Home Office Safety

safety first

(Note: Special thanks this month goes to my friend Chuck Wilsker, President of the Telework Coalition.  Chuck provided the good info below about home office safety.  You can learn more about the TelCoa at www.telcoa.org

Last month I wrote about how you could use the 5S methodology to organize your home office.  It’s a good idea to add an extra “S” and think about safety.  Home office safety is often overlooked but is important for obvious reasons.  Many of the employers I’ve spoken with leave it up to their teleworkers to ensure home offices are safe places to work.  Only a few offer advice, tips, or checklists to ensure employees can work in a productive and safe environment while working from home.

As you set up or review you home office, think about the items below.  To help you remember this, think of the acronym SELF to keep yourSELF safe (get it?  Oh, whatever…).

Security – Ensuring your home office is secure is important because theft of financial or confidential business information can be devastating to your business.  Replacing lost equipment is expensive and time consuming; and invasion of personal safety can leave physical and psychological scars.  Consider the following tips:

  • Don’t meet clients or vendors, or conduct  meetings with co-workers, in your home
  • Ensure you inventory any expensive home office equipment (it’s a good idea to make a video inventory) and make sure its insured if it belongs to you and not your employer
  • Buy a shredder or see if your employer will provide one
  • If possible, don’t store hard copies of sensitive documents in your home office
  • Don’t leave portable data storage devices in plain sight
  • Leverage cloud technologies for data storage versus leaving it on your hard drive
  • If you have to store confidential or sensitive documents in your home office, make sure you have a desk drawer or file cabinet that can be locked

Electrical Hazards – According to the U.S. Fire Administration, electrical wiring/equipment is the leading cause of home office fires.  Think about the following:

  • Consider having a qualified electrician inspect your home office, especially if you have added a substantial new electrical load to your home or you have an older home
  • Don’t overload electrical outlets – avoid using power strips plugged into other power strips or creating an outlet “octopus” by plugging in too many adapters into a single outlet
  • Use correct size and current rating for breakers and fuses
  • Do not unplug an appliance by pulling on the cord as you can damage the outlet and the cord
  • Be sure plugs fit securely into outlets – if a
    plug is loose, either the cord or the outlet needs to be replaced
  • Don’t run cords under rugs, carpets, or furniture
  • Never staple cords or hang them over nails or sharp objects
  • Never coil or band cords tightly – coiling or banding cords can damage the cord, as well as cause overheating
  • Be careful of appliances you may use in your home office, i.e. space heaters or coffee makers
Looks like I'm growing an electrical octopus in my home office.

Looks like I’m growing an electrical octopus in my home office.

Lighting –  Poorly designed lighting in the home office is also a hazard.  Lighting problems can result from too much light, which can cause glare, or from insufficient light.  According to the Center for Disease Control, poor lighting in the workplace is associated with an increase in accidents.  As people age, they require more light to see properly. For example, someone in their 50’s will require about three times more light for reading than someone in their 20’s.  A couple of tips:

  • Make sure you have enough lighting to clearly see stairs or areas around your home office to avoid tripping or falling
  • If you experience headaches or eyestrain, check your lighting
  • Position your monitor so no glare reflects from windows or other light sources (glare can lead to eye strain)
  • Adjust your lighting if you experience neck or back pain resulting from straining to see small or detailed items

Fall and Trip Hazards – Probably the most common injuries in the home office result from trips or falls.  (Did you know that each year approximately 2,000 people are treated in emergency rooms for fractures, lacerations, contusions, or sprains after tripping over extension cords?)  To prevent a fall, beware of:

  • Clutter on the floor
  • Loose cords under your desk or across the floor
  • Unstable office furniture
  • Lack of a handrail on stairs
  • Items placed on stairs
  • Slippery surfaces
  • Open drawers, which can cause you to trip
  • Unbalanced filing cabinets that can tip over on you
  • Substituting a chair for a stepstool
My makeshift dog barrier and left over trash may lead to my demise...

My makeshift dog barrier and left over trash may lead to my demise…

This is not intended to be an al encompassing list, but should help you as you look over your home office.  Do you have a tip or even a home office horror story?  Drop me a line and let me know.

Work safe,

Jason

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