Is your office a mine field?
 May. 25, 2011

Most of the time, manufacturers pour their safety efforts and resources into preventing accidents that would be a consequence of the manufacturing process. But, are you forgetting about your office workers? The fact is, they also face hazards.

Compared to your manufacturing operation, the average office is a pretty tame place. But even in an office, a variety of potential hazards exist and any one of these can lead to accidents and injuries. For example:

  • An office worker carrying a stack of files falls down the stairs and severely injures their back.
  • Another office worker gets a painful contusion on their shin when they bump into a lower desk drawer that's been left open.
  • An office worker, opening a box of supplies with a box cutter cuts their hand and has to be taken to the emergency room for stitches.
  • A disgruntled former employee returns to the office and shoots their supervisor and a co-worker.
  • An office worker entering the building on a wet day slips and falls on the wet tiles in the entryway.

These are just a few possible accident scenarios that illustrate the risks office workers may face on the job.

Cal/OSHA Requirements
Although California has no General Duty Clause, a working Injury & Illness Prevention Program that has training and communication requirements that protect all workers in your operation against known hazards is required. The following would apply to a variety of office environments:

  • Housekeeping
  • Exit routes, emergency Action Plans, and fire prevention plans
  • Fire protection
  • Electrical safety
  • Hazard communication for chemical hazards
  • Sanitation

Office Safety Plan
Your office safety plan should include information about the following basic elements as applicable to your workplace:

Hazard assessment, safety orientation and training, housekeeping (e.g., surfaces, floors, entryways and exits, stairs, file cabinets, storage), electrical cords, lighting, ergonomics and lifting safely indoor air quality and ventilation, electrical appliances, emergency action and fire prevention, medical and first aid, chemical hazard communication and control, disability accommodations, workplace violence, accident investigation, sanitation security.

As in your manufacturing operation, your office safety plan should be reviewed at least annually and updated whenever changes in procedures or the office environment could create new hazards or affect existing ones.

Office Safety Responsibilities
Responsibility for office safety is shared by safety personnel, office managers and supervisors, and office workers. Everybody plays an important role in maintaining a safe environment.

As a Responsible Employer you must:

  • Implement an office safety plan.
  • Enforce all safety policies and procedures.
  • Conduct worker training regarding common office hazards.
  • Investigate all accidents and near misses and keep appropriate records.
  • Make regular office inspections to look for hazards. Oversee correction of reported office hazards promptly.

Office Managers and Supervisors must:

  • Monitor employee safety performance.
  • Keep alert for potential hazards in office areas (as well as in areas office workers must pass through to get to the office).
  • Ensure that employees follow safety procedures and policies.
  • Work with maintenance to make sure that cleaning and maintenance tasks are performed routinely and properly.
  • Report any hazards or accidents immediately.

Office Workers must:

  • Be informed about potential office hazards.
  • Follow the procedures of the office safety plan and the instructions of their supervisor.
  • Keep work areas uncluttered, orderly, sanitary, and free of other hazards.
  • Report unsafe conditions or acts that may cause injury to either themselves or other employees.
  • Report accidents and injuries to their supervisor.

Don’t ignore office safety. Make sure the hazards in the office are controlled and the safety plan is managed. Take no exposure to loss for granted. Remember, hazards are conditions and risk is the likelihood of harm from those hazards. By controlling hazards you reduce risk and cost.


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