Offices, Too, Need Safety Programs

An article - published by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and
Safety - highlights the types of issues that your Office Health and Safety
Program should address to ensure that your workers have the environment and
tools they need to help them work safely and comfortably, and prevent injuries
and illnesses in the office.

Office workers may not operate heavy machinery or spend hours exposed to
inclement weather at their jobs. They may, however, be exposed to lighting that
is inadequate to maintain healthy eyesight. They spend much of their time
seated at workstations that, if not properly designed and adjusted, can cause
long-term aches and pains. They may breathe in air that is unnatural, poorly
circulated and contain harmful dusts or other toxins. These are just a few of
the reasons why every office should have a health and safety program, including
a policy outlining management's commitment to ensuring a safe work environment.

Office aches and pains

Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSD) are injuries of the wrists, back,
neck, shoulders and elbows. They can be caused by work that is too forceful or
repetitive, and by fixed or awkward body positions held for extended periods,
such as stretching to hold a document at one side while entering data on a
keyboard. Common symptoms of WMSD are pain, joint stiffness, weak or aching
muscles, redness and swelling, numbness and tingling, a burning sensation, and
a general feeling of tiredness.

Every office health and safety program should cover ergonomics, the science of
matching the job to the worker. The goal of an ergonomics program is to
eliminate musculoskeletal and other disorders by considering all three key
factors: the worker, the workstation and the tasks performed.


Office workers can experience poor vision, eyestrain, headaches and other
symptoms caused by inadequate office lighting. Workers should be able to see
properly without straining the eyes or body. Too little light, too much glare,
flickering or poorly distributed light can cause discomfort, reduced
productivity and may damage the worker's vision.


To avoid the physical, psychosocial and behavioural effects that workplace
stress can have on a worker, consider the following characteristics of a more
rewarding, less stressful job:

  • The job should be reasonably demanding.
  • Tasks should be varied.
  • The worker should have opportunities to learn on the job and progress in his or
    her career.
  • The worker should have some degree of decision-making authority, and feel
    socially supported and recognized as a valuable asset to the organization.

Indoor Air Quality

The chemical vapours, dusts, moulds or fungi that can be found in office air
(from painting, emissions from new furnishings, poorly maintained ventilation
systems, etc) can be hazardous to a worker's health. Dry, irritated eyes, nose,
and throat, hypersensitivity and allergies, headaches, dizziness, nausea,
fatigue, shortness of breath, sinus problems and coughing and sneezing are
symptoms linked to poor indoor air quality (IAQ). An office health and safety
program should cover IAQ best practices, such as properly maintaining the
building's heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems and isolating or
eliminating sources of toxic emissions.

Further information

AplusA-online.de - Source: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety