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Equipment Safety

As mentioned earlier, common office machines, such as the following, require special safety consideration: copiers, microwaves, adding machines, typewriters, and computers. Be sure you know how to operate these machines before using them, and never use one of these machines if you think it is defective.

Other office equipment that requires safety consideration includes furniture such as file cabinets and shelves, desks, and chairs.


File Cabinets and Shelves

Because file cabinets and shelves tend to support heavy loads, treat them with special care.

Follow these safety guidelines for file cabinets:

  • Secure file cabinets that are not weighted at the bottom. Either bolt them to the floor or to the wall.
  • Ensure that file cabinet drawers cannot easily be pulled clear of the cabinet.
  • Do not block ventilation grates with file cabinets.
  • Open only one drawer at a time to keep the cabinet from toppling.
  • Close drawers when they are not in use.
  • Do not place heavy objects on top of cabinets. Be aware that anything on top of a cabinet may fall off if a drawer is opened suddenly.
  • Close drawers slowly using the handle to avoid pinched fingers.
  • Keep the bottom drawer full. This will help stabilize the entire cabinet.

In addition, follow these safety guidelines for office shelves:

  • Secure shelves by bolting them to the floor or wall.
  • Place heavy objects on the bottom shelves. This will keep the entire structure more stable.
  • Ensure that there is at least 18 inches between the top shelf items and the ceiling. This space will allow ceiling sprinklers (if present) to function properly if a fire occurs.
  • Do not block ventilation grates with shelves.
  • Never climb on shelves (even lower shelves). Use an approved ladder.


Follow these safety guidelines for office desks:

  • Keep desks in good condition (i.e., free from sharp edges, nails, etc.).
  • Ensure that desks do not block exits or passageways.
  • Ensure that glass-top desks do not have sharp edges.
  • Ensure that desks with spring-loaded tables function properly. The table should not spring forth with enough force to cause an injury.
  • Do not climb on desks. Use an approved ladder.
  • Keep desk drawers closed when not in use.
  • Repair or report any desk damage that could be hazardous.


Safety guidelines for office chairs include the following:

  • Do not lean back in office chairs, particularly swivel chairs with rollers.
  • Do not climb on any office chair. Use an approved ladder.
  • Office desk chairs should have adjustable back supports and seat height. Make sure that your chair's back support position and seat height are comfortable.
  • Take care when sitting in a chair with rollers. Make sure it does not roll out from under you when you sit down.
  • Repair or report any chair damage that could be hazardous.
  • Do not roll chairs over electrical cords.



Always use an approved ladder or stool to reach any item above your extended arm height. Never use a makeshift device, such as a desktop, file cabinet, bookshelf, or box, as a substitute for a ladder.

Follow these guidelines when using ladders:

  • Do not load a ladder above its intended weight capacity.
  • Place ladders on slip-free surfaces even if they have slip-resistant feet. Secure the ladder if a slip-free surface is not available.
  •  Avoid placing ladders in walkways. Secure a ladder if its location could cause an accident.
  • Keep areas around ladders clean and free of debris.
  • Do not use a ladder in front of a door unless the door is locked and barricaded.

Refer to the Shop Safety chapter in this manual for more information on ladder safety.

May 2011
Reviewed November 2014