Most people do not generally realise that it is possible for persons working in offices to be maimed or killed. In 1974, there were 4,830 "reported" accidents including 13 fatalities recorded throughout the country which belies the claim that working in an office is safe. The word "reported" is stressed for a good reason; these accidents involved only people who were away from work for more than three days and do not take into account the many thousands of others away for less than three days. The figures make it clear that it is possible to be killed in an office.

Most of the fatalities come from falls, sometimes from heights and sometimes from tripping over obstacles on the flat.

Offices on College premises are subject to the "Offices Shops and Railways Premises Act" 1963, and also the requirement of the EC Directives 1992. Office managers must have understanding of these.


Lifting is one of the major injury hazards: such accidents can have permanent consequences. Correct techniques should be taught to all workers required to do lifting. Young workers are especially vulnerable because they are often expected to lift the same weights as grown persons; it cannot be stressed enough that young people should not be expected to do this. It should be realised by those in authority that young people just starting work are inclined to have more accidents than others because they are unaware of the dangers. For this reason alone they must be taught safety. Refer to Manual Handling of Loads Directive.

Fire Risk

College policy now bans smoking in any area unless designated as a SMOKING AREA.

 There is a surprising number of flammable liquids used in offices. They can be innocent looking such as glue or cleaning solvents.

 It must be remembered that you must not smoke when using these liquids. The air around the open container can be full of flammable vapours which, if they come into contact with the high temperature of the cigarette end, could ignite and explode.

Wastepaper baskets are another fire danger; in the past lit cigarettes or burning matches have been thrown into them. This has happened recently in the College causing a major fire.

Electrical Machines

Electrical machines are potential killers in offices. They must be properly maintained, especially those which are moved frequently.

Plugs can be cracked and cables cut or pulled. Every machine should be looked after under planned maintenance schedule and when the engineer comes ask him to check cables in addition to the usual cleaning and replacement of parts.

Power operated addressing machines etc. are often dangerous and can lead to trapped and injured fingers and bands. There machines are fed by hand, a fixed guard should be fitted, preferably interlocked with the machine drive so that the machines cannot be set in motion until the guard is in position and so that the removal of the guard immediately stops the machine.

First Aid

A small cut, seemingly a minor graze which causes no pain, can quite easily turn septic which in turn can lead to blood poisoning. All this may happen because a simple antiseptic cover was not applied at the time of injury.

It is a legal requirement that first aid facilities are available for office workers and people should use them remembering to make an entry in the first aid book for even the simplest of injuries.

Filing Cabinet

Filing cabinets can be dangerous if used incorrectly. In the case of four-drawer filing cabinets, the second drawer from the bottom should be filled before the others to weight the bottom and prevent it tilting over.

Drawers must be returned to the closed position when not in use to prevent bumping and tipping.

Trailing Leads

An adequate number of outlet sockets must be provided and running cables across gangways and floors must be avoided. All too often the hazard of trailing leads is brought about by the decision of office workers to change their working position shortly after occupying an office. It is necessary to pay careful attention to the planning of the office before occupation so that minimal changes occur following occupation of the area.


Guillotines are very hazardous pieces of equipment and are included in "The Prescribed Dangerous Machines Order" 1964 (S.I. 1964 No.971). Whether operated by mechanical power or not guillotines must be adequately guarded at all times. Any guillotine which is not so guarded must be immediately withdrawn from service and the working area until such time that adequate guards have been fitted.


Section 13 - 14 of the "Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act" 1963 requires that all employees who can do their work sitting down must be provided with seating.


Section 4 of the "Offices, Shops and Railways Premises Act" require that all furniture, furnishings and fittings, as well as floors, must be kept clean and free from obstruction. Dust, dirt and rubbish cause disease.

Plan for Escape

In the same way that overcrowding must be avoided in planning an office, so must escape routes be designed to ensure that workers can make a fast exit in an emergency. These routes must be completely free from obstruction and it must be made impossible for storage to spill into gangways or across doors. If there are 10 people working in an office, there should be TWO emergency exits, one at either end of the room. The exit doors must not be locked whilst occupied during working hours.


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