone knows what to do if an emergency situation should arise. A procedure manual can serve to set guidelines that will help reduce panic and chaos, assign roles and duties to certain individuals, and ensure that everyone knows what to do and can be accounted for, and it may ultimately reduce or prevent injuries. It should cover what employees should do in the event of a fire, earthquake, or tornado, for example. While some emergencies may require employees to evacuate the premises, others require them to shelter in place if it is not safe to leave the building. An emergency manual should cover both of these situations to reduce any confusion during a time of crisis when emotions are running high. It should also specify what the company advises employees to do in the event of an immediate human threat.