The Most Common Office Injuries and How To Prevent Them

May 30, 2017
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Office Related Injuries

The 2016 CIPD Absence Management survey found that the average employee takes 6.3 sick days each year, costing businesses around £522 per person. However, most of these are easy to prevent providing that you have basic health and safety procedures in place. Even relatively safe environments, such as an office, can present dangers and must have appropriate procedures.

What do you think the most common office injuries are? Use our guide to learn more about common accidents and how to prevent them.

image of a group of people in an office working around a desk


Slips, Trips, and Falls

In 2015/16, slips, trips and falls accounted for almost 1/5 of all workplace accidents. In an office, you can trip on a loose carpet, electrical wiring, objects that are left lying around and drawers that are left open. To prevent trips in the office ensure you have a strict tidying up policy; encourage staff to put things away after using them, keep walkways clear, and store items correctly. Keep electrical cables tied up and away from where people walk. If wires need to be on a walkway, use striped hazard tape to alert workers to trip risks.

Many things cause slips, including water, oil, spilt tea, shiny floor surfaces, and some shoes. However, you can easily prevent workplace slips!

When the floor has just been cleaned, it’s been wet outside, or someone spilt something, you should use safety signs to alert employees to slip risks. It’s also a good idea to have a ‘clean-as-you-go’ policy to make sure that employees clean up anything they spill straight away – it’s often the negligence in situations like this that causes accidents. Check out: Slips, Trips and Falls Quiz.

In 2016, businesses’ lost 30.4 million working days due to illness and injury.

wet floor slip trip fall risk

Falls from height can cause severe injury and, even in an office environment, are far too common. People standing on chairs to reach objects and falling is one of the most common workplace accidents. Using a chair as a ladder is a dangerous practice – they are unstable and unsuitable.

To prevent falls, always use a proper ladder or stepladder when accessing high up locations. When you’re using ladder equipment, you should maintain three points of contact with the ladder at all times (i.e. two feet and one hand) and never over-reach as this could cause you to topple over.

People falling from a height caused 26% of workplace deaths in 2015/16.


Workstation Ergonomics

Bad office ergonomics are common and they lead to many aches and pains. In 2015/16, half a million of us suffered from musculoskeletal disorders. Many of these aches and pains are caused by having an unsuitable desk layout, an uncomfortable chair, or from bending and reaching, thus forcing your body into awkward positions.

You can prevent ill-health from office ergonomics by paying particular attention to workspaces and display screen equipment.

  • Provide a footrest to support legs.
  • Use chairs with an adjustable height and back.
  • Allow employees to set desks at an appropriate height.
  • Inform employees that they should have their keyboard and mouse at a level where they don’t have to lean or stretch.
  • Position computer screens so that workers don’t have to crane or hunch forward to use them.
  • For more information, check out: Do You Know How to Set Up A Desk Ergonomically?

back pain and musculoskeletal issues

Poor office lighting can also lead to a myriad of health issues, including:

  • Vision problems.
  • Headaches and migraines.
  • Trip accidents.
  • Long-term sight problems.

Inadequate lighting is easy to solve: light your office by providing adequate central lighting and task lighting at each workstation.

Where possible, provide anti-glare computer screens. These screens prevent unnatural computer glare from reflecting off the screen and into people’s eyes. If natural light from outside is too bright, install blinds or tinted glass.

And encourage workers to get an eye test every one or two years.

In an open plan office, having individual light options increases employee satisfaction.


Lifting Objects

Incorrect manual handling can cause back and neck pain, sprains and strains. Injuries are most likely to be caused when employees are pushing, pulling, or lifting objects that are too heavy. Especially if they are lifting with incorrect posture or in areas that make manoeuvring challenging and require you to twist and stretch. Of all the working days lost over the course of a year due to ill health, lost days because of handling, lifting or carrying mispractice are the most frequent, yet it’s a problem that is easy to solve.

To prevent injury from manual handling, educate workers on the correct manual handling procedures, so they know not to attempt to move loads that are too big, heavy, or awkward. Remind people to use mechanical aids where necessary, break the load into smaller amounts, or to ask a colleague for help with the task.

Musculoskeletal disorders accounted for 34% of all lost working days in 2016.


Falling Objects

Objects falling from a height may include items falling off shelves, out of cupboards, or from other high up places, such as signs or decorations suspended from the ceiling. Having an object fall and strike you can cause serious physical injury, especially in an office environment where you’re unlikely to be wearing protective clothing to protect yourself from hazards.

Preventing falling objects is simple: teach employees how to store things safely. Don’t overload cupboards and shelves and store the heaviest items lower down so that they are less likely to fall and cause injury. Securely fasten signs or decorations if you have some that are suspended from the ceiling. 

a man working in a retail warehouse


Electrical Accidents

Even voltages as low as 50, can cause an electric shock. Many electrical injuries can result in muscle spasms and difficulty breathing. Most offices have electrical equipment, so you should make sure that this equipment is wired correctly. You should also make sure that it is not damaged and no live wires are exposed.

To prevent injury from electricity, ensure that all hardware and wiring are in perfect condition. Regularly check equipment for faults and dispose of anything that is faulty, damaged or no longer working. All electrical equipment should have a PAT sticker to show that it has been tested for electrical safety. Check out: Electrical Hazards in the Workplace: Office Electrical Safety.

Even if an electric shock isn’t fatal, it can still cause severe injury, often because the shock then leads to a fall.

common office injuries: electrical hazards and wires


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