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Top safety concerns at accounting firms

When it comes to workplace safety, accounting firms are largely considered low-risk. But that perception shouldn’t make employee safety any less of a priority. Accounting firm employees can still experience injuries or illnesses caused by preventable hazards. In fact, 3,800 nonfatal occupational injuries or illnesses were reported in the industry in 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

On-the-job injuries and illnesses not only impact the employee but can lead to lost productivity, potentially higher workers’ compensation insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses for the firm. Additionally, failing to act quickly after an injury occurs can impact the wellbeing of the injured employee and raise the cost of an insurance claim.

Tips for preventing common workplace risks

It is important for accounting firm owners to be aware of common causes of workplace accidents and implement proper safety measures. Here are three common risks accounting firm owners should proactively address:

Eye strain: Accounting professionals often spend long stretches of time in front of the computer, especially during busy periods such as tax season. This prolonged exposure to screens can cause computer vision syndrome, also known as digital eye strain. Common symptoms are headaches, blurred vision, eyestrain, dry eyes and neck and shoulder pain, according to the American Optometric Association. Accounting firm owners can encourage employees to do the following things to reduce CVS, as recommended by the AOA:

  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule: View something 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes
  • Keep a distance: Sit at a comfortable distance from the computer monitor with the torso and head in an upright position and the back supported by the chair. Strive to keep 20 and 28 inches between the eye and the screen.
  • Try a different angle: Adjust computer screens so they are about 15 to 20 degrees, or approximately 4 to 5 inches, below eye level.
  • Minimize glare: Use a glare filter to decrease the amount of light reflected off the screen.
  • Blink often: Blink frequently to minimize the chance of developing dry eyes when using a computer.

Ergonomic injuries: Musculoskeletal disorders, such as tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and back, neck and shoulder strain, are other potential health hazards that can occur from spending eight or more hours each day seated in front of a computer screen. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), “A well-designed office allows each employee to work comfortably without needing to over-reach, sit or stand too long, or use awkward postures (correct ergonomic design). Sometimes, equipment or furniture changes are the best solution to allow employees to work comfortably.” Accounting firm owners should educate workers on how to properly set up their workstations and ensure desks, chairs, keyboards and monitors are all adjusted to fit the individual worker.

Slips, trips and falls: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 430 bookkeeping and accounting workers sustained injuries from slips, trips and falls in 2017, the most recent year for which data is available. Accounting firm owners should keep floors and walkways clear of potential tripping hazards such as files, supply boxes and extension cords. Wet floors should be addressed immediately with both signage and clean-up, with additional precautions taken during inclement weather.

Steps to take after an injury occurs

Proactive measures can help reduce the likelihood of an employee getting hurt at work. However, sometimes accidents still happen.

If an employee does get injured, it is crucial to seek medical treatment quickly. In the case of an emergency, always dial 911. In non-emergency situations, follow the guidance of your insurance carrier. Some insurance carriers, including EMPLOYERS, offer a 24/7 injured employee hotline that can be called to both report injuries and receive medical guidance on work-related injuries from registered nurses.

A thorough investigation of all workplace incidents should be conducted to determine the root causes and ensure the same type of incident does not recur. Be sure to document the investigation on the appropriate incident report form.

Even though accounting is a lower-risk profession, firm owners are still responsible for the safety of their employees. Identifying potential workplace hazards and taking measures to prevent them is essential. Knowing what to do when an injury occurs can also help employees get back on their feet faster, which potentially reduces the costs of both lost productivity and workers’ compensation insurance claims.

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