When it comes to workplace accidents, we tend to think of high-risk workplaces such as building sites, quarries, mining and farms, but the fact is every workplace has its own unique set of risks. Even in a seemingly safe modern office with no heavy vehicles or dangerous equipment in sight, workers may be at risk of slip trip and fall injuries, repetitive stress injuries or psychological injuries resulting from being bullied at work.
We’ve compiled a list of nine of the most common workplace accidents. While the law holds employers responsible for minimising risks in the workplace, you can do your part to help prevent accidents at work and yourself from being injured by implementing good work practices.
Slips, Trips and Falls
Slips, trips, and falls are among the most common of all accidents in the workplace. Liquid spills, wet flooring, items obstructing walkways, cables strewn carelessly across the floor, broken floor tiling, loose or torn carpeting – these are some of the top causes of slip, trip and fall accidents in the workplace.
The best way to avoid getting injured in a slip, trip or fall accident at work is to pay attention to your surroundings when moving around. Pay attention not only to what you are doing but also to what is going on around you.
If you work on a factory floor where liquid spills may be a common occurrence, make sure the tread on your shoes or work boots is good and clean to avoid slipping on the wet floor. If you are carrying something that is obstructing your view, lighten the load or shift it so you do not trip over that box that another worker may have accidentally left in your path.
Collision with Moving Heavy Vehicles & Equipment
Colliding with a moving heavy vehicle or equipment can have serious consequences. While the person operating the vehicle or equipment is expected to take all possible precautions, all workers in the vicinity should take equal responsibility for their own safety.
The best thing you can do is to stand clear of motorised equipment or large equipment that is being operated in your area. Make sure you can move quickly when you have to and always stay where you can be seen. Wear reflective vests and clothing when working in poor light conditions and always be aware of what is happening around you.
Loud equipment, explosives, and persistent noise at high decibel levels can affect workers’ hearing significantly over time. Construction and factory workers are at high risk for suffering from hearing loss.
Wearing protective muffling headphones and noise-cancellation headgear can help keep your ears and hearing protected.
Repetitive Stress Injuries
Repetitive stress injuries in the workplace such as carpal tunnel, knee injuries, tennis elbow, and back strain often result from performing the same action repeated for extended periods of time. In most cases, the symptoms of repetitive stress injuries develop slowly but become progressively more severe if it is not managed in the early stages.
Depending on the activity involved, repetitive stress injuries can be prevented by wearing appropriate personal protective equipment and by taking regular breaks to get some relief from the repetitiveness.
Inhaling Toxic Fumes
Hazardous chemicals are commonly used in several industries. Those who work directly with these chemicals and even those working in the vicinity are at risk of inhaling toxic fumes from these chemicals. This can have multiple short and long term effects, from skin rash to eye reactions and lung disease.
Wearing protective equipment such as safety goggles, and gloves is vital in these situations. Depending on the work environment and the chemical being used, it may sometimes be necessary to wear a full face shield, protective full-sleeved clothing, heavy-duty gloves, and work boots.
Overexertion and muscle strain are common work-related injuries in industries that involve a lot of manual work. Overexertion and muscle strain injuries can be caused due to several different reasons, from carrying heavy loads and operating heavy machinery to working in awkward positions for extended periods of time. In these circumstances, back and neck strains are common.
The best way to prevent such injuries is to split the work load between several workers, while making sure that everyone is allowed sufficient rest in between.
Cuts, Lacerations, Bruises
Cuts, lacerations and bruises are not limited to a few high-risk industries. You can suffer from cuts, lacerations and bruises while working in almost any industry from farming and manufacturing to a modern office. A faulty paper trimmer or glass shards from a broken window pane can cause just as much damage as a power saw in a factory or a hoe on the farm.
Being mindful of where you walk, how you walk, and where you move in relation to sharp objects or objects with sharp corners is the best way to prevent cuts, lacerations and bruises.
Stressful Atmosphere at Work
Constant arguments and fights at work or being bullied and harassed can create a stressful work atmosphere, which has far-reaching consequences. Workers who feel they are at the receiving end dread going to work every day, which can affect not just their productivity but also their health, their family interactions and their social life.
It is not always easy to restore the balance in the workplace but getting HR or a manager to intervene can help control the situation before it escalates.
Transportation Related Accidents
Heavy vehicles are an integral component in industrial, manufacturing, and construction environments among others. With so many heavy vehicles in one place, the potential for serious transportation-related accidents can be very high, and fatalities are the worst scenario.
While you can protect yourself by being vigilant at all times, because you have no control over the person driving the vehicle, it takes more than awareness and vigilance to prevent transportation related accidents. In this case, safety begins with conducting a risk assessment and accordingly putting safety measures in place. Some of these safety measures may include demarcating vehicle routes and pedestrian zones clearly, enforcing speed limits, not over-loading vehicles, and carrying out regular maintenance on vehicles used for transportation.