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3 Common Workplace Risks You Might Be Missing

Woman at desk
Practicing good ergonomic habits can help prevent costly heath bills later in life.

We all know that working in places like active construction sites or busy highway roadsides pose a lot of safety hazards, but what about offices, schools and even hospitals? There are often real dangers to everyday workplaces and risks to our health that we could be taking without knowing it.

Here are some ways to keep your workplace safe, no matter where you spend your 9 to 5.

Ergonomics: How You Feel When You Work

Repetitive motion or even poor keyboard placement can present problems that could leave you with real pain. It’s not just about working in a factory assembly line that can potentially lead to repetitive motion injuries, it’s clacking away on our keyboards all day. Some tips to help you set up a safe workstation include making sure you have good back, arm and neck support at your desk.

Want to learn how to set up your workstation? Watch this fun video from CNET for easy tips on everything from proper monitor height to avoiding carpel tunnel.

Musculoskeletal: Don’t Reach for That Heavy Box Over Your Head

Injuring your back at work can be just as simple as lifting a heavy water bottle for the dispenser, or putting a large box of supplies into a tall shelf. And one mistake in judgment can lead to many days laid up on the sidelines with a serious injury.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, “Musculoskeletal disorders are injuries or illnesses that result from overexertion or repetitive motion. They include soft-tissue injuries such as sprains, strains, tears, hernias and carpal tunnel syndrome. Work-related musculoskeletal disorders that result in days away from work most commonly involve the back alone. In 2016, musculoskeletal disorders involving the back accounted for 38.5 percent of all work-related musculoskeletal disorders (134,550 back cases out of 349,050 total cases).”

These disorders were recorded frequently by those working as nursing assistants, janitors and even stock clerks.

The BLS has also recorded that in 2016, “13 percent of cases were to the hand (including injuries to fingers). There were 317,530 cases involving sprains and strains, (36 percent) in 2016. Sprains and strains are the most prevalent type of injury to the back, shoulder and knee.”

Some ways to avoid injury are actually to keep moving (outside of work). Staying healthy and exercising all muscle groups can keep you fit and help you avoid making “one bad choice” and ending up flat on your back.The Mayo Clinic offers some basics in avoiding back problems at work.

Be careful about the following:

  • Exerting too much force on your back. Use common sense when it comes to lifting heavy loads and don’t try to be a hero!
  • Doing the same thing over and over. Don’t let repetition be the norm. Change up your tasks, take breaks and don’t put too much constant strain on one set of muscles.
  • Not staying active! Not only outside of work, but remember to get up from your desk, stretch, move around and avoid sitting with bad posture all day long.

What We Can’t See: Bugs, Mold, and More…Oh My!

Have a water leak at work? Dealing with ants around the sugar? Or just keep getting a cold? Your workplace could be a safety hazard to your health.

Make sure your workplace is a clean, sanitary place to work. After all, you’re spending a good chunk of your day there most of the week. Besides basic hygiene (does your bathroom get cleaned regularly and supply plenty of soap, tissue and paper towels? Is your kitchen area free of unwanted visitors like bugs?), you’ll also want to make sure that your building is keeping up its cleanliness as well.

  • Are there visible leaks or plumbing issues that could be creating mold or mildew problems? Make sure to address any leaks quickly and with proper remediation if there’s a lot of moisture to get rid of.
  • How’s your air quality? Is there good ventilation to keep air circulating? If workers are experiencing frequent headaches, coughs or even fevers, you might have a serious indoor air quality issue.
  • What’s your light source? When it comes to doing a good job, being able to adequately see what you’re working on is a big deal. Safe lighting helps us see, but also helps our eyes stay healthy. If you need to work with more natural light, less glare or more reliable light, tell your employer. Some quick light ergonomics tips.

No matter where you work, keeping it safe is key to staying as productive as possible and being happy with your job. An injury, no matter how small, could have big impacts in both your ability to do your job and your willingness to stick around for a while. Be sure to be safe, and everyone will be happy, healthy and wise.