When you make your first trip to the office after it reopens, don’t fall for the idea Covid-19 is the only danger you face.
Trips and falls in parking lots and stairs are legitimate and serious health risks, cautions John Dony, leader of the National Safety Council Safe Actions for Employee Returns (SAFER) Initiative and other experts.
They’re the two biggest health dangers for white collar workers, he emphasizes.
He warns trips and falls dangers in weather-exposed parking lots and stairs can often happen quickly when rain and snow move in.
He says the best ways to prevent the injuries is not to be distracted when you are making your way into and out of the office.
Reopenings are going to increase the dangers of parking lots, says Dony, because workers are going to be eager to talk to their friends in those locations and not pay attention to the slippery surfaces or of vehicles going in and out of the lots which could hit them.
“When you walk in an exposed parking lot or office stairs, you should walk like a penguin when you are facing adverse weather. It is an adage that serves people well,” says the National Safety Council expert.
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He points out statistically the hazards of trips and falls in office parking lots are greater than crimes.
In 2018, 11,290 people suffered injuries from falls, slips, and trips in office parking lots.
During the same year, 15,910 individuals were hurt the same way on office stairs, steps, and elevators.
Dony is a strong believer in using handrails on stairs claiming that the health risk is less than from catching a communicable disease by touching the railings.
For those who want to protect themselves from that danger, he recommends hand sanitizers.
The risks of lower back injuries, muscle strains, carpel tunnel syndrome and other musculoskeletal disorders in offices has declined in recent years, Dony points out, as ergonomic furniture has become a lot cheaper through economies of scale in their manufacturing.
Pinkerton Vice Chairman Timothy Williams cautions crime could be a bigger danger in offices than it was before they were closed for Covid-19 law enforcement has been stretched and reaction to burglar alarms has become almost non-existent in big cities.
“Retraining employees to handle suspicious behavior, criminal acts and disruptive customers is particularly important for retail establishments and banks,” says the Pinkerton executive.
Experts are also warning that water and HVAC systems which have been stagnant could harbor legionella bacteria pneumonia.
Long unused elevators could pose problems, too, says Joe Santoro, a labor and employment expert at the law firm of Gunster.
“Things like improper maintenance, mis-leveling and excess speed can lead to injuries and accidents,” he points out.
Slips and falls could be more of a problem when offices reopen because many will have floors that have recently been rewaxed, warns Dan Killins, Loss Control Program Manager at Employers, a specialty workers’ compensation insurer.