Personal injuries suffered in an office environment are often considered too minor to merit attention beyond raiding the First Aid box for a plaster and hardly worthy of entering an accident claim. But injuries, which could lead to more major debilitating conditions may need financial redress.
Many of today’s modern office environments are installed as homogenised, ergonomically designed spaces, fully health-and-safety audited and aiming to be utterly risk free.
So is the worst that can sometimes happen is to receive a papercut when wrestling with the photocopier tray or stubbing a toe on the filing cabinet parked just inside and too close to the office door?
Sadly not! Injury claims for office accidents are on the rise.
Between 2010 and 2011, there were 115,000 injuries reported under RIDDOR and a Labour Force Survey found that 200,000 reportable injuries (based on more than a 3 day absence from work) had occurred over the same period.
Not every person who sits at a desk in an office-based occupation enjoys a risk-free day. Many small but busy offices soon transform into hazard traps, where desks overflow with files and storage boxes with even more files pile up beside desks. And woe betide anyone who attempts to retrieve a loose leaf binder, folder or manual squeezed between even more box files high on the top of a long, sagging shelf lining the upper office walls.
The growing presence of technology, inevitably, means a jungle of cables and wires is running riot under desks and along the sides of walls and across the floor. Any ‘cable tidy’ system, which might have been optimistically installed soon unravels within days or hours. Non-compliant rubber hosing simply curls up waiting to catch the heels of a staff member rushing to the First Aid box for that plaster after opening the stock cupboard door to a hail of flying BICs and tumbling reams of A4 copier paper.
And beware using that clunky office chair with a slightly angled back rest and dodgy hydraulics to attempt reaching up to grab the needed file. If it doesn’t swing wildly out of control in protest it will claim revenge later by instantly collapsing when its owner returns with the last remaining plaster, the size of a Smartie.
Incredibly, even the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are not safe in their own offices! After a Freedom of Information request was entered, it was found that HSE office employees recorded a staggering total of more than 50 accidents in one year across 17 of their offices around the country.
One employee cut his eye on a piece of A3 paper, another cut two fingers after putting them into a fan and an incident where a staff member was bruised by a falling toilet roll holder.There was little regional difference as one London worker injured himself by walking into a box and a Glasgow employee was treated after a balloon burst in his face.
However, the most accident-prone HSE office is actually in Bootle, Liverpool where ten incidents are reported in the 12 months between March 201 and April 2011.
In possibly the most embarrassing and ironic of all accidents, one HSE worker suffered the cruel indignity of a groin strain after tripping over their own “Caution: Wet Floor’ sign!”
Important! First Aid boxes need to be regularly checked to ensure compliance with Health and Safety in the workplace.