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Office Safety

Falls and Back Strains

The most common types of accidents in offices are falls and back strains from overexertion. In many cases these injuries are caused by the arrangement of storage and office furniture or articles left on the floor. To help avoid these type injuries the following safety considerations should be included in the arrangement plan for the office.

  • Arrange furniture so that aisles will not be obstructed by items such as electric cords, outlets, telephone cords, trashcans and open files drawers. Also avoid creating aisles with blind corners if possible.
  • Arrange files and storage so that frequently used or heavy material is easy to get to without repetitive and excessive bending, reaching, climbing, or twisting and lifting at the same time. Minimize the distance you are required to carry heavy objects.

Video Display Terminals (VDT'S)

Various vision and musculoskeletal problems have been associated with extended use of video display terminals. To minimize these problems it is important that each workstation be designed to reduce stress and that adequate breaks from VDT use be taken:

  • The distance from the screen to your eyes should be only slightly greater than the distance you normally maintain between reading material and your eyes. The viewing angle should be within 10 degrees of your eye level.
  • Seat contours should follow the contours of your back. Adjust chair height so that you don't feel pressure on your tailbone (seat too low) or lower thighs (seat too high). If you must use a high seat use a footrest.
  • Position your chair and keyboard to minimize reaches and so that the height is comfortable. If you often look at paper documents when you work, use a copy stand, mounted so that it puts your work in the same plane and at the same height as your screen.
  • Avoid cradling a telephone between your neck and shoulders when talking and keying in. Use a headset.
  • Use wrist support pads and keep the wrist in a neutral position.
  • Avoid facing windows at your terminal.
  • Lighting for frequent computer users should be 50% of the level for normal office lighting. Don't place the workstation directly underneath overhead lighting.
  • If you can't control glare in your office use a filter screen for Macintosh use a "high light transmission" filter.
  • A 15 minute break is to be taken after two hours of continuous VDT work under moderate visual demands.

Frequent breaks are to be taken for every hour for jobs that require more than four hours of viewing time, constant rapid muscular action, fixed positions for extended periods of time or for jobs that are highly repetitive. This should be accomplished by supervisors scheduling alternative work assignments.

Employees whose job duties include constant VDT use exceeding 4 hours a day are required to attend a training session on VDT use. This program is provided by the Safety Officer.

Employees who experience vision or musculoskeletal problems they feel is associated with VDT use should report these problems to the University Health Service.

Small Heating Appliances

The most significant fire hazard in offices is associated with small cooking and heating appliances frequently used. Often these appliances overload circuits or are accidentally left on overnight.

Adequate clearance from combustibles such as paper must be maintained around space heaters and cooking appliances. In general, space heaters should not be connected to extension cords and should not be used near flammable liquids such as duplicating fluids, alcohol base cleaners, rubber cement. etc.

Most importantly, an employee within the office should be assigned to assure that small appliances are turned off or unplugged at the end of the workday.

Storage in Mechanical Equipment Rooms or Hallways

For fire safety reasons excess office and classroom supplies and furniture are not to be placed in building mechanical equipment rooms, electrical closets, hallways, stairways or attics.

Extension Cords

Extension cords are permitted only with portable appliances or fixtures. While in immediate use:

  • Each extension cord shall be plugged directly into an approved receptacle and shall, except for approved multiplying extension cords, serve only one appliance or fixture.
  • The current capacity of the cord shall not be less than the rated capacity of the appliance or fixture.
  • The extension cord shall be maintained in good condition without splices, deterioration or damage.
  • The extension cord shall be of the grounded type when servicing grounded appliances or fixtures.

Extension cords and flexible cords shall not be affixed to structures, extended through walls, ceiling floors, under doors or floor coverings, nor be subject to environmental damaging physical impact.The use of multiplug unfused cube adapters is prohibited.

Electrical Panels

A minimum of 30 inches of clearance shall be provided in front of electrical control panels for access.

Christmas Trees

  • Only listed electrical lights and wiring shall be used on Christmas trees and similar decorations.
  • Open flame shall not be located on or within the height of the Christmas tree or other similar combustible materials.
  • Natural cut Christmas trees shall not be located near heating vents or other fixed or portable heating devices that could cause the tree to dry out or to be ignited.
  • When installing them indoors, natural cut Christmas trees shall have the bottom end of the truck cut off at least one half inch above the end to help the tree absorb water. The tree shall be placed in a suitable stand with adequate water. The water level shall be checked and maintained on a daily basis. The tree shall be removed from the building immediately upon evidence of dryness.
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