Home based offices can be hazardous.  Here are some of the physical and technological hazards you should know about and avoid.

Home Office Computer Safety

Items to consider:

  • Floor surfaces should be level, dry and free of frayed seams; carpets need to be well secured to the floor.
  • Surfaces should be free of tripping, slipping or bumping hazards.
  • Never allow electrical or telephone cords in walkways.
  • All stairs with four or more steps should be equipped with handrails.

Fire Safety

Items to consider:

  • Keep your workplace clean and clear, with unfiled papers and combustible material kept to a minimum. Trash should be disposed of promptly.
  • Be sure to have a working smoke detector and suitable fire extinguisher for your workspace.
  • Plan a fire escape route and keep fire exits unobstructed.
  • Do you have a coffeepot or space heater in your home office? If so, be sure to keep flammable materials like papers away from its hot surface.

Electrical Safety

Items to consider:

  • A major cause of fire is overloaded electrical circuits, so take care not to overload outlets with too many plugs. If additional outlets are needed, have a qualified electrician properly install them.
  • Circuit breakers or fuse panels should be labeled and accessible.
  • Electrical plugs, cords, panels and receptacles should be in good condition and free or frayed or loose wires, bare conductors or broken insulation.
  • Older homes with two-wire grounded outlets that require plug adapters will not afford adequate protection for personal computers – three-wire grounded outlets is optimal.  Computer equipment should also be connected to a surge protector.
  • Make sure your electrical components have sufficient ventilation.
  • Phone lines, electrical cords and extension wires should be secured under a desk or alongside a baseboard.

Air Quality

Items to consider:

  • Work in a well-ventilated area. Fans can help.
  • Prohibit smoking – it’s stinky, bad for the smoker and the poor nonsmoker breathing in the secondhand smoke.
  • Properly handle office chemicals and use in well-ventilated areas.
  • Store chemicals, especially those that are toxic, in a safe and secure storage area.
  • Purchase and install a carbon monoxide detector.

Office Safety

Items to consider:

  • Company policies follow outside the office.
  • Chairs and other office furnishings should be structurally sound so that their use does not cause injury.
  • Paper shredders and other equipment that could cause physical injury should be turned off an unplugged when not in use.

Computer Workstations

Items to consider:

  • Workstations should be arranged so that they are comfortable and do not cause unnecessary strain on the back, arms or neck.
  • Your computer should be placed either on a standard-height desk or workstation specifically designed for its use.
  • Use a standard five-legged computer chair with good back and arm support.
  • Position your keyboard directly in front you at approximate elbow height.
  • Take some breaks where you can stretch, get up and move around.

Child Safety

Items to consider:

  • Keep any and all sharp office implements away and out of reach from small children.  Small heavy items in a child’s hand, such as paperweights, could also cause injury.
  • Cover unused sockets with plastic covers. Use a surge protector with an on-off switch that can easily turn off the source of power.  Get on your hands and knees and make sure there are no cords that could trip up little feet.
  • Consider keeping your children out of the office and/or locking the door to the workspace.