“Accidents happen” and that includes in the workplace. According to the Labour Force Survey, some 565,000 workers sustained a non-fatal injury and a further 123 workers sustained a fatal injury whilst at work in 2021/22.
While sometimes you may just be unlucky, at other times accidents were completely avoidable. In the workplace, employers are required by law to manage health and safety risks to ensure the working environment is safe. But if things go wrong and if you sustain an injury from a workplace accident, you may be entitled to make a compensation claim.
To be forewarned is to be forearmed, so here we’ll talk about the 10 most common types of accidents at work and what to do if you are injured.
What is considered an injury at work?
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) defines an “accident at work” as an adverse event that results in injury or ill health. This broad definition covers a multitude of different scenarios. Anything from an overturning filing cabinet to a vehicle collision can fall under the “accident at work” umbrella.
In the UK, employers are legally required to manage health and safety in their places of work, and thus, look after their employees. Failing to execute their duty of care responsibilities can mean that an employer was negligent, and if this negligence results in an accident that causes you an injury or illness, then you may be entitled to make a compensation claim for damages.
Here are the 10 most common injuries that arise in UK workplaces and how they may arise.
Slips, trips & falls
Slips, trips and falls accounted for 30% of all non-fatal injuries in 2021/22, making them the most common type of accident. They can be caused in any workplace setting where employees are likely to encounter slippery surfaces, which could be caused by a spillage, oil, or debris on the floor.
Falling from a height is also another significant source of workplace accidents and can lead to fatal injuries. This type of accident is most prevalent on construction sites but can occur in any workplace. Ladders, scaffolding and high platforms can all be potentially dangerous places to work from.
Objects falling from a height can lead to a painful injury and it doesn’t always have to be a heavy object either. A light object falling with enough momentum from a height can still cause damage.
Falling objects are not just a risk factor in warehouses or construction sites, either. Objects that haven’t been stored and secured properly on shelves or cupboards in offices can equally cause significant injuries. In office settings, a common issue is employees choosing to store heavier items in the top drawer of a filing cabinet to save them from bending down to retrieve the item. The result is a top-heavy filing cabinet that may topple over on top of a person, causing injury.
Handling, lifting or carrying
Lifting heavy objects at work can cause back or neck injuries, broken limbs, strained muscles and even heart problems.
You may think that injuries from handling, lifting, or carrying heavy objects are restricted to warehouses. In reality, you could injure yourself from carrying an object in any workplace if you are not lifting with the correct techniques or equipment.
Acts of violence
Workplaces are a melting pot of different personalities. Tensions between colleagues can arise. From long-term differences of opinion or personality clashes that fester to a simple one-off misunderstanding, when tensions reach breaking point, the result can be a verbal or physical fight that can lead to injuries.
Repetitive strain injury
Commonly associated with office workers, repetitive strain injury (RSI) occurs when workers perform the same movements repeatedly. Quite often RSI can arise from typing, but it’s not an injury that’s exclusive to office workers – hairdressers, decorators and assembly line workers are just a few examples of other workers who may be at risk.
RSI is a general term used to describe different types of painful conditions that often starts gradually and can include symptoms like stiffness, weakness, swelling or pins and needles of the hands. Over time, the cumulative impact of RSI can be severe.
Exposure to loud noises
Industrial workers are most at risk of being exposed to loud noises while they’re at work and the construction, manufacturing and aviation industries are some of the loudest.
Often we overlook the need to protect our ears from hearing damage as the effects are not always noticeable immediately. Long-term exposure to loud noises can lead to irreparable damage, resulting in conditions such as tinnitus.
Exposure to toxic fumes
Toxic fumes can arise from hazardous chemicals in laboratory or manufacturing environments. Exposure to these can lead to skin or eye reactions and in the long term, you may be faced with respiratory problems.
Hazardous chemicals can also lead to chemical burns, but there are many other types of burns that workers can be exposed to in the workplace. Other common kinds of workplace burns include heat burns and electrical burns.
Burns result in damage to your body’s skin tissue and while many are minor, some burns can result in life-changing consequences.
Driving can be a major part of many jobs. Delivery drivers, taxi drivers and operators of forklift trucks are perhaps some of the more obvious examples. However, other examples of workers who may be at risk of vehicle collisions include social workers who need to regularly meet clients, or staff who commute between office bases.
Accidents resulting in a crash or impact can lead to devastating injuries. They can arise when workers are tired or distracted when operating the vehicle.
Cuts & lacerations
The risk of cuts and lacerations are not isolated to construction or workshop settings where heavy machinery is in use. Any kind of environment that uses sharp objects – including offices, shops, and restaurants – can pose a risk. Lathes, knives and paper trimmers are just some of the workplace equipment that can cause a cut or laceration if they’re used improperly or without appropriate safety equipment.
Many cuts will likely be minor injuries, but there’s always the risk of one that may require stitches or lead to an infection.
Employer safety obligations
Although the occasional accident may seem inevitable from time to time (we’re only human, after all), employers have a duty of care to protect their employee’s health, safety, and welfare. Employers must do whatever is reasonable to manage health and safety risks in the workplace.
By law, employers are obliged to undertake various activities that endeavour to protect worker welfare, such as:
- Completing a thorough assessment of workplace risks to identify activities that could cause injury or illness;
- Taking appropriate, reasonable action to eliminate the hazard or manage the risk, such as through the provision of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), safety equipment, or training;
- Provide employees with information about the risks in their workplace and how they are protected;
- Consult employees on health and safety issues;
- Display the approved health and safety poster or provide each worker with a copy of the approved leaflet; and
- Carry out regular maintenance of equipment.
Where an employer fails to fulfil their duty of care responsibilities and an accident results, then you may be able to make a compensation claim against them. To mount a successful claim, you need to show that your employer was negligent and an experienced solicitor can advise you on the evidence you will need.
There are various actions that employers can take to protect themselves and their employees. The first step is to undertake a thorough risk assessment to identify potential hazards and put in place reasonable controls to manage the risks before they cause an accident. The types of safety controls implemented by an employer will vary by industry, but some examples of health and safety controls include:
- Providing safety equipment such as protective goggles, ear protection and other PPE;
- Having safe operating procedures in place and enforcing them;
- Clear signage to warn of dangerous situations, such as warning labels on hazardous chemicals or wet floors;
- Providing safety procedure training, such as manual handling training;
- Reminding employees to take regular breaks;
- Implementing grievance procedures to minimise the risk of employee tensions escalating; and
- Conducting a regular risk assessment to identify any changing risks.
Contact Waldrons Solicitors
Here at Waldrons, we have a team of experienced personal injury solicitors who can help you to recover the compensation you deserve if you’ve sustained an injury at work. Contact us today to discuss your circumstances.
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