Looking at hidden hazards in the office

From the Seattle Municipal Archives, City Light employees in office, 1954

From the Seattle Municipal Archives, City Light employees in office, 1954

When we work in an office, we all think we are in a safe environment, but how safe are we actually?

That question was up for discussion at the BC Municipal Safety Association conference at the Whistler Conference Centre June 14 to 16. The “Hidden Office Hazards” presentation was part of this annual conference promoting safety for BC’s municipal workers.

Rebecca Chow is the manager of health and safety for the City of Victoria. She teamed up with Vanessa Wolff, CUPE Occupational Health & Safety rep for the BC region, and together they talked about daily hazards of the office environment.

“We had a great group – from a variety of workplaces – not just municipalities. Sharing the hidden hazards was almost like opening a jack-in-the-box. Nicely decorated on the outside, but who knows what hazards lie inside,” Rebecca said.

“Partnering with CUPE to provide this presentation was fabulous and embraced the joint structure of safety in the workplace. Thank you to the BCMSA for hosting such a session and raising safety awareness in the office setting.”

Here’s a list of hazards they discussed – for office workers to scan and consider (and Google) further.

* Risk of exposure to asbestos
* How to store batteries safely
* Chemical sensitivities and work-related asthma
* Emergency preparedness
* Mercury spills
* Exposure to mold
* Numb fingers
* Overhead hazards to consider if there’s an earthquake
* Safe handling of photocopy toner

“Attendees appreciated the breadth and depth of the many topics discussed and shared many more for discussion in the open format portion of the session,” Rebecca says. “They walked away with new information, follow-up questions and a greater curiosity and awareness related to the hidden hazards.”

Rebecca said attendees shared these hazards from their own workplaces:

* File cabinets not affixed
* Overhead filing
* Electrical cord hazards
* Falling off chairs (as they sit down)
* Adjusting spring-loaded chairs
* Lack of heat and thermal comfort

Thanks to all for giving me more info on the conference.


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