Collectively there are many potential dangers in the workplace, but many are often specific to individual industries. These often result in personal injury claims which can sometimes lead to significant compensation payments. We have put together a list of the 10 most common accidents in the workplace.
While there has been great progress in safety in the workplace, it is a constant battle and more still needs to be done.
Table of contents
- Your employer’s legal obligation to your health and well-being
- Repetitive strain injury
- Slips, trips and falls
- Muscle strains
- Cuts and lacerations
- Exposure to loud noises
- Inhaling toxic fumes
- Crashes and collisions
- Violence/aggression in the workplace
- Hit by falling objects
- Walking into objects
Before we look at the 10 most common accidents in the workplace, it is worth reminding ourselves that employers have a legal obligation to protect the health and well-being of their employees. Failure to fulfil their legal duty could result in claims of negligence and significant compensation awards. There is no escaping from this; your employer has a legal obligation towards the health and well-being of all employees.
Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is something which was discounted by many, in years gone by, as a fallacy. In more recent times research has shown that RSI is a real problem and one which has hampered the well-being of many employees, especially in later life. More commonly associated with keyboards and “traditional” repetitive actions, this does not give the overall picture.
Where there is a constant repetitive motion of the joints, whether fingers, elbows, knees, etc there is a danger of RSI. The most effective way to combat RSI is the use of ergonomic equipment and by ensuring that employees take regular breaks. Where there are repetitive actions, your employer should be looking at ways to mitigate potential physical damage. This may mean automating part of the process or providing equipment which offers greater protection.
For information on repetitive strain injury claims visit this page.
Slips, trips and falls are not only the most common type of personal injury claims in the workplace, but one of the most common aside from road traffic accidents. This type of accident can lead to a range of injuries including:-
- Broken bones
- Brain damage
- Permanent physical disability
- Mental injuries
While the majority of slips, trips and falls tend to result in relatively minor injuries, this should be a wake-up call for all employers. Whether we are looking at uneven flooring in a factory, an untidy office with protruding wires or any other environment, where there is danger there is potential for injury.
As a matter of course, all working environments should display the relevant warning signs no matter how obvious they may seem. This does not mitigate your employer’s obligation to your health and well-being, but where a degree of danger cannot be avoided, the warning signs are very important.
The issue of muscle strains in the workplace is not discussed too often, despite being one of the more common types of injury. While this type of injury tends to be connected to the lifting and carrying of heavy goods, it can also occur when you hold your body in an unnatural position when carrying out work activities.
There are numerous ways in which muscle strains can be avoided such as:-
- Employee training in safer lifting and carrying techniques
- The provision of relevant safety equipment
- Mechanical assistance with lifting and carrying
Nobody is suggesting that the workplace is in any way insulated from muscle strain injuries, but there are ways in which the frequency can be mitigated. If your employer has done as much as possible to reduce the frequency of employee muscle strains, this may help them if accused of negligence.
In all honesty, while there are ways and means of reducing accidents in the workplace involving cuts and lacerations, it is impossible to eliminate them completely. There are numerous ways in which cuts and lacerations may occur such as:-
- Use of mechanical equipment
- Sharp implements
- Poorly maintained equipment
- Working instruments
The list of potential reasons for cuts and lacerations is almost endless. However, the means by which your employer can reduce their frequency is relatively straightforward. They need to address:-
- Poor training
- Substandard safety procedures
- Failure to provide safety equipment
Throughout all of these common injuries in the workplace, ongoing training is a common solution. The provision of safety equipment is also vital and another simple means of reducing accidents in the workplace.
There are certain working environments which we “accept” as relatively noisy and not particularly healthy. Despite this, your employer still has a legal obligation to maintain your health and well-being. In those scenarios where it is difficult to make any major procedural changes, it is vital that the relevant safety equipment is provided.
Many people automatically assume that deafness, and other injuries associated with loud noises, are a thing of the past. They are not!
In many cases the damage/injury to an individual may not emerge until many weeks, months or even years down the line. Thankfully, there are numerous medical tests which can be carried out to link noise-related injuries with specific working procedures/environments, sometimes from decades ago.
If you experience any issues with your hearing further down the line, even into retirement, you may wish to investigate the cause. Your doctor should be able to carry out a number of tests, often providing useful evidence when pursuing an industrial deafness compensation claim.
Many will be surprised to see the inhaling of toxic fumes as a relatively common type of injury in the workplace. Whether working with hazardous chemicals or those which can have a cumulative impact due to long-term exposure, we have seen some serious injuries from the inhaling of toxic fumes.
There are many simple ways in which your employer can reduce instances of this kind, including:-
- Storing toxic chemicals in a secure environment
- Limiting the number of people with access to such chemicals
- Constant and ongoing training for employees
- Detailed and helpful safety procedures
- Provision of safety equipment
Even something as simple as goggles or a mask can have a huge impact on improving employee safety. Obviously, those with access to more hazardous chemicals may need full suit body protection. Failure to provide the relevant safety equipment, as well as training and clear procedures, could also lead to legal action by the authorities.
For information on toxic fumes and hazardous substances compensation claims visit this page.
The majority of crashes/collisions in the workplace tend to occur in warehouse/factory based environments. While perhaps more commonly associated with forklift trucks and other such vehicles, this is not always the case.
There have been numerous injuries caused by crashes and collisions involving:-
- Forklift trucks
There are a number of factors to take into consideration with this type of injury, and the environment in which it may occur:-
- Vehicles should be maintained and repaired when damaged
- Clear and concise safety procedures should be available
- Warning signs should be erected in the relevant areas
- All employees should undertake initial and ongoing training
There may be occasions where an employee has failed to follow procedures, not using their safety equipment or using a vehicle in a manner which was dangerous. While the employer may still be held partially liable for any accidents/injuries, there is every chance that the employee could also be held partially responsible. It is important to remember, both employees and employers have a legal obligation to their health and well-being, and of those around them.
It would be unfair to suggest that assaults in the workplace happen every day, but it is probably a lot more common than many people believe. There are numerous reasons why violence may rear its ugly head:-
- Pushing employees to the limit
- Inadequate working procedures
- Allocating unsuitable employees to specific roles
- Lax disciplinary procedures
- Failure to address previous bouts of violence
Unfortunately, where violence occurs between two individuals in the workplace, it can sometimes be difficult to obtain evidence supporting claims and counter-claims. While some employers have installed CCTV cameras, this strategy can sometimes cause additional concern within the workforce.
All workplaces should operate in a manner which encourages employees to come forward with valid complaints. It is in the best interests of all parties to nip violence in the workplace in the bud. The longer this festers, the more difficult it can be to sort out and control. A charge of failing to control employees could have significant legal and financial consequences for an employer.
While in this instance we are focused on employees and injuries in the workplace, we have seen many customers hit by falling objects in retail outlets. This is not a problem exclusive to the factory/warehouse environment.
In recent times we have seen the emergence of huge online companies with massive warehouse facilities. The constant stacking/removal of equipment and goods means safety procedures and safety equipment are paramount.
There are numerous ways in which you can reduce the number of injuries caused by falling objects in the workplace such as:-
- Basic staff training about how to store items safely
- The provision of adequate storage cages/facilities
- Avoiding overstocking
- The introduction of safety systems/procedures
It is very easy to wax lyrical about ways in which you can reduce the number of injuries caused by falling objects. However, to achieve the full benefits possible, both employees and customers need to buy into this new safer environment. This would likely include the provision of more warning signs and safety procedures in the workplace, taking in, for example, retail premises.
It may seem a little bizarre to suggest that walking into objects is one of the most common accidents in the workplace, but it actually is. This is often due to a mixture of:-
- Unsafe workplace design
- Employees failing to be vigilant
- Lack of warning signs
- Goods/objects not stored/stacked correctly
Thankfully, the vast majority of injuries of this nature tend to be relatively minor and recovery time fairly swift. There are occasions where injuries are more serious which can in some cases result in personal injury compensation claims.
In theory, it should be fairly simple to make a workplace safer, employees more vigilant and erect warning signs. The fact that these types of injuries are still extremely common would suggest there is still some way to go to improve the general safety of the workplace. Remember, this takes in different types of workplaces from factories to warehouses, offices to service areas.
Some of the injuries on the 10 most common accidents in the workplace list will surprise many people. Issues such as RSI have been discussed at great length, and improvements have been made, but it is still a major problem. Simple crashes, collisions, falling objects and slips, trips and falls are still commonplace, but there are relatively easy ways in which to reduce their frequency.
All equipment must be fully maintained and repaired, safety equipment provided, ongoing training given to staff and clear and concise safety procedures introduced. This is easy on paper but maybe not so easy in practice.