Offices are not usually thought of as hazardous environments to work in, but there are very common office injuries that occur rather frequently. Even though you spend your day in an office setting or in front of a computer, there are plenty of danger spots — both obvious and hidden — that can threaten your health.
Employers are obligated to provide a safe workplace environment, and all employers must follow the detailed guidelines of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), many of which were formulated to protect employees that work in offices. As an office worker, you may be entitled to compensation if you have suffered illness or injury due to a negligent employer.
Here are some of the most common office injuries experienced by workers in the United States.
Slips and Falls
Slip and fall injuries don’t just happen in icy parking lots. Slips, falls, and trips are the most common injuries sustained in office settings. Using rolling office chairs or other pieces of furniture such as desks in place of a step ladder causes many visits to the emergency room every year.
Wires and cords that are thoughtlessly stretched across workstations or aisles or are otherwise in the way create a tripping hazard, as can banker’s boxes or other clutter that should be stored out of the way. Upturned mat edges or slippery floor tiles can also cause falls. And of course, water that is tracked in on rainy or snowy days and not immediately cleaned up can be easily missed and cause a hazard on slippery floors.
Few office workers can spend 6 to 8 hours per day seated, staring at a computer screen, making endless repetitive hand and arm movements with their mouse for years on end without experiencing strain. This is why ergonomic injuries are one of the most common office injuries. Over the years, employees who spend too much time seated at their desks in an uncomfortable position can experience pain, fatigue, numbness and weakness as a result of non-ergonomic workstation setups.
Supportive chairs and adjustable desks and computers should be used according to OSHA guidelines, which include:
- Sitting up straight but relaxed in a supportive chair
- Placing your mouse and keyboard below desk level
- Adjusting your chair’s height so that your feet can easily be placed flat on the floor.
Poor Indoor Air Quality & Environmental Toxins
In an effort to cut down on energy costs, office environments have become increasingly closed to fresh air from windows and doors. At the same time, employees are becoming more and more sensitive to common toxins in office environments, such as cleaning products and pesticides, toner, outgassing from rugs and furniture, mold growth, and more. Inadequate ventilation systems or infrequent filter replacement, improper maintenance of heating and air conditioning systems, office overcrowding, and poor cleanliness standards can also impact those who are sensitive to environmental toxins.
Eye strain is a common problem that is not taken seriously enough, even though it can lead to vision impairment. Eye doctors are now prescribing special glasses that can cut down on blue light exposure from computers. OSHA recommends a 10-minute break from looking at a computer screen for every hour spent staring at it, and encourages workers to deliberately look at 3D objects at various points and depths in their visual field. Improper lighting — either too much or too little — can create a glare and in turn cause painful headaches and eye pain. Computers should be placed two feet away from the user.
It’s a surprising fact that office fires account for hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to workplaces every year. Office fire hazards include frayed power cords, using cords with damaged or missing third prongs, and overloaded extension cords. Any space heaters that are used in an office environment should be certified for commercial use and should turn themselves off automatically if they tip over. Fires can easily be started by a space heater that is placed too close to flammable items.
When an employer installs fire extinguishers in a workplace, they must also provide training to employees on how to use them.
Noise pollution is simply an excessive amount of noise. Noise levels in excess of 85 decibels, or a level of noise similar to that caused by heavy traffic, can cause hearing damage. Noise pollution is particularly problematic because it happens slowly, so you may not notice a hearing issue caused by overexposure to loud noise until it is too late.
Once your hearing has been damaged, it unfortunately cannot be restored. Other symptoms of excessive workplace noise include:
- High blood pressure
- Lowered immune response
Workers’ Compensation in Pennsylvania
Almost all workers in Pennsylvania are covered by the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, which protects those who have been injured or become ill at work. You are eligible for workers’ compensation immediately upon employment. Workers’ comp may cover things such as medical bills, wage loss, and death benefits for a spouse or surviving dependents. You may also receive specific loss benefits when you’ve lost use of specific body parts, such as your hand, finger, leg, foot, arm, eyes, or ears. There is also a benefit for those who have been disfigured.
According to the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII), in 2016 there were more than 150,000 cases of nonfatal injuries that were sustained in the workplace in Pennsylvania. Almost one third of those cases involved workers who lost time on the job because of their injuries, and there were more than 35,000 incidences of a transfer to a different position or to a restriction of the injured worker’s duties.
If you’ve experienced any of the most common office injuries listed above, it is in your best interest to report them to your employer or supervisor as soon as they happen. It is also important to contact a lawyer to help you navigate the complex world of Pennsylvania workers’ comp law so that you can get the maximum compensation for your injuries.
Suffering from One of the Most Common Office Injuries? Call the Best Personal Injury Lawyers in PA
Workplace injuries are often not simple cases. Illness and discomfort caused by such factors as noise, poor air quality, or eye strain can be difficult to prove, and even something as seemingly straightforward as a fall at work will be contested rigorously by your employer’s insurance company.
Employers have a responsibility to ensure that employees are not exposed to hazards in the office, which helps prevent the most common office injuries. Stepladders should be made available to employees who need to reach high shelving to carry out their daily tasks. OSHA guidelines should be followed to ensure that office furniture is not creating strain injuries. Ventilation systems should be maintained so that everyone can breathe clean air free of irritants and bacteria. Your employer may be violating multiple regulations that could endanger your health without you even knowing it.
Donaghue & Labrum has been fighting on behalf of workers for more than two decades. Our experience has given us an in-depth understanding of Pennsylvania’s complex workers’ compensation laws that most law firms simply cannot replicate. We serve Delaware and Chester counties with convenient offices located in Media and West Chester. Call us today for a free consultation. Know your rights!