HRM Five: Everyday workplace dangers

You may not realise it, but dangers lurk at every corner of even the most innocuous white-walled office.
By: | March 18, 2018

Yamini Chinnuswamy offers five important points on everything you wanted to know about HR practices today, but were too afraid to ask. Check out previous editions of HRM Five here.


Some jobs are inherently more dangerous than others. Construction, mining, and healthcare are just a few examples of industries that necessitate specific workplace safety demands.

But organisations that are strictly office-based can’t afford to get complacent on the topic of hazards in the workplace.

Take, for instance, Apple – the tech giants who make iPads and iPhones for consumers the world. The company’s new headquarters, with its 45-foot tall windows of curved glass, has been hailed as an architectural triumph.

But there have been multiple reports of injuries as employees have accidentally walked into these glass walls, resulting in calls to 911 and trips to the emergency room.

Here are some everyday dangers that organisations should be mindful of, even in seemingly innocuous office settings.

1. Trip hazards

Clutter piles up. It happens at home, and it certainly happens in the office. But once that clutter spills out of individual workspaces and onto shared areas like walkways, it becomes something that people can trip over. Likewise, carpet that’s starting to come off the floor, or stray cables and cords, can also be tripping hazards. A fall can be dangerous enough by itself, and certainly much more if people are carrying hot foods or liquids, glass, or heavy objects.

2. Fall hazards

When you need to reach something that high above your head, it’s tempting to pull off some weird gymnastics to pull it off. I will admit to performing some incredibly unsafe stunts – such as climbing on kitchen counters or rolling chairs (which are a hallmark of any office in this day and age) – to access high shelves. Don’t give your employees the opportunity to even consider such dangerous practices; make sure you’ve got a step stool properly installed.

3. Electrical hazards

Wires and cables aren’t just trip hazards; when faulty, they’re also liable to cause electric shocks or fires. Electrical equipment, including cords, should be properly stowed regularly inspected by an electrician. Organisations should also examine if they’re providing enough electrical points for staff to do their jobs – you definitely don’t want 10 different plugs hooked up to one access point because there aren’t enough to go around.

4. Bacterial hazards

With people frequently leaving food in them and them forgetting, office refrigerators are danger zones. In fact, your office pantry or kitchen might be even more of a hotbed for bacteria than you might realise. A recent study found that a fridge door handle might have more than seven times the bacteria found on a toilet seat.

5. Poor lighting

Inadequate lighting, especially in hallways and storage closets, might result in people walking into or tripping over things. In actual working spaces, it can also lead to eyestrain and headaches as people squint at their screens. New research suggests that it might also be very bad for your brain.