Learn how at-risk you are for getting hurt on the job if you work in an office setting.
Millions of Americans work in an office building or a home office every day. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 29,726,000 people were employed in sales and office occupations in 2020, which amounts to 20.1% of the 147,795,000 Americans in the workforce.
On top of that, 63,644,000 (43.1%) are employed in management, professional, and related occupations. While not every person who works in one of these fields is employed in an office environment, it’s a safe assumption that many of them are. This article will review office injury statistics in the U.S. and the actions that both employers and employees can take to help promote workplace safety and prevent injuries.
- Musculoskeletal disorders are one of the most frequently reported injuries that cause missed days at work.
- Approximately 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported in the private sector in 2019.
- In 2019, 888,220 nonfatal injuries and illnesses caused private industry workers to miss work.
- Nearly one-third of the injuries that forced workers to miss work in 2019 were sprains, strains and tears.
Preventing Office Workplace Injuries
Even though working in an office environment is less dangerous than other types of professions, office injuries do occur on a regular basis. One of the most common types of injury among office workers is musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). MSDs involve soft tissue injuries to your muscles, nerves, blood vessels, ligaments and tendons.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that work-related MSDs are one of the most frequently reported injuries that caused a worker to miss work and that MSD injuries constituted 33% of all worker injury and illness cases in 2013.
Fortunately, office-related MSDs can often be prevented. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), MSDs are caused by “sudden or sustained exposure to repetitive motion, force, vibration, and awkward positions.” In order to avoid MSDs, the CDC recommends working at ergonomic workstations.
OSHA-Recommended Ergonomics in the Office
To ensure ergonomics while working on a computer, OSHA recommends that you maintain a neutral body posture by doing the following:
- Keeping your hands, wrists, and forearms straight and roughly parallel to the floor.
- Keeping your head level, balanced, and forward-facing.
- Keeping your shoulders relaxed.
- Allowing your upper arms to hang normally at the side of your body.
- Keeping your elbows close to the body and bent between 90 and 120 degrees.
- Ensuring your feet are fully supported by the floor or a footrest.
- Ensuring your back is fully supported with appropriate lumbar support.
- Ensuring your thighs and hips are supported and roughly parallel to the floor.
- Keeping your knees at about the same height as your hips, with your feet slightly forward.
Working in the same posture for extended periods of time isn’t healthy.
You should also frequently change your body position throughout the day by doing the following:
- Making minor adjustments to your chair or the backrest.
- Stretching your fingers, hands, arms, and torso.
- Periodically walking around for a few minutes.
- Performing some tasks while standing.
Data on Workplace Injuries
According to BLS, 2.8 million nonfatal private industry workplace injuries and illnesses were reported in 2019, the same number reported in 2018. The incidence rate for nonfatal injuries was 2.8 cases per 100 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, which was also unchanged from 2018.
However, the incidence rate for injuries causing at least one day away from work was only 0.9 cases per 100 FTE workers, and the incidence rate for injuries only requiring a job transfer or work restriction was 0.7 cases per 100 FTE workers. A total of 888,220 nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses caused private industry workers to miss work.
Office Injuries vs. Other Industries
The BLS also identified the top 10 occupations in the private sector with the highest incidence rates of workplace injuries and injuries that caused missed work in 2019. In fact, these 10 occupations accounted for 33.2% of all private industry injuries requiring days off from work.
The chart below details the injury rates for each occupation, as well as the median number of days missed per injury for that occupation. Generally speaking, these professions involve manual labor rather than office work, which shows that while office workplace injuries can occur, office workers are at a lower risk of suffering work-related injuries than other types of laborers.
BLS statistics regarding private sector injuries in office-work-dominated industries are detailed in the chart below. Although office-related injuries only account for a small percentage of the workplace injuries sustained every year, their impact can be devastating to your quality of life. If you were injured on the job, you may be able to receive reimbursement for your losses. You can contact a personal injury attorney near you to discuss your particular situation.