Working at a Desk: Safety Concerns

Working a desk job is one of the safest career paths for employees, yet the sector is not risk-free. What’s more, because such jobs are often viewed as harmless, both workers and their employers tend to ignore potential hazards and thus increase the likelihood of accidents. To avoid injuries, long-term health issues, as well as property loss, all employees and their supervisors must undergo the necessary safety courses.

Potential Hazards

The most common risks associated with desk jobs are:

  • Ergonomic Hazards.

    Office workers are required to spend extensive periods of time in a seated position, usually in front of a computer. This might seem innocuous, but can actually lead to injuries of the back, neck, and arms, as well as to muscle, ligament, and nerve damage. Most employees are not aware of the fact that an inappropriate work station and/or posture can lead to long-term health issues such as carpel tunnel syndrome. This is why it is especially important for all office workers to undergo training in Office Ergonomics.
  • Digital Eye Strain.

    Also referred as computer vision syndrome, digital eye strain can occur in office workers who spend at least 6 hours a day in front of a monitor. Factors that increase the likelihood of eye- and vision-related symptoms such as headaches, dry eyes, blurred vision, and neck and shoulder pain include screen glare, poor lightning, an incorrect viewing distance, and a faulty posture. When left unaddressed for long periods of time, digital eye strain can significantly reduce the efficiency of employees, as well as alter their quality of life.
  • Inappropriate Behavior.

    Workplace harassment can take many forms and, although only some of them are classified as illegal, all are extremely damaging for the victim(s) and the overall work environment in an office. For example, discrimination based on race, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, age, or any other feature is a form of workplace harassment that is sanctioned by law. Verbal, physical, and sexual harassers are also punishable by law, but some inappropriate behaviors – such as psychological, personal, power, or quid-pro-quo bullying – are not as widely acknowledged and may slip unnoticed for years.
  • Fires.

    Defective or exposed power cords can act as igniters when coming in direct contact with flammable materials such as paper. In addition, some extension cords can cause fires if they overload outlets, which is especially likely to occur when they are not installed by specialists. Space heaters and other igniters are equally dangerous in an office environment where paper and other combustible materials are present.

Incident Prevention

Working at a desk is a fairly safe activity, while most of the risks that are associated with this type of job are preventable through appropriate employee training. For example, offices must provide access to various types of equipment (desks, monitors, keyboards, and more) to best suit the needs of all employees, but before they can properly organize their work station using these resources, workers must be trained to understand ergonomic hazards and to avoid the latter. Digital eye strain presents a similar challenge, but office workers can learn to implement various techniques to rest and moisten their eyes while using a computer.

Perhaps the most dangerous hazard associated with desk jobs is workplace harassment, which continues to be widespread in spite of recent informative campaigns and the increasing emphasis that authorities place on the matter. Eliminating such inappropriate behavior in an office is almost always a matter of education. Supervisors, aggressors, witnesses, and victims must all have access to awareness courses before the issue can be tackled and resolved. In addition, victims must become familiar with safe channels that can be used to report abusers successfully.

Recommended Safety Courses

Office Ergonomics

Although ergonomic hazards tend to fly under the radar in an office environment, an incorrect posture or poorly designed work station can lead to chronic pain and serious health conditions for employees. All office workers should therefore have access to ergonomics training material so as to become aware of the risks and the means that can be used to avoid the latter.

Workplace Violence & Harassment

A deeply-rooted problem in modern office environments, workplace harassment can only be resolved once all parties involved are trained to fully recognize the nature, consequences, and legal repercussion of all types of inappropriate behavior.

Fire Safety & Extinguishers

Sprinkler systems and fire extinguishers are not enough to prevent fires in an office. Employees must also be taught to recognize fire hazards, report any defective equipment, and react correctly in case of an emergency.

What You Can Do to Stay Safe

As an employee who spends most of their time at a desk, you must first realize that, even though your job is relatively safe, there are still hazards that could affect your livelihood if ignored for long periods of time. As such, your first priority should be to undergo the necessary safety training to maintain your health in an office. These courses should be provided by your employer either before or soon after you are hired.

For an extensive list of safety courses best suited for working at a desk, please consult our Office Work industry page.

To review a list of safety courses for your industry, please visit our Consultation Page.