As you sit at your desk, you may think your office job is relatively hazard-free. In comparison to high-risk occupations such as manufacturing, shipping, or construction, you’d be right. However, you can still suffer an accident at work, which may lead to, sometimes life-changing, injuries.
As of 2021/22, around 1.8 million people suffer from a work-related illness every year in the UK and, according to the Labour Force Survey, 565,000 British workers sustained an injury at work. Putting this into monetary terms, workplace illnesses cost the British economy an eye-watering £18.8bn (2019/20).
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) sets out the regulations that govern workplace safety, which in a nutshell means that employers have a duty of care to assess risks and put in place reasonable countermeasures. If an employer fails to fulfil this duty and you suffer an injury, then your employer may have been negligent and you may be entitled to make a personal injury claim.
In this article, we’ll highlight some of the most common office injuries and what you and your employer can do to reduce the likelihood of occurrence. After all, prevention is better than cure.
Slips & Trips
Slips and trips are a common occurrence, even in an office environment. A momentary lapse in concentration or overlooked trip hazard can result in a fall and serious injury. Sources of slips and trips include unattended spills, unsecured electrical or telephone cables, unstable surfaces, loose carpets, or even that innocent-looking clutter.
Employers and employees should also be mindful of exterior areas such as car parks, ramps, pathways, or outdoor rest areas. The winter months can be particularly challenging for managing trip hazards, as the colder, wetter weather conditions can make previously safe areas more dangerous.
Solutions to Slips & Trips
While your employer has a responsibility to provide health and safety training and information, it never hurts to be aware of ways to keep yourself safe.
Keeping your office clutter-free not only makes for a more comfortable work environment, but it also removes obstacles to trip over. In the same vein, carpets and cables should be properly secured and not frayed. Spills should be cleaned up immediately, and warning signs should be visible if cleaning is underway.
Accidents at work can happen, but taking steps to avoid them as much as possible can greatly reduce the occurrence or severity.
According to the HSE, manual lifting, and more broadly, manual handling, causes over a third of all workplace injuries. The term, manual handling, covers an extensive variety of activities over and above lifting a load. It also includes pushing, pulling, carrying, and lifting. If you fail to use proper techniques to safely carry out these tasks, it can lead to an accident at work.
Employers are expected to provide manual handling procedures and training to ensure employees are not put into excessively risky situations. Where employers have neglected to fulfil these requirements and you’ve suffered a serious injury, then you may be eligible to make a compensation claim. Experienced personal injury solicitors will be able to guide you through the process.
How to avoid injury
It’s important to take precautions when you’re lifting and moving a heavy load – it’s your body at the end of the day!
When you’re working in an office, it can be easy to overlook manual lifting procedures, but even a box of files may be a relatively heavy (or awkward) load. Embrace effective handling techniques, including maintaining a good posture, keeping the load as close to your body as possible, and never lifting something that is more than you can handle. Avoid twisting, stooping, and reaching for the load to reduce the risk of back strain.
Additionally, you should plan your carrying route in advance and remove any obstacles along the way. This will help you to reduce the risk of a trip or fall.
Offices are notorious places for repetition and simply being sedentary. While awareness of stress injuries has improved in the last few years, it can still come as a surprise to some that hours spent seated at a desk, and working on a computer can lead to back, neck, and shoulder pains as the impacts are often not felt immediately.
Back pain in the lower or upper back is a common complaint amongst workers with desk jobs. Although people are much more mindful of their seated posture, sitting still puts a lot of pressure on your spine and back. The longer you sit at your desk, the more inclined you might be to slouch and slump to try and get comfortable, particularly if you’re tired. All of this can do long-term damage to your back.
A workstation risk assessment can help you to identify potential solutions, so put in a request with your HR or H&S department. An ergonomic chair, lumbar pillow, or footrest can help to support your back in its natural s-shaped position. Some people find a stand-up desk can work wonders, encouraging you to move and stretch through the day. Regular breaks are also a given.
Neck & Shoulder issues
Sitting uncomfortably for long periods can also contribute to neck and shoulder problems. Left unaddressed, the pain can be distracting at best or eventually impact your quality of life, at worst.
Ergonomic office furniture can dramatically improve your desk setup. However, how you position your computer may also be the source of the pain – incorrectly positioning your computer or keyboard may force you to lean forwards or angle your neck uncomfortably. While using multiple computer screens can help your productivity, you may find them a source of neck or shoulder pain, especially if you tend to favour one side more than the other.
In addition to maintaining a good posture as you work, find opportunities to get moving! Stretch out your muscles or take a walk – break the habit of sitting at your desk all day long!
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful condition where the median nerve, running from the wrist to the hand, is pinched or compressed. People experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome can feel burning or itching in their fingers, and numbness or tingling from their hands to their shoulders.
Office workers may be particularly susceptible to carpal tunnel syndrome as they often spend the better part of their workday typing, which may cause them to hold their wrists in a position that places repeated pressure on their muscles.
If you’re feeling uncomfortable at your desk, it’s important not to ignore your concerns. Aside from taking regular breaks from typing, there are many tools available to help reduce your risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. A forearm support device or repositioning your chair may be all it takes, but you could also try a thinner or less inclined keyboard to help with your wrist positioning.
As well as potential damage to your limbs, sitting at a computer all day long may also lead to eye strain, where the eyes become dry or irritated and vision starts to blur. Staring at the dull glow of a computer screen causes us to blink less frequently, leading to dry eyes. In turn, eye strain can result in headaches, difficulty focusing, and fatigue.
Solutions for eye strain
Eye strain can be prevented with a few tweaks to your computer setup and work environment.
Your screen should be around arm’s length away and the top of the screen should be level with your eyes, causing you to look slightly downwards when you’re reading. Adjust the brightness so that you can see clearly. Switch to an easier-to-read font and increase the size to help prevent you from straining to read text. Screen filters and anti-glare keyboards can also be used to reduce glare.
Background lighting should be adjusted to minimise screen glare. Close the blinds or dim overhead lights to achieve the desired effect. It also goes without saying that you should also take regular breaks to exercise your eye muscles. Step away from the screen and spend a few minutes focusing on objects at varying distances.
Contact Waldrons Solicitors
If you’ve experienced an accident at work or you believe that your employer may have been negligent, which has led to a serious injury, then get in touch with our knowledgeable team of personal injury solicitors. At Waldrons, we have a wealth of experience in personal injury claims and can advise you on the specifics of your circumstances.
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