The Most Common Office Injuries
Posted 7/26/2017 by UHBlog
Some of the most debilitating workplace injuries happen to office workers. That’s right. People who aren’t in a traditionally hazardous work environment suffer injuries or work-related health problems that lead to lost time every year.
How bad is it? According to a 2017 Liberty Mutual workplace safety index, which used 2014 data available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Academy of Social Insurance, the most serious workplace injuries cost U.S. companies $59.9 billion per year. Among the top two are overexertion and falls.
”The most common injuries in offices are slips, trips and falls (STFs),” says occupational medicine specialist Paul Miotto, MD. “People often think it’s ergonomic-type injuries, but it isn’t. Those types of injuries aren’t as costly to companies as those from STFs.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that office workers are two to two-and-one-half times more likely to suffer a disabling injury from a fall than non-office workers are. The causes of STFs vary and include:
- Poor flooring surfaces, such as marble or tile, or those that are wet due to snow and rain
- Tripping hazards in hallways or cubicles, such as open desk drawers, electrical cords, boxes, purses and/or bags
- Running into other people in the hallways
- Standing on an office chair to reach something on top of a cubicle or file cabinet
”When people slip, trip or fall, they tend to use their dominate hand to stop themselves,” Dr. Miotto says. “This may result in broken bones, such as a wrist fracture or even a serious head injury that may require stitches. People who hit their heads may suffer from long-term problems, such as post-concussion syndrome and memory impairment, and may be unable to perform their job.”
In addition to STFs, other hazards that can affect office employees include:
- Ergonomic and repetitive-motion injuries – People who are typing and working on computers all day tend to get neck, shoulder and hand pain. To do their job pain-free, they may need a different type of mouse and/or a chair, computer monitor or document holder that can be adjusted.
“You want to invest in adjustable equipment that can accommodate employees no matter how short or tall they are – from five feet up to someone who is six-feet-six-inches tall,” Dr. Miotto says.
- Excessive sitting – According to studies by the World Health Organization, office workers sit on average for 10 hours or more. Some medical experts call sitting the new smoking and link it to chronic diseases, depression, anxiety and a host of other medical conditions. Dr. Miotto recommends setting a timer so you get up and move every hour for five to 10 minutes.
- Improper lighting – When the lights are too bright, such as from a computer screen, there’s a risk of eye fatigue. This is another good reason to get up for a few minutes once every hour, Dr. Miotto says.
- Fire hazards – These can be caused by personal space heaters or frayed electrical cords.
- Poor indoor air quality – In studies conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, some indoor environments have levels of pollutants that are actually higher than levels found outside. Because your workers spend so much time in the office, the indoor air quality can affect their health, comfort, well-being and productivity.
There are several ways your company can ensure a safe working environment, Dr. Miotto says, but the process requires an ongoing commitment from business owners/management.
“Your company should institute a walk-through to point out things that are hazardous,” he says. “It should be an ongoing process where you look for these types of things that can cause accidents or injuries. You should also establish a confidential reporting system so that employees will feel comfortable pointing out areas that require attention.”
To correct ergonomic issues, there are online resources available, as well as specialists at University Hospitals who can help.
”Among the many services that we offer is an onsite ergonomic assessment where an occupational therapist can visit your workplace and make sure that the equipment is set up properly for each of your employees,” Dr. Miotto says.
To learn more about University Hospitals’ occupational health and safety services, connect with University Hospitals Employer Solutions for more information.
Paul Miotto, MD, is an occupational medicine specialist and Medical Director for University Hospitals Occupational Health at University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center Occupational Medicine. You can request an appointment with Dr. Miotto or any other doctor online.