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May 13, 2019

Ten Common Office Ergonomics Hazards – Ergonomics 101

A worker with neck pain dealing with office ergonomics hazards with the headline text to the left.To have a conversation about ergonomic hazards we need to have a clear understanding of the definitions of these two words.

 

The first word is Ergonomics. Ergonomics is the study of how people work. If you are a golfer or a fan of golf you know Tiger Woods. Mr. Woods has had several injuries in his career including an injury to his back. Spinal problems are a common injury among amateurs and professional golfers. The work in golf requires an explosive release of energy in the downswing that places pressure on your back. Over time repetitive swinging of the club can cause injuries.

 

The second word is Hazard. A hazard is a potential source of harm. If you play golf as I do, you are familiar with the term water hazard. If your ball lands in the water, there will be harm to your score. If your shot misses the water and lands on the green, there was no harm to your score. So, in golf, a water hazard is a potential source of harm.

 

Now that we have established the context, Ergonomic Hazards are potential sources of harm to people from their work. What each of us does for work can be very different. The hazards and potential sources of harm associated with being a golfer, a factory worker, construction worker, electric lineman, or an office worker are unique.

 

This article will explore some of the Ergonomic Hazards related to office work. Things like sitting on an office chair for extended periods, awkward positions at their desk, eye strain, carpal tunnel syndrome from mouse and keyboard use, and others that can cause musculoskeletal disorders.

 

Below is a list of ten common hazards in office work environments that can impact employee health and safety.


  • Poor or Inadequate lighting
  • Computer Monitor, Keyboard, Mouse Use Repetitive Strains and Positioning
  • Prolonged Sitting / Position while Sitting
  • Slip, trip and falls
  • Stress
  • Indoor Air Quality
  • Chemicals (e.g. cleaning products)
  • Electrical Shock
  • Contagious illnesses spread by sick workers
  • Fire

You now have a list of common workplace hazards that are a source of potential harm to your office (and home office) employees. As an employer, you are required to furnish employment that is safe and healthful and do everything reasonably necessary to protect the life, safety, and health of employees. Employer responsibilities vary by state and country, but here is an example of Cal/OSHA’s requirements for Employers. It is a good example of a comprehensive list of employer expectations. The list below is an extract of the California code.

 

  • Establish, implement and maintain an effective injury and illness prevention program.
  • Establish or update operating procedures and communicate those procedures to employees.
  • Immediately report any serious injury, illness or death of an employee, occurring in a place of employment or in connection with employment. “Immediately” here means “as soon as practically possible but not longer than 8 hours after the employer knows or with diligent inquiry would have known” about the incident or death. In extenuating circumstances, employers must report no later than 24 hours after the incident.
  • Keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses, unless exempted by the regulations, their rights and responsibilities.
  • Make sure employees have and use safe tools and equipment and properly maintain this equipment.
  • Post citations at or near work areas where an accident took place.
  • Provide medical examinations and training when required by Cal/OSHA standards.
  • Train employees and use color codes, posters, labels or signs to warn employees about potential hazards.

Also, if you do have injuries or workers compensation claims they can be expensive. In a previous blog, we covered the Top 7 Diagnoses for CT Claims that covers 34.4% of all diagnoses for cumulative trauma based on workers compensation claims in California. See Cumulative Trauma (CT) Claims Costs.

 

So how can we help? Enviance provides software that helps organizations concerned about improving employee occupational safety, wellness, and productivity. Our Office Ergonomics, Computer Use Behavior-Based Safety, Case Management, Incident Management, Chemical Management, Audit and Inspection solutions provide a flexible range of technology offerings to reduce injuries, lower worker compensation claims, and provide safeguards to preventative strain injuries.

 

One major issue for health and safety professionals responsible for office environments is simply numbers. In many companies with very large office employee counts, they have very small occupational health support teams.

 

One key to success is to use technology and training that empowers the employee to proactively resolve impacts from many office hazards. Using online training combined with self-assessment of office workers' workstations is one way to digitally inspect each workplace and identify, document and eliminate, or put safeguards in place around the hazards. If your employees can self-resolve issues, this allows the H&S experts to focus on the cases that need their help. If they can’t self-resolve H&S staff can quickly respond to high-risk issues and all reported discomfort incidents.

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