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EHS Director’s Cut: 5 Cringe-Worthy Workplace Safety Moments from "The Office"

June 13th, 2018

Roughly 15 years ago, the American adaptation of the British TV phenomenon “The Office” hit the airwaves — and promptly threw all workplace safety and conduct rules right out the window. Undoubtedly, environment, health, and safety (EHS) professionals everywhere shed a few tears during the show’s nine-season run, due mostly to laughter, but perhaps also because of the blatant disregard shown for the health and safety of the Dunder Mifflin employees and workspaces.

Love it or hate it, “The Office” brings to life several hilariously cringe-worthy workplace safety faux pas that every EHS professional can learn from (and laugh at). For us, five anti-safety moments really stand out.

1. The First Dunder Mifflin ‘Olympiad’

From the open flame of a cookie-scented candle to racing around the office whilst holding a hot cup of coffee, Season 2’s “Office Olympics” episode is riddled with fire, slip, trip, and fall hazards.

The idea for the games emerges when Pam revives Jim after he “dies” of boredom, calling him to her desk to throw items into Dwight’s coffee mug. The takeaway for EHS professionals? Employee engagement is critical to ensuring a safe, happy, and healthy work environment. 

To create your own (safer) Office Olympics, consider holding an annual EHS Awareness Day featuring speakers, fun activities, and perhaps prizes.

2. Dwight’s Chaotic Fire Safety Lesson

The fiery opening scene from Season 5’s “Stress Relief Part 1” episode is a fan favorite. Following a failed fire safety training session, Dwight aims to simulate a real-life fire scenario by starting a real-life fire. And chaos ensues. 

Dwight’s hysterically reckless test showcases the importance of ongoing training. As the characters panic, it’s clear that no foundation has been laid for handling an emergency incident.

As Dwight himself points out, his “boring” Powerpoint led to disaster. Our recommendation? Find a balance between traditional and modern eLearning formats to make learning both easy and interactive. If you don’t have the internal resources, turn to an outside EHS training partner.

3. Toby’s Rousing Health and Safety Meeting

Toby Flenderson is not only Scranton’s human resources guy, he also appears to be the resident EHS leader. In Season 3’s “Safety Training” episode, Toby launches into one of his trademark anything-but-lively speeches to address health and safety best practices.

For EHS leaders, Toby’s “fiery” speech serves as an important reminder that workplace health and safety isn’t only rooted in mitigating accident hazards, but also ensuring a comfortable, productive working environment with proper lighting and ergonomics.

Read: 4 Important Reasons Ergonomics Should Be a Priority in Lower-Risk Workplaces

4. Michael’s Forklift Folly

The majority of Season 2’s “Boys and Girls” episode is focused on yet another special presentation taking over the office. The moment boss Michael Scott knocks over multiple racks of office supplies with a forklift he isn’t trained to operate, we’re willing to bet this is the look on every EHS professional’s face:

But just a short time later, something magical happens--Darryl rises up as an EHS champion, saying: “My priority is safety. So, it really bothers me when somebody comes in here speeding around on a lift, playing with it like a toy. It kind of gets under my skin.”

While Michael’s carelessness causes us to wince, Darryl’s grounded commitment to safety serves as a reminder that EHS champions can and do exist in your employee ranks. Seek them out and work with them to foster a culture of EHS and drive program success.

5. Spontaneous Printer Combustion

In season 6’s “The Whistleblower” episode, a customer informs Andy that one of the printers they’ve purchased has caught fire, and it’s only a matter of time before the press gets tipped off.

The episode turns into a witch hunt for the person who leaked the incident to the media, serving as a reminder that just one high-profile incident can have disastrous PR consequences. EHS professionals should play a proactive role in protecting and building their brand’s reputation as a healthy, happy, and safe place to work.

Read: 5 EHS Tips for Protecting & Bolstering Your Tech Brand’s Reputation

That’s What She Said

So, what can you ultimately learn from all the safety shenanigans on “The Office”? Anything can happen, so be prepared for it. (That’s what she said.)

For more fun and pop culture, check out our resident Demogorgon’s take on keeping safety and EHS compliance right-side-up.

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