Office Safety

Safety is everyone’s responsibility.  One of the best ways to make your work area safe is to be aware of the potential hazards that may be encountered in your work environment. Reporting unsafe conditions and following basic safe work practices can reduce the likelihood of work-related injuries. 

The following guidelines are meant to increase your awareness of hazards in office settings and help to ensure proper measures are in place to prevent workplace injuries.

Avoiding Slips, Trips and Falls

In educational facilities, slips, trips and falls account for almost 30% of all employee accidents. Falls from the same level account for as much as 60% of all falls, while falls from heights make up the remaining 40%. (Statistics from the Education Safety Association of Ontario).

By taking the following measures you can help to reduce the risk of slips, trips and falls:

  • keep floor surfaces and aisle ways free of clutter
  • report damaged floor surfaces (e.g. loose or torn carpet, damaged or missing floor tiles, damaged stair treads) to the Facilities Management work order line (ext. 4444) for repair 
  • prevent telephone, electrical and computer cords from becoming a tripping hazard by carefully planning the location of office equipment and securing cords in place as necessary
  • be aware of walking surfaces and their condition
  • wear footwear appropriate for the area in which you are working
  • keep filing cabinet drawers closed
  • avoid carrying large objects that obstruct your view
  • use a stepstool or stepladder if you must reach an upper shelf - do not use a chair or drawer for this purpose  

Think Safety when Lifting and Carrying

To reduce the risk of strains, sprains and back injuries, remember to follow these safe lifting and carrying techniques:

  • take a moment to size up the load; do not attempt to lift a load alone if you have any doubt of your ability to do so safely
  • if it is possible to divide the load into smaller portions, it may be advisable to make more trips with smaller loads
  • get help when items are too large or awkward for individual lifting
  • always have a firm footing
  • stand close to the object with your feet spread about shoulder width apart
  • lift with your leg muscles, not your back
  • keep the load close to your body when lifting or carrying
  • avoid twisting your body – turn with your feet instead
  • use a trolley or push cart to move objects, whenever possible, rather than carrying them yourself  
  • use a ladder or a stepstool to reach overhead - do not use a chair or other convenient object

Want to move filing cabinets or other heavy equipment to a different location within the same office? Relocating offices?

  • submit a “Facilities Management Capital Work Request” form to Facilities Management so arrangements can be made with professional movers to ensure the work is done safely.

Filing and Storage Cabinets

To prevent unwanted mishaps from occurring around filing and storage cabinets:

  • keep filing cabinets properly weighted by opening only one drawer at a time; some newer cabinets have this safety feature built in
  • keep filing cabinet drawers closed when not actively filing or retrieving materials
  • use the drawer handle when closing a drawer to avoid pinching fingers
  • do not overload storage cabinets or shelving units, especially if they are not bolted to the wall or floor
  • store heavy or breakable items on lower shelves
  • use caution when storing objects on top of filing cabinets or upper shelves - if they can slide or be jarred from such surfaces, these falling objects have the potential to cause head injuries

Housekeeping

Efforts should be taken to prevent cuts and other puncture wounds. Keep everything in its place and use common sense when handling the following:

  • pointed objects: keep push pins, scissors and other sharp objects in separate boxes within desk drawers and never reach for these items blindly
  • broken glass: do not pick up broken glass with your fingers –use a broom and dustpan; if this equipment is not available in your office, contact the Facilities Management work order line (ext. 4444) for assistance with the clean-up
  • whenever possible, deposit in a puncture proof container for disposal so that custodial staff are not put at risk of injury

Indoor Air Quality

Indoor air quality (IAQ) refers to the condition of air within an enclosed workplace. IAQ is function of a number of parameters including outdoor air quality, the design of enclosed workspaces, the design, operation and maintenance of ventilation systems, the number of occupants in a room or building, occupant activities and the presence of contaminant sources.

You can help to maintain a healthy indoor environment by keeping your area clean, keeping supply air vents and return air grilles free from obstruction and reporting indoor air quality (IAQ) concerns to your supervisor.

Refer to Humber’s Indoor Air Quality Procedure for more information. (LINK TO IAQ PROCEDURE)   

Workstation Ergonomics  

Here are a few tips on how to minimize daily stress and strain when required to work with a computer for an extended period of time.   REFER TO SELF-ASSESSMENT CHECKLIST

Monitor:

  • position the top of computer screen at eye level with the centre of the screen viewed with a slight downward gaze
  • reduce or eliminate glare and reflections that could result in eyestrain by adjusting the screen angle, using indirect lighting, and window blinds 
  • exercise your eyes periodically by looking away from the monitor and focusing elsewhere

Chair:

  • a five-point support base gives good stability for chairs with castors
  • feet should be flat on the floor; only a slight pressure should be behind the knees, so as not to reduce blood flow to the rest of the leg - if necessary use a footrest
  • chair should give support to the lower back

Hand and Wrist:

  • keep wrists in a neutral position; wrists should not be extended, flexed or bent to one side
  • arms should be relaxed and loose at sides, with forearms and hands parallel to the floor
  • keep pointing devices such as a mouse at the same level as the keyboard and within easy reach

Workstation Design:

  • legroom should be sufficient to change leg position without getting up
  • arrange work area so objects that are frequently used are in easy reach
  • use a hard copy document holder next to the monitor to hold reference material

 Electrical  Safety

A variety of electrical equipment is present in almost every office environment. Therefore, it is important for you to be aware of possible sources of electrical hazards such as overloaded outlets, frayed wires and improper grounding. Know how to reduce the risk:

  • do not use electrical equipment with frayed cords or damaged plugs; report these defects to your supervisor so that proper repairs can be arranged
  • extension cords should not be used in place of permanent wiring
  • do not place cords under carpets, through doors, above ceilings or in any location where they may become a tripping hazard
  • turn off and unplug machines before making any adjustments and leave repairs for qualified personnel or service persons
  • keep cords away from heat and water; these conditions may damage cord insulation and create a shock hazard
  • do not attempt to do any electrical work yourself - building electrical repairs and installations are to be done by a qualified electrician arranged through Facilities Management
  • if you have to use a specialized piece of equipment, take the time to learn how to operate it safely; ask your supervisor for training and read the operating instructions carefully                                                                                                           

Fire Safety

It is important to:

  • know emergency procedures
  • turn off appliances such as coffee makers and space heaters when not in use
  • ensure that equipment and materials do not block emergency exits or prevent access to fire pullstations, portable fire extinguishers or fire hose cabinets
  • follow the guidelines for electrical safety outlined above to prevent electrical fires

Remember, Humber is a smoke free environment!