Surprising number of hazards that can be present in an office setting

The aim of occupational health and safety risk management is to eliminate or reduce the risk of injuries and illnesses associated with work. Managing health and safety in the office requires a process of hazard identification, risk assessment, risk control and evaluation of control measures. Observations and monitoring of the worksite with an honest reporting system can lead to elimination or reduction in workplace hazards and, in turn, work-related injuries and illness.

Technologies like data communications, processing, and information transfer has enabled an enormous increase in the volume of information handled daily. Almost every organization has some office-based work. These changes offer many positive effects through faster communication, greater job satisfaction and increased variety in the tasks performed, but also some negatives like decreased physical variation, information overload, repetition, and monotony. Reducing injuries and illnesses in the office setting involves an understanding and awareness of potential hazards on the part of supervisors, as well as an active program to provide education and training to employees on hazard recognition, prevention, and intervention.

The following is a summary of workplace hazards encountered within a CCTV conference IndiaOpens in a new tab.



Long hours of computer use can contribute to eye strain. Eye strain is another frequent complaint in the office workplace. Headaches are common with eye strain.  Taking a 10-minute break periodically to focus the eyes on more distant objects may help reduce eye strain. Glare from outside lighting should be reduced with window shades and/or computer glare screens, or the monitor should be positioned opposite windows to reduce eye strain.  Florescent lights may be too bright for computer work and should be dimmed, or desk lamps may be more suitable. Avoid any squinting to see the computer screen. Change font size if needed and have your eyes examined for accurate vision correction by your eye doctor if necessary. Monitors are optimum for viewing at 20 to 26 inches from the eyes and slightly below eye level.


Workplace Headaches

Most of the tension headache sufferers may experience reduced functional performance but not disability. Tension headaches are the most common type of headache with 80 to 90 percent of the population experiencing this kind of headache within their lifetime. Patients may have mild light or noise sensitivity and are usually irritable. The mechanism of pain may be stress-related or associated with muscular pain or spasm. Treatment may include over-the-counter pain relievers, biomechanical relaxation techniques, and musculoskeletal treatments.

About 17 percent of Americans complain of headaches each year, and more than 8 million of those people seek treatment from their doctor. Research estimates that organizations lose 157 million work hours because of migraine headaches with an economic loss in the billions of dollars. Migraine headaches are the second most common type of headache disorder. Symptoms usually manifest as a one-sided, pulsating, moderate to severe pain that lasts hours to days and is associated with light, sound and sometimes odor sensitivity. Migraines are made worse with physical activity. Many patients experience a visual aura of flashing lights, blind spots or wavy lines. The release of pain-producing substances that affect the nerves and blood vessels in the head activates migraines. Treatment usually includes prescription medications that try to ameliorate symptoms or prevent the onset of a migraine. Migraines can be very debilitating in the performance of work duties and activities of daily living.


Physical Hazards

Physical hazards cause injury to workers when an object, piece of equipment or material comes in contact with a worker. Physical hazards are often associated with an uncontrolled source of energy; kinetic, electrical, pneumatic, hydraulic, etc. Examples of physical hazards are:

– Flash arc
– Exposure to unguarded or unprotected electrical equipment
– Working with high voltage equipment
– Exposure to Electromagnetic fields
– Incorrect wiring
– Loose surface conditions
– Wet surface conditions
– Object(s) on the floor
– Blocked walkways
– Poor design or lay-out of the work area
– Uneven surfaces
– Small or inadequate walkways
– Force of movement
– Repetition of movement
– Awkward Postures
– Sustained / static postures
– Contract stress
– Vibration Poor work station design
– Lighting conditions
– Temperature extremes
– Humidity extremes
– Exposure to sunlight / UV radiation
– Working at heights
– Restricted / confined spaces
– Working with powered equipment
– Working with unguarded equipment
– Pinch points
– Nip points
– Unguarded machines or work areas
– Overhead hazards
– Sharp edges
– Fast-moving equipment


Chemical Hazards

Chemical hazards are substances which, because of its characteristics and effects, may cause harm to human health and safety. Those products that have certain hazards (such as toxic, corrosive, flammable) have their packaging and labeling regulated by the Government. Since many of these chemical products are also used in the workplace, education on the meaning of these symbols is important. Chemical hazards can be broken down to include exposure to; vapors, gasses, mists, dust, fumes, and smoke. Examples of chemical hazards include exposure to:

– Production of chemicals
– Chemical reactions
– Chemical incompatibility
– Chemical storage
– Flammable Substances
– Combustible substances
– Carcinogenic substances
– Mutagenic substances
– Teratogenic substances
– Oxidizing substances
– Corrosive substances
– Pressurized containers


Biological Hazards

Biological hazards are organisms or substances produced by organisms that may pose a threat to human health and safety. Biological hazards include exposure to:

– Blood or other body fluids or tissue
– Human waste
– Anthrax
– Fungi/molds
– Bacteria and viruses
– Poisonous plants
– Animal waste
– Threat of insect or animal bites
– Drugs / cytotoxic substances


Psychological Hazards

Psychological hazards cause workers mental distress or distraction. Although a rather new hazard classification, it is critical that psychological hazards are thoroughly identified and controlled Examples of psychological hazards include:

– Violence in the workplace
– Work pace
– Working alone
– Over / under worked
– Worker phobias
– Poor leadership
– Lack of motivation
– No procedures
– Bullying and harassment
– Client / patient aggression
– Fatigue
– Shift work

Effective management of health and safety hazards also involves training, consultation, documentation of health and safety activities and regular review of the management system. Risk management is a continuous process, as technology changes and further options for the control of risks become available. Some computer-related hazards that arise due to Repetitive hand movements/ keyboarding/ use of mouse and Long periods of time at the workstation without breaks can be avoided if we: set the pace of work to allow for breaks (approximately 5-10 minutes per hour); Assigning a variety of tasks that involve full-body movement; Ensure workstation is adjustable specifically for comfort; Monitor for any changes to health. It requires consultation between employers, employees and Health and Safety Representatives when determining the approach and methods to be used. Winter indoor comfort and relative humidity: the colder the outdoor temperature is the more heat must be added indoors for body comfort. Adding some heat will result causing a drying effect and lower the indoor relative humidity, if any indoor moisture source is not present. Degrees of comfort vary with age, activity, clothing, and body characteristics. The investigation of the work conditions and the design of workplaces in modern buildings are very important in different countries (in cold and hot regions). The maintaining of good health of people, spending 60% of their life working inside needs scientific approaches. It is nowadays the problem of investigations in many countries.

We can prevent some physical Injuries by Training employees on how to use the right equipment and use it safely; Installing and use machine guards; Use extension cords only temporarily, Have permanent wiring installed if more electrical outlets are needed; Do not overload electrical outlets by using extension devices to increase the number of outlets at the permanent outlet, Do not “daisy-chain” power strips or surge protectors; Keeping long hair, neckties, fingers, and jewelry away from moving equipment or parts. Do not stack boxes too high. Place heavy objects on the bottom or lowest shelf. Never climb on shelves. Use a stepladder. Do not lay cords or cables across aisles, walkways, or common paths of travel where someone may trip and fall over them. Use the proper cable/cord covers designed for covering cords extending across these areas. Open and close file drawers slowly; one drawer at a time, and use the handle to avoid pinched or crushed fingers. Close drawers when they are not in use. Unplug any equipment before performing maintenance or repair. Fill the bottom drawer first to stabilize the unit. The reverse would be used when removing items. Mark the defective device with a “Do Not Use” Warning sign until it can be repaired or replaced. Discontinue using defective electronic equipment and make sure they are repaired or replaced as soon as possible. Do not block ventilation grates with file cabinets. Keep at least 18 inches between top-shelf items and the ceiling. This space will allow ceiling fire sprinklers, if present, to function properly.  

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