Four Hazards In Your Office That Can Kill Or Hurt You: How To Be Alert And Stay Safe

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Four Hazards In Your Office That Can Kill Or Hurt You: How To Be Alert And Stay Safe

14 November 2014
 Categories: Law, Articles

When you think about job safety and injury prevention, you probably picture someone driving a bulldozer, using a cutting torch or any number of other tasks that involve physical risk. However, if you work in an office, you may be surprised to know that there are a variety of things within your environment that can seriously harm or even kill you. Here are four specific hazards and how you can stay safe and healthy while working with and around them:


Photocopiers are among some of the most handled pieces of equipment in many offices, and many employees are accustomed to correcting paper jams, replacing toner cartridges and other simple maintenance tasks. However, copiers are complex machines, and they present hazards to workers such as:

  • Toner particulates: Photocopier toner is made from carbon black, an organic substance that can cause respiratory irritation if inhaled. Modern machines used sealed cartridges, but there are some older copiers that require filling toner bins from an open source. Take extra caution such as a wearing a disposable mask when filling these machines. Also, keep copiers in a well-ventilated area; the microscopic particles released during the copying process are believed to cause significant air quality issues in some offices, and you can help prevent a build-up of irritants by keeping the air moving.
  • Internal components: The various rollers, gears, levers, drums and other devices inside a copier can be hazardous if care isn't exercised. Always follow jam clearing procedures exactly as provided by manufacturer manuals and on-screen instructions. Never open panels or doors that are not specified in documentation, and heed warning labels placed inside the machine. Some components become very hot and can burn you, and others can pinch or cut your fingers. Always see where you are placing your hands before doing so.


Electrically-powered staplers can be a source of danger to your fingers and hands. Here are a couple of hazards to note:

  • Desktop electric staplers: These machines typically use a paper sensor that triggers the stapling mechanism; however, if you are careless, your fingers can punctured by a staple if you get them too far into the mechanism. Never reach into the stapling area to remove a jam or stuck staple unless you have unplugged the device. 
  • Staple guns: These staple guns are often used for mounting materials such as posters, bulletin board materials, etc. They pose a particular danger due to their lack of a backstop to catch staples. That means a staple can be easily driven far into your hands or fingers should you accidentally depress the trigger, and they can also potentially cause blindness should a staple be fired into your eye. Never dismantle any safety mechanisms that prevent accidental activation, and be sure that you unplug the stapler before performing maintenance or adding additional staples.


The break room may seem to be a safe place to get away from it all, but there are potential hazards lurking for the inattentive worker. Here are some specific concerns:

  • Coffee makers: Coffee makers are a source of burns from scalding water or coffee. Be careful when filling a hot coffeemaker so that you aren't burned by steam or splashing water. Additionally, an empty coffee pot can shatter if left on a hot burner, so always keep it filled with water or coffee.
  • Refrigerator: Office refrigerators are frequently more neglected than home refrigerators, and that allows for the potential growth of harmful microorganisms that cause foodborne illness. If you use a shared refrigerator, always clearly label the contents of a bag or container. Place a date on the container so that you know when it was put inside the refrigerator, and never eat anything that is past a safe range for consumption. Completely seal open containers so that your food isn't contaminated by any other food leakage.

Filing cabinets

The humble filing cabinet is fairly low-tech, but it can be a source of injury should you fail to take care. The main danger posed by filing cabinets is the creation of a weight imbalance when drawers are improperly opened. Most modern cabinets contain internal locks that prevent persons from opening more than one drawer at a time, but these locks can fail.

Only open one drawer at a time, and always be on the alert for a cabinet that seems to be leaning or shifting. If a cabinet you are using begins to fall, immediately back away; never attempt to catch it, or it could crush you or strain your back as you try to stop its descent.

If you are injured while working, be sure that you seek immediate medical care. Report the injury to your supervisor, and also contact a qualified attorney to protect your rights under the law. Your employer has an obligation to provide for your needs when you are injured on the job, even in an office. Continue here to read more.