Preventing accidents at work should be a top priority for employers and employees alike. Not only can work accidents result in injuries to employees and lost productivity but also result in significant consequences for the employer, both legal and financial.
In order to prevent accidents in the workplace, it’s important that employers understand the common causes of workplace accidents, the legal requirements for creating a safe working environment, and best practices for preventing both accidents and injuries.
This guide on how to prevent accidents in the workplace provides an overview of these key factors and looks at what employers and employees can do to protect everybody’s health and safety.
Table of contents
- Health & Safety Statistics For Great Britain
- What Are The Legal Requirements For Preventing Accidents In The Workplace?
- What Employers Can Do To Prevent Accidents At Work
- What Employees Can Do To Prevent Accidents At Work
- How Risk Assessments Help Prevent Accidents In The Workplace
- How Health & Safety Training Helps To Prevent Injuries To Employees
- Protecting Employees With Disabilities From Workplace Accidents
- To Conclude
The following statistics provided by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) for Great Britain covering 2021/22 highlight the importance of effective workplace health and safety measures to protect workers and prevent such incidents and illnesses. They show:
1.8 million working people are suffering from a work-related illness. Of this number, 914,000 workers are suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety, 477,000 workers from a work-related musculoskeletal disorder (e.g. back injuries at work, RSI, osteoarthritis) and 123,000 workers from COVID-19 which they believe may have been from exposure to coronavirus at work. Furthermore, 123 workers died from work-related accidents.
Overall it’s estimated that 36.8 million working days were lost due to work-related illness and workplace injuries.
The estimated cost, in monetary terms, of injuries and ill health from current working conditions is £18.8 billion (2019/20).
According to the same statistics, the 5 most common causes of (non-fatal) injuries at work are:
- slips, trips and falls (30%);
- manual handling injuries (18%);
- being struck by a moving object (11%);
- acts of violence (9%); and
- falls from a height (8%).
Statistics for fatal injuries can be found here.
These statistics should highlight the fact that employers should take a comprehensive approach to health and safety in the workplace and take any necessary actions to address a variety of hazards employees may face.
In the UK, employers have a legal responsibility to ensure the health and safety of their employees while they are at work. The main legislation governing workplace safety is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which sets out the general duties of employers AND employees to ensure the health and safety of all people at work.
According to the Act, employers must:
- Provide and maintain a safe and healthy working environment.
- Provide and maintain safe systems of work.
- Provide adequate information, instruction, training and supervision.
- Ensure the safe use, handling, storage and transport of articles and substances.
- Provide and maintain a safe place of work.
- Provide and maintain safe access to and egress from the place of work.
- Provide and maintain a safe plant and equipment.
- Provide and maintain a safe working environment for employees and other people who may be affected by their work activities.
Employers should also comply with other regulations such as the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and so on.
By law, employers need to take reasonable measures to prevent accidents and injuries from occurring.
Some of the ways employers can help prevent accidents in the workplace include:
- Conducting regular risk assessments to identify and address potential hazards.
- Providing adequate training and resources to ensure employees are able to work safely.
- Implementing and enforcing safe work procedures and policies.
- Regularly inspecting and maintaining equipment, tools, machinery, and the workplace to ensure they are in safe working condition.
- Providing adequate personal protective equipment and ensuring employees are trained on its proper use.
- Encouraging employees to report any hazards or near misses.
- Regularly reviewing and updating safety policies to ensure they stay current with industry standards and best practices.
- Actively promoting a positive health and safety culture within the organisation.
Employers should also have a system in place to investigate and report accidents and incidents and take action to prevent reoccurrence.
Employees also play an important role in preventing accidents in the workplace either involving themselves or their workmates.
Some of the ways employees can help prevent accidents and injuries include:
- Following established safe work procedures and policies.
- Using personal protective equipment (PPE) as required.
- Reporting any hazards or near misses to their employer immediately.
- Participating in health and safety training and education.
- Being aware of their own limitations and not taking on tasks that they are not trained or equipped to handle.
- Keeping their work area clean and organised.
- Using equipment and tools properly and reporting any defects or malfunctions.
- Being alert and aware of their surroundings at all times.
Employees should not engage in any activity that they believe to be unsafe or that goes against established health and safety policies and procedures. Employees should also be aware of the risks associated with their work and take steps to minimise those risks, such as by using the PPE provided and/or following safe lifting and handling techniques.
Risk assessment is a legal requirement and also a vital step in preventing accidents and injuries in the workplace as it helps employers identify and evaluate potential hazards and understand the risks associated with those hazards. Employers can then put in place measures to control or eliminate those risks before an accident happens.
A few of the main benefits of risk assessments include:
- Helping to identify hazards that may not be immediately obvious and which employees may not be aware of.
- Enabling employers to prioritise hazards based on the level of risk they pose so that the most significant hazards can be addressed first.
- Helps to create a safer workplace for employees and can improve morale and productivity.
- It can reduce the cost of accidents and injuries, which can be significant for employers in terms of lost productivity, increased insurance costs, and potentially being sued for compensation.
Risk assessment should be an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Employers should review and update their risk assessments regularly, and whenever there is a change in the workplace that may introduce new hazards.
Training is an essential factor of health and safety in the workplace. It helps employees understand the hazards associated with their work, the proper procedures for performing their tasks, and the steps they need to take to protect themselves and others from harm.
Some of the key benefits of health and safety training for employees include:
- Helping employees understand their responsibilities and the importance of following established procedures and policies.
- Helping employees understand the hazards associated with their work, how to recognise them and how to control them.
- It helps employees understand how to use equipment, tools and PPE properly, which can prevent injuries caused by misuse or lack of knowledge.
- It helps employers to comply with legal requirements, such as the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and other regulations.
- It helps to create a safer working environment for employees and can improve morale and productivity.
Training for employees should be ongoing with regular refresher training to ensure that they remain aware of the hazards associated with their work and the proper procedures for performing their tasks safely. Also, training should be tailored to the specific tasks and hazards that employees are exposed to, and should be provided to new employees as part of their orientation.
Ensuring the workplace is a safe environment for any employees with disabilities is another important aspect of preventing accidents in the workplace. Therefore employers should take the following steps to ensure that any employee with a disability is safe from injury:
- Make reasonable accommodations. Employers should make reasonable accommodations to enable employees with disabilities to perform their job safely and effectively. This can include modifications to the work environment, equipment, or procedures, or providing special equipment or assistance where needed.
- Provide appropriate training. Employees with disabilities may require special training or instructions to perform their job safely. Employers should provide this training and ensure that employees understand the specific hazards associated with their job and how to perform their job safely.
- Regularly review and update safety policies. Regularly reviewing and updating health and safety policies to ensure they are inclusive of employees with disabilities and that they address any specific hazards or concerns they may face.
- Communicate with employees. Communicating with employees with disabilities helps to ensure that they understand the safety policies and procedures and that they feel comfortable reporting any concerns or hazards.
Employers should also comply with other regulations such as the Equality Act 2010, which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of disability in the workplace. This means that employers must make reasonable adjustments to ensure that employees with disabilities are not at a substantial disadvantage compared to other employees.
Preventing accidents in the workplace is critical for the well-being of employees and the success of the business.
By implementing effective health and safety measures and promoting a culture of safety first, employers can help prevent accidents at work, protect their employees from harm and protect their business from potentially costly consequences.