While OHSA is a commonly recognized name throughout the business world, it is safe to say that a large number of employees are unfamiliar with what OSHA is designed to do. OSHA, or the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, is a governmental oversight organization designed to hold employers responsible for providing a safe, healthful work environment for all employees and visitors.
OSHA Health and Safety in the Workplace
While OSHA does not specifically have an official regulatory section devoted solely to office safety, several standards and additional links can be found in OSHA’s Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs, applicable to workplace environments, as well as an OSHA Self-Inspection Checklist for Office Safety.
OFFICE HEALTH AND SAFETY – First and foremost is the health and well-being of every office employee and visitor. While office environments may appear to be relatively safe on a day-to-day basis, accidents do happen and employers often are at risk for losing thousands of dollars annually due to accidental injuries or illnesses. Add to that higher insurance premiums that are sure to follow, the loss of revenue from the need to replace an employee or employees (even temporarily), and the potentially high costs of workers’ compensation claims. And when the employer is at fault, personal injury claims for negligence can be significant.
SLIPS, TRIPS, AND FALLS – Slips, trips, and falls can happen anywhere and are one of the leading causes of workplace injury. Things that may not appear to pose a hazard can actually cause significant injury, for example, wet or recently waxed floors, boxes in an isle way or objects blocking exits, open cabinet or filing drawers, fallen objects, loose power cords across walkways, and food spills, just to name a few. OSHA does provide guidelines for developing a safety policy at your place of business, with the understanding that training all employees is the key to success. Posting the appropriate safety signage can be an effective first step in alerting employees and visitors to be aware of certain situations where an accident may occur.
FIRST AID AND SAFETY – OSHA approved first aid includes the following:
- Administering nonprescription medications at nonprescription strength
- Administering tetanus immunizations ONLY (all others are considered medical treatment)
- Cleaning, flushing, or soaking surface wounds
- Applying wound coverings including bandages, gauze pads, butterfly bandages, or Steri-strips
- Applying hot or cold therapy
- Using temporary stabilization devices, such as splints, slings, or neck collars
- Using eye-patches and removing foreign objects from eyes ONLY with irrigation or q-tips
- Removing a splinter or other foreign body with tweezers, irrigation, cotton balls, or other simple means
- Drinking fluids to alleviate the effects of heat stress
OFFICE SAFETY AND CHEMICAL USAGE – Chances are the cleaning and/or bathroom closets and cleaning supply area for the kitchen or break room are full of chemical products. Even “green” or organic products require proper precautions. When any chemicals are present in an office setting, OSHA requires proper training for all employees for handling chemical spills and other accidents appropriately.
Training specifics include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Never mix cleaning products, especially those containing ammonia or bleach
- Be aware of which cleaning products/chemicals require dilution and by how much
- Proper chemical product usage and storage
- Appropriate emergency procedures for caring for the patient and appropriately cleaning the contaminated office area(s)
- Understanding the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to be worn when cleaning chemical spills, for example, chemical-approved gloves, goggles, and body suits
- Always CLEARLY LABEL all cleaning and chemical containers with their contents and potential hazards
- Proper ventilation to avoid buildup of dangerous vapors and chemical fumes
- Thorough hand and arm washing after use of any and all cleaning and/or chemicals
GERMS AND BACTERIA IN THE OFFICE – Just about everyone has experienced how rapidly germs and sickness spread through the workplace, causing absenteeism to skyrocket and productivity to significantly decline. Consider the confined spaces that workplaces often include, add to that frequent sneezing and coughing near or by those around you. Additionally, we share water fountains, door handles, copy machines, faucets, and everything in between.
To combat the spread of illness in the workplace, OSHA has developed basic safety procedures for promoting the highest levels of health and safety. These include: proper hand washing techniques, cough etiquette, and the installation of “no touch” waste receptacles for used tissues, disposable towels, and cleaning supplies, among others. These wastebaskets should be placed generously throughout all office spaces.
PROMOTING A POSITIVE FEELING IN THE WORKPLACE – No matter what the goal, when everyone in the work group takes individual ownership – led by example from the top down – success is most likely to follow. Positive attitudes across the board help employees not only to perform better, but to feel like he or she plays an important role in the success of the organization.
WORKPLACE VIOLENCE AND SAFETY – Workplace violence is a serious problem, and can occur either inside or outside the work environment. Violent acts can cover anything from threats or verbal incidents to physical altercations and even the loss of life. According to OSHA, more than 2 million Americans annually are victims of workplace violence. OSHA has put together a detailed fact sheet addressing workplace violence that every business should read and follow.
For more information, please visit OSHA or call 800.321.OSHA (6742), TYY 877.889.5627.
See our other OSHA blogs for additional information on keeping your employees and visitors safe: