Figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that an estimated 4.5 million working days were lost in the UK in 2015/16 due to self-reported workplace injuries. Whilst the general trend is that the number of reported injuries occurring at work is reducing over time, the HSE also note that due to the widespread underreporting of incidents, those figures are likely to be considerably higher in reality.
When it comes to the most common types of incident that result in injury at work, handling, lifting and carrying cause the highest proportion of problems, followed closely by slips, trips and falls. We’ve put together some of the most common injuries suffered a work, and how you can take steps to avoid them.
Whether it’s a fairly minor (but very painful) muscle or ligament injury, or a more serious disc problem, back injuries are unfortunately one of the most common types in the workplace. Often caused by people lifting, carrying or otherwise handling loads incorrectly, back injuries can put a worker out of action for anything from a few days, to permanently, depending on the severity of the damage.
How to avoid back injuries at work: Using the proper techniques when lifting or carrying loads in the workplace can go a long way towards preventing injury. However, some loads should not be lifted or carried directly in this way at all, because they are too heavy, large or awkward to be handled manually. This is where lifting and handling equipment can be utilised to minimise the risk of worker injuries. Using lift trucks and trolleys to move loads around safely, along with securing them properly whilst being transported, are just a couple of ways to help ensure the safety of workers.
Machine related injuries
In workplaces where large machines are in use, such as forklift trucks, there are lots of hazards which can easily result in injuries, especially if preventative steps are not taken. If not secured appropriately, heavy loads can fall, which could cause a direct injury if a worker is unlucky enough to be close by; additionally, dropped drums could cause a spillage, which can also result in slip or fall injuries.
How to avoid machine injuries at work: Making sure that loads are secured properly onto machines is key in avoiding accidents of this type. If your work includes using machinery like this to transport unusual loads regularly, you can find all kinds of fork lift attachments that will enable you to do this more safely. Ensuring that all workers receive full training (and repeat if, or when, necessary) on how to operate the relevant machinery safely and how to work in ways which that minimise the risk of accidents occurring, is key to preventing more machine-related injuries.
Serious injuries caused by collisions
Collisions at work can include a wide variety of incidents; everything from someone walking into someone or something else, to serious collisions between people and machinery, vehicles or heavy loads. All types of collisions can cause damage to people or property, but the most serious incidents can result in severe and life changing injuries for those involved, including broken bones, crush injuries, lacerations, extensive bruising and more.
How to avoid collision injuries at work: The collision risks will vary, depending on the specific environment in which you work, but good practice is to help ensure safety will include making sure that hazardous areas are clearly marked and signposted, and access restricted if necessary. Workers should always remain vigilant in high-risk areas, such as warehouse floors or when entering or existing rooms or buildings where heavy vehicles or machinery are in operation. Full training should be provided to all workers who have access to areas in which collisions are a risk and high-visibility clothing should be worn at all times.
Breaks, cuts and lacerations from slips, trips or falls
Slips, trip and falls are the second most common type of incident resulting in injury in UK workplaces. Every industry and sector needs to be aware of the risks of accidents and injuries, that can happen to anyone, in a wide variety of workplace settings. From tripping over a computer lead in an office, to falling from height in a warehouse, these types of incidents can cause everything from bruises, concussions and lacerations, to serious, possibly life threatening or life-changing injuries.
How to avoid slips, trips and falls at work: As there are so many different ways in which someone could slip, trip or fall at work, it can feel like an impossible task to eliminate all of these risks; however, even small changes to working practices, effective signage being used in the workplace, appropriate training for all workers, and the right safety equipment being used in the right way, can make a huge difference to the levels of risk. PPE for workers, clearly marked high-risk areas and being prepared to deal with spillages and other incidents quickly and effectively is key to minimising these types of injuries in your workplace.
Working environments which have a high noise level can have a huge impact on workers’ hearing over the course of time. Hearing loss or tinnitus (permanent ringing in the ears) can have a huge impact on the lives of sufferers, and it’s the responsibility of employers to assess the risk of noise exposure and provide adequate protection for their employees. The HSE provide details of the current legislation and regulations on their noise website.
How to avoid hearing damage at work: Current UK regulations dictate that employers need to assess and monitor the noise levels at work and ensure that workers are not exposed to noise above certain limits. Adequate hearing protection must be issued to all workers who are exposed to noise at a level of 85 dB or above. The hearing protection equipment should take the noise levels to below 85 dB at the workers’ ears, but must also allow workers to be able to communicate with each other and be aware of other potential hazards or risks in the workplace. For example, hearing protection which prevents a worker from hearing a fire alarm, is not suitable for the workplace and can put them at risk.
When it comes to workplace accidents, employers are responsible for ensuring that they take steps to fully assess and minimise the risks to workers. Many common incidents and injuries at work can be eliminated with the provision of appropriate training for all employees and the right equipment being used to carry out duties.
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