All employers have a duty of care to keep their workers safe from harm. Most employers comply with this legal requirement and put safety measures in place to mitigate potential risks. However, not all employers take health and safety seriously enough. They keep operations running nonstop with little or no safety measures in place. This negligence can lead to injuries as minor as a cut finger to others that are much more serious, even life-threatening.
These are 7 of the most common accidents that injure workers across all types of workplaces.
Slips, Trips, and Falls
Slips, trips, and falls are by far the most common cause of serious injury to workers in the UK. One of the reasons why slip, trip, and fall accidents are so common is because they are caused by those small acts of negligence that most employers tend to overlook. Objects placed in walkways, cables carelessly strewn around the floor, no warning sign to indicate wet flooring, and torn carpeting are just a few of the many causes of slips, trips, and falls in any workplace.
It is unfortunate that slips, trips, and falls are the most common type of accidents in the workplace because they are also the easiest to avoid.
Manual Handling Accidents
Manual handling accidents are another common cause of injuries at work. These are often the result of inadequate manual handling training combined with inadequate personal protective equipment.
Lifting, pushing, or pulling very heavy objects without using proper equipment or machinery is one of the most common examples of a manual handling accident. This can result in back, spine, and neck injuries ranging from a sprained back to fractured vertebrae. Severe injuries to the back, neck, and spine can lead to severe disabilities, requiring extensive physiotherapy and possibly forcing the worker to take premature retirement if full mobility is not restored.
Manual handling accidents can be prevented by ensuring that workers tasked with lifting or moving heavy objects are trained in proper techniques. They should also be provided with adequate personal protective equipment and appropriate lifting or moving tools or machinery.
Falls From Height
Falling from a height rarely results in minor injuries. Many fall-from-height accidents cause serious injuries including broken bones, fractured limbs, and back and head injuries. All of these can lead to permanent disabilities and forced early retirement. Falls from height can also be fatal of course.
Fall from height accidents at work are most commonly seen on construction sites, where they may be caused by weak scaffolding, broken ladders, or gravelly or wet flooring on elevated working platforms. Any construction worker working at height without proper training and without a proper safety harness is at risk.
Window washers, painters, and roofers may also be at risk from fall from height accidents carrying out their work without adequate training and personal protective equipment.
Recommended reading – A beginner’s guide to ladder safety.
Heavy machinery can cause various different types of accidents. Faulty power equipment or being negligent while operating heavy machinery without proper safety guards in place can cause devastating injuries if the worker’s limbs, fingers, hair, or loose clothing become entangled in any part of the machine. Machinery accidents also include being struck by a forklift, hand-arm vibration syndrome caused by using vibrating tools for long periods of time and getting trapped by equipment with powered doors that lack warning signs.
Machinery accidents could be avoided by putting the correct safety precautions in place. This includes providing all workers with adequate training in the use of machinery and tools and providing workers with appropriate safety gear while working with or in the vicinity of heavy equipment.
It’s impossible to downplay the damage that electrical accidents at work can cause. Exposure to even low voltages can cause serious injuries with lifelong consequences. These may range from burns and disfigurement to nerve damage, spasms, loss of function in limbs, and death if the voltage causes the heart to stop beating.
Most electrical accidents in the workplace are caused by defective power equipment or failure to identify a risk of electrocution due to faulty insulation or exposed electric wires. Not providing appropriate personal protective gear to workers operating electrical equipment puts them at high risk for such accidents.
Exposure To Hazardous Materials
Injuries from hazardous materials are more commonly seen in manufacturing plants where various types of chemicals are used in the manufacturing processes. Corrosive liquids can cause serious chemical burns, and disfigurement when they come in contact with the skin. Inhaling toxic fumes can cause serious respiratory issues.
Any workplace that uses any type of hazardous material is required by law to put measures in place to minimise the risks involved. Proper ventilation is a must and so is adequate training as well as providing workers with protective equipment. Employers are also required to keep a well-stocked first-aid kit readily accessible in case of any emergency.
Being Hit By Falling Objects
An object falling from a height can cause serious head injuries. The heavier the object or the height of the fall, the more severe the injury is likely to be. While these injuries are relatively rare in an office environment, they are unfortunately not so uncommon on building sites, warehouses, factories, and even supermarkets with high shelves. Providing all employees and subcontractors working in these types of environments with industry-standard hard hats can protect them from head injuries from objects falling from a height. Providing proper storage cages and training workers in proper storage techniques can also go a long way in reducing the risk of falling objects.
Most workplace accidents can be avoided by employers taking the time and trouble to identify potential risk factors inherent in their work environment and putting safety measures in place to eliminate or at least minimise the risk of injury in the workplace. Workers on their part must be vigilant at all times and heed all safety guidelines to keep themselves and others safe from harm while at work.