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Common Workplace Hazards, and How to Prevent Them

Workplace injuries can have a huge impact on operations and productivity. From the initial incident stopping work, to demotivated employees and missed workdays, even a seemingly minor injury can affect your business. It is your duty as an employer or manager to ensure that people on your site are safe, which means that you must take all reasonable steps and precautions to minimise the likelihood of accidents and injuries. 

To help, we have compiled this guide to the most common workplace injuries (according to this Health and Safety Executive report) and the most effective ways of preventing them. 

Slips, trips and fall accidents (on the same level) 

The number one cause of accidents and injuries in the workplace is, and always has been, the slip, trip or fall. These incidents can happen to anyone, at any time, in any place and for any reason; the slightest deviation in the surface of the floor (an uneven tile, for example), a cable, a loose stair tread, rain, ice, snow are all very common. 

Common workplace accident types 2021

 

It may seem that there is not much you can do to eliminate these accidents completely. That is largely true – you will never reduce the risk to zero, but there are some steps that you can take to minimise the problem. The HSE uses a three-step model for prevention of slip, trip and fall accidents, which is as follows: 

  • Walkways – these should be available, in the right place and in use. 
  • Housekeeping – walkways should be kept clean and clear of obvious hazards like trailing wires, litter, boxes and water spills or water tracking in from outdoors 
  • Design and maintenance – this is to do with the actual walkway itself: it should be well fitted, wide enough for purpose, even and level. Stairways should be a consistent height, with handrails and highlights on stair nosing. All walkways and stairways should be well lit

So, what does this mean in real terms? For the most part, step one is dealt with when you set up your site. Make sure that environments from offices to warehouses have sufficient space between desks, equipment, machinery and racking for people to walk around the site comfortably and easily. Steps number two and three are more difficult – in large part, you will need to deal with unique situations with specific solutions. Some common products that can help are: 

  • Door mats – a cost-effective, simple way of reducing the amount of water and debris that makes its way into and around your site
  • Anti-slip mats – available in a huge range of options to suit any number of different environments, from kitchens to offices, schools to factories 
  • De-icing salt – the easiest way of removing ice and snow from your outdoor areas including car parks and walkways 
  • Spill kits – absolutely essential when it comes to dealing with liquid spills of any type: chemical, oil, water-based, paint, etc. 
  • Waste/recycling bins – both indoors and out, these should be placed strategically to reduce the amount of litter around your premises 
  • Anti-slip tape – this serves a dual purpose: it highlights a specific place (the edge of a stair tread, for example) and provides additional traction 

Handling, lifting and carrying accidents

The second most common type of accident or injury in the workplace comes as a result of manual handling – the stretching and straining that often results in musculoskeletal issues, and the injuries that come about from impeded vision when carrying and moving something. 

The British Safety Council outlines three key areas of regulation when it comes to manual handling: 

  1. Avoid – wherever possible, avoid manual handling altogether
  2. Assess – if manual handling is unavoidable, then assess the risks
  3. Reduce – use that assessment to implement ways of reducing the risks 

Unfortunately, some manual handling activity is inevitable in almost every workplace. Whether you are placing chairs in a classroom, picking and packing in a warehouse or changing the water cooler bottle in an office – sooner or later, there is some lifting to be done. This means that, for the majority of businesses, you will need to move to assessment and reduction of the risks. 

One of the best ways to mitigate the risks associated with manual handling is by removing the ‘manual’ part and using handling equipment, including: 

  • Forklift trucks 
  • Sack trolleys 
  • Trolleys 
  • Dollies 
  • Scissor lifts 
  • Trucks 
  • Skates 

If this is not practical or possible, then you will need to focus all your efforts on effective training. Most of us have probably seen posters that outline how to lift boxes correctly – these are a good start, and should be deployed where possible. Actual training sessions, however, are the best way of ensuring that the message is received and understood, particularly if you make them a frequent and regular part of your calendar. 

Of course, it is not just about ‘how to lift a box’. Staff also need to be trained to know their limits when it comes to lifting weight, and to ensure that they always have a clear field of vision for where they are moving the load to. Without it, they could slip, trip, and fall while moving the item(s). 

In conclusion... 

Training and maintenance are the best ways to combat workplace injuries. Even for slips and trips, you can train your employees to deal with any issues that they spot rather than ignoring them, as is common in workplaces. Removing the hazard might be as simple as mopping up a spill or highlighting a trailing cable to the relevant personnel so it can be moved or secured.

For additional protection, there many products available that you can incorporate within your environment – some of them we have listed above, others are available as well. If you have a specific concern or need some guidance on the type of equipment that would best meet your needs, then get in touch with us today.