When you think of an accident at work, you’re likely thinking of an environment such as a construction site or warehouse. And you’d be right to. These workplaces typically see a lot more accidents and injuries than the quiet and – often – dull office.
But it can’t be denied – offices see accidents too.
Offices typically lack the kind of machinery that is common in construction sites and warehouses. But that doesn’t mean there are no hazards. Indeed, the very work office employees carry out puts them at risk for certain injuries. Repetitive strain injury is commonly experienced by workers using computers, while bad posture can result in neck and back pain.
However, it’s slips, trips and falls that are the biggest threat to office workers. According to the USA’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these employees are up to 2.5 times more likely to suffer a serious injury from a fall than non-office workers.
The CDC pointed to tripping over open desks or drawers, cables, loose carpets or other objects in the employee’s path as specific trip hazards. Meanwhile, wet floors can lead to slips and using chairs rather than ladders can see falls resulting in significant injuries.
In addition, office workers can hurt themselves with poor manual lifting techniques. Offices feature a great deal of objects that often require lifting, from computer monitors to stacks of files. Employees can also bump into objects, like desks, cabinets and printers. They can also find themselves getting hit by objects falling from cabinets or hit the cabinet falling over.
Industrial disease is another potential threat to office workers. Those working in older offices may find that they’re surrounded by walls containing asbestos. Its use was only banned completely in 1999. A recent report found that 6 million tons of the carcinogen remain in roughly 1.5 million UK buildings.
This could mean that people working in these buildings are exposed to this toxic substance. The effects of exposure are most often deadly. However, those who develop mesothelioma, the cancer caused by asbestos, will not realise anything is wrong until many years – usually decades – later.
But once the disease has taken hold, death is usually rapid. This can leave patients with little time to organise their affairs and make arrangements for the end of their lives.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reports that there are more than 5,000 deaths per year in the UK caused by asbestos, with 2,526 of those due to mesothelioma. Inhalation of asbestos fibres can also cause lung cancer, pleural thickening and asbestosis.
When people with differing opinions who might perhaps never have met outside of work are put together for the majority of the day, tensions are bound to emerge. It may be surprising to many, but violence is a legitimate threat in the workplace.
The HSE found that there 694,000 incidents of violence at work reported in 2017/18, with 330,000 of those taking the form of an assault. The most common injury suffered was bruising or a black eye, while scratches were also common.
This could have a more serious impact on mental and emotional health, however. People who have experienced violence at work could find it difficult to return without experiencing anxiety. This could result in a drop in productivity and more long-term problems.
Although offices seem like safer workplaces, there is no guarantee that workers will be protected from harm. It is up to employers to ensure that they do all they can to keep workers safe.
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