Every year, thousands of workers are injured in accidents that occur at work. Some of these accidents can be very serious and may lead to long-term disability or even death. While some accidents are impossible to predict or avoid, there are many that could easily be averted with a little foresight and the right safety procedures in place.
In this article, we will discuss the ten most common workplace accidents, why they occur, which industries are most at risk and how accidents can be avoided.
1. Slips, Trips and Falls
One of the most common workplace accidents is slips, trips and falls. This is when a worker loses their footing and falls, either due to a slippery or uneven surface or because they trip over an object in their path.
Workers who are required to work at heights are at particular risk because a fall from a scaffold or some other high place could be potentially very dangerous. This is why it is so important for employers to provide safety harnesses and other fall-prevention gear, as well as proper training in how to use it.
There are many other ways in which slips, trips and falls can be prevented, such as ensuring that all walkways are clear and free of obstacles, clearing up spills and leaks and ensuring that all employees wear the right footwear. Employers also need to provide slip-resistant flooring where necessary, install handrails in stairwells, and make sure ladders are in good condition.
You may also need to take steps to protect the public from slips, trips and falls on your business premises or you could be sued. Make sure you have signs that warn people about potential hazards, such as wet floors and that any potential hazards are dealt with as soon as they are spotted.
Some jobs that are particularly at risk of slips, trips and falls include:
2. Injuries Using Equipment
Another common type of workplace accident is injuries caused by the use of equipment. This can happen when equipment is damaged, old or when safety features on the machinery are not functioning properly. Injuries can also occur when employees have not been properly trained in how to use the equipment.
It is vital that all machinery is thoroughly tested on a regular basis to ensure that it is in good working order. If any damage is found, it should be repaired or replaced immediately. It is also important to make sure that safety features, such as guards on power tools, are functioning properly.
Operating equipment safely is not just the responsibility of the employees; it is also the responsibility of the employer to provide a safe working environment. Employees should always be properly trained in how to use all equipment before they are allowed to use it unsupervised and they should also be provided with Personal Protective Equipment, such as gloves, safety glasses and earplugs, when working with certain types of equipment.
Jobs for which dangerous equipment is a particular risk include:
3. Injuries from Falling Objects
Falling objects are another workplace accident that can cause serious injuries. This can happen when tools or other objects fall from a height, such as scaffolding because they are not stored away safely or are dislodged by workers.
Falling objects can be prevented by making sure that all tools and equipment are securely fastened before use. Any loose items should be stored away safely and out of reach. It is also important to make sure that scaffolding is properly secured and that workers are not allowed to stand on loose boards or beams.
If you are working at height, always be aware of the potential for falling objects and take care to avoid them. Always have one hand free so that you can hold onto something if you lose your footing, and always wear a hard hat to protect your head from falling objects.
Falling objects pose a particular risk for people working in the following jobs:
Painters and decorators
4. Repetitive Strain Injuries
Repetitive strain injuries are another type of workplace accident that can be caused by over-exertion. This is when a worker repeats the same motion over and over again, such as typing or lifting, and this causes damage to the muscles, tendons or ligaments.
These types of injuries can often be prevented by taking regular breaks, using ergonomic equipment and ensuring that workers are properly trained in how to safely perform their tasks. If you start to feel pain, stop what you are doing and rest for a few days.
If you think you may be suffering from a repetitive strain injury, see a doctor as soon as possible so that they can diagnose and treat the problem. Early treatment is essential to prevent the injury from getting worse.
From an employer’s point of view, preventing repetitive strain injuries starts with treating employees fairly and providing them with the resources they need to do their jobs safely. This includes ensuring that they have regular breaks, access to ergonomic equipment and proper training in how to perform their tasks.
Repetitive strain injuries are very common in the following jobs where particular care should be taken:
Assembly line workers
5. Vehicle Crashes and Accidents
Many jobs and industries require the use of vehicles, from delivery drivers to taxi drivers, and this means that vehicle accidents are sadly all too common. These accidents can be caused by a number of factors, such as driver error, mechanical failure or bad weather conditions.
To prevent vehicle accidents, it is important that employers make sure that all their employees who need to drive for work are properly licensed and trained. Employers should also provide their employees with the right type of vehicle for the job and make sure that it is well-maintained, insured and fit purpose.
In some jobs, such as taxi driving or long-distance trucking, fatigue can be a major factor in accidents as drivers try to meet unrealistic deadlines. To prevent this, employers should ensure that their employees have regular breaks and are not working excessive hours.
These types of accidents can occur in any job that involves driving, but some jobs where they are more common include:
6. Injuries from Fires or Explosions
Fires and explosions are another type of workplace accident that can have very serious consequences for those involved. These accidents can be caused by a number of factors, such as faulty electrical equipment, flammable chemicals or smoking in the workplace.
To prevent these types of accidents, it is important to have up-to-date fire safety equipment and procedures in place. Employers should also make sure that their employees are properly trained in how to use this equipment and what to do in the event of a fire or explosion.
There are strict fire safety regulations that must be adhered to by all UK businesses. These include having a fire risk assessment, having the right fire extinguishers and alarms, and having an evacuation plan.
Fires and explosions can occur in any workplace, but some industries where they are more common include:
Oil and gas
7. Injuries Due to Dangerous Chemicals or Substances
Many jobs and industries involve the use of dangerous chemicals or substances, from cleaning products to industrial acids as well as contaminated blood or viruses in healthcare settings. These accidents can be caused by a number of factors, such as skin contact, inhalation or ingestion but all can be very serious.
To prevent these types of accidents, it is important to make sure that all employees who work with dangerous chemicals are properly trained in how to handle them safely. There are various qualifications that employees can take when handling dangerous substances which will help them to stay safe.
Employers should also provide their employees with the right type of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves, masks and aprons and they should make sure that this equipment is well-maintained and fit for purpose.
There are strict regulations in place governing the use of dangerous chemicals in the workplace. These include ensuring that all chemicals are properly labelled and stored and that they are regularly checked to make sure they haven’t expired or become volatile.
Dangerous chemicals or substances can be found in any workplace, but some jobs where they are more common include:
8. Workplace Violence
Unfortunately, assault and other forms of workplace violence are common issues and can lead to very serious injuries and other consequences. These accidents can be caused by a number of factors, such as robbery, arguments between co-workers, a toxic work environment or poor customer service.
To prevent these types of incidents, it is important for employers to create a safe and healthy work environment for their employees. This includes having clear policies and procedures in place regarding workplace violence and making sure that all employees are properly trained in how to deal with it. If there is any situation where an employee is assaulted by a co-worker, it should be reported to the police immediately and the guilty party should be fired.
Employers should also put measures in place to protect their employees from potential violence, such as security guards or CCTV. Any customer or other member of the public who displays violent or aggressive behaviour should be removed from the premises immediately and the police should be notified of the situation.
Workplace violence can occur in any workplace, but some jobs where it is more common include:
Electrocution is another common type of workplace accident that can have very serious consequences. These accidents are usually caused by faulty electrical equipment or by employees coming into contact with live electrical wires.
To prevent these types of accidents, it is important to make sure that all electrical equipment is properly maintained and regularly inspected. Employees should also be properly trained in how to use electrical equipment safely and they should be made aware of the potential risks.
In the UK, there are various safety certificates required for electrical equipment, such as the CE mark and the British Standard BS 1363. Employers should make sure that all of their electrical equipment has these certificates and that they are up to date. If any electrical equipment is found to be faulty, it should be repaired or replaced immediately.
Electrocution can occur in any workplace where there is electrical equipment, but some jobs where it is more common include:
10. Noise-Related Injuries
Noise-related injuries are very common in the workplace and can have serious consequences. These accidents are usually caused by exposure to loud noise over a long period of time, which can damage the ears, lead to hearing loss and also cause mental health issues such as anxiety and stress.
To prevent these types of accidents, it is important to make sure that employees are provided with ear protection and that they are properly trained in how to use it. Employers should also make sure that noise levels in the workplace are regularly monitored and that they stay within the legal limit.
In the UK, the legal limit for exposure to noise at work is 85 decibels over an eight-hour period. Employees who are exposed to noise at this level or above should be provided with ear protection.
Noise-related injuries can occur in any workplace, but some jobs where it is more common include:
Workplace accidents are very common and can have serious consequences. To prevent these accidents, it is important for employers to create a safe and healthy work environment for their employees. This includes having clear safety policies and procedures in place making sure that all employees are properly trained. As workplace injuries cannot only affect the victim, but can also cause huge reputational or financial damage to a company, it is in everyone’s best interests to improve workplace safety wherever possible.