How Dangerous Is Your Office?

At companies like Nestle and Chevron, safety is serious business. How serious? At the former, The Wall Street Journal reports, workers start meetings by looking for tripping hazards like stray extension cords; at the latter, employees can present a "stop work" card to halt activities, if they feel that a situation is unsafe. Other companies warn workers to beware of hazards like high heels, hot coffee, and carrying too many things while walking down stairs. Is all of this really beneficial to employees, or is it a (cautious, measured) step too far?

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(Photo Credit: midnightcomm/Flickr)

"Corporate safety consultants and executives point out that strict rules for office safety can reduce injuries, cut down on workers' comp costs, make employees more aware of the dangers their colleagues in the field are facing and promote teamwork," write Rachel Feintzeig and Alexandra Berzon. "Yet worker-safety advocates say that not all office-safety programs represent the best use of resources."

In 2011, 4,693 workers died on the job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics -- an average of 13 workers per day. The AFL-CIO estimates that between 7.6 million and 11.4 million Americans are injured on the job each year, and notes that these numbers have declined significantly in recent years, over the past three years, they've remained steady.

In other words, it's not crazy to concentrate on safety at work. But are office workers as at-risk as, say, loggers or construction workers? (Short answer: no. No they are not.)

The real risk to office workers is probably a sedentary lifestyle. Sitting, slouching, working too much and exercising too little -- all are more likely to affect your health in the long run than a loose extension cord in the morning meeting.

So if you work in an office and want to keep yourself and your co-workers healthy, maybe the answer isn't to issue "stop work" cards. Maybe the answer is to ask for standing or treadmill desks, or more frequent breaks.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you think safety measures like these are excessive, or good for employees? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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