4 Common Office Accidents (and How to Prevent Them)

All things considered, an office is a fairly low impact environment. People tend to sit in their chairs for most of the day, intent on the screen or paperwork in front of them. Something as simple as getting up to refill a mug of coffee, tea or water can be enough to break up the routine.

But make no mistake: Office accidents do occur, and they’re generally bad news for injured employees, bosses, HR departments and bystanders. It only takes a split second for a mundane day to become memorable for all the wrong reasons. Be aware of these four common office accidents (and how to prevent them) for a safer workspace.

An Employee Falls

Did you know office workers are 2 to 2.5 times more likely to suffer a disabling injury from a fall than non-office workers? A rain-soaked tile floor can be a recipe for disaster. An extension cord can trip an employee on the way to a meeting. Flickering lighting can make it difficult to see the edge of a raised rug—boom, an employee goes down.

Keeping walkways clear is paramount to office safety. It’s also important to avoid substituting office chairs, shelves, boxes or desks in place of a ladder. If an item is out of reach, only a designated step stool or ladder is safe. Wipe up spills and precipitation immediately.

An Employee Collides with a Door

A typical office has dozens of doors. We generally pass through them without a second thought. But door accidents can lead to bruises, cuts and broken bones (like the fingers or nose). In 2009 alone, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 120 door accidents requiring amputations, 410 causing multiple traumatic injuries, 870 causing soreness and pain, 100 resulting in back injuries and 1,250 others. Every single one of these injuries involved taking time off work. Of course, having commercial insurance (including workers’ compensation) means companies will not have to pay out of pocket for medical bills and time away, but it’s still important to invest in avoiding these injuries up front.

Making employees aware of doors is the first step—for instance, they should open them slowly and look for people on the other side before proceeding. Installing doors with a window or see-through glass pane can help boost visibility.

An Office Fire Breaks Out

In 2012, fire departments responded to 17,500 office fires, resulting in $643 million in damage to property. Companies should practice proactive fire prevention techniques like inspecting cords and avoiding extension cord overload. If your business allows the use of space heaters during winter months, make sure they’re located at least three feet away from flammable materials and have an automatic shut-off function.

Offices should train employees on evacuation plans, place fire extinguishers at key locations and test their alarm/sprinkler system regularly.

Materials Slide Off Supply Shelves

Safe, organized storage systems for supplies and equipment are a must. Otherwise, falling or tipping objects could strike employees at any time. Always stack boxes and loose objects on shelves securely, with heavier objects going on lower shelves and lighter objects toward the top. To achieve equilibrium within drawers and file cabinets, distribute weight evenly and avoid pulling out multiple drawers at once. Employees should follow safe lifting procedures at all times to avoid dropping equipment on themselves or others, especially if they’re moving a substantial object like a computer or box full of supplies. Place objects on desks and tables several inches away from the edge so nothing topples onto an unsuspecting employee or visitor.

Stay vigilant against these four common office accidents and work to prevent them ahead of time. The right commercial insurance policy covers liability, employee injury and property damage, but your first line of defense is minimizing the risk of a workplace accident.