Today I want to talk to you about one of the questions most commonly asked of health and safety people worldwide.
What are the most common injuries or illnesses in the workplace?
Well, as it turns out, the most common workplace injuries are also often those injuries which are the easiest to prevent. However, there seems to be a very large number of them, every year.
Serious workplace accidents are far too common. 144 workers were killed in UK workplaces in 2017/2018 while there were 555, 000 self-reported, non-fatal injuries and 71, 062 employer-reported non-fatal injuries.
What's a whopping 4.5 million (estimated) lost working days.
There are many things your employer - and you - can do to reduce the number of accidents and injuries in your workplace. The very first of those things is knowing and understanding what accidents and injuries can occur.
So, here are the 10 most common injuries or illnesses in UK workplaces
Slips, trips and falls: It doesn't matter where you work or what type of industry you are in, you will - at some point - come across a slippery floor, or a loose, trailing cable somewhere. Accidents likes these are often initiators of other types of accident - for example; falls from height or machinery entanglement accidents. Falls from height are also included under this injury type, with falls from ladders being the most common type of fall. Falls from scaffolding and other raised platforms are less common but significantly more dangerous if no controls are present.
Strained muscles: Muscle strain can be a common type of injury in any activity at work or at home. However, work-related muscle strains are far more common, especially if workers are expected to move large loads around the workplace. Back and neck strains are the most common type of muscle strains at work, often due to poor manual handling techniques.
Struck by falling objects: Rather surprisingly common, objects can fall from many places when you're working. You may be working on a machine when a colleague accidentally drops a tool from the platform above you, you might be stood directly in front of a shelf that collapses, or you could be walking to the restroom where a broken fixture finally decides it's time and falls onto your head. Falling objects come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They can be big, small, blunt or sharp. However, they're almost always very dangerous. Especially if you don't see them coming. Any type of object - sharp or blunt, big or small - falling onto your head can be instantly fatal.
RSI (Repetitive strain injury): Repetitive strain injury, or RSI, has become increasingly common over recent decades as our employers push more work out of us. Our working times have increased while our rest times have diminished. Not to mention, more of us are working behind computers or automated assembly lines nowadays; constantly performing the same actions day in, day out. RSI can easily be prevented through the use of ergonomic equipment or encouraging rest breaks. But employers - even now - seem to ignore repetitive strain injury. Almost like they don't believe it can happen. However, RSI can have some serious consequences if rest and precautions aren't taken.
Crashes and collisions: Crash or collision accidents can come with some very serious consequences, too. Depending on what hits you, and how fast the vehicle is moving can cause a variety of different, nasty injuries. Crashes and collision injuries in the workplace often end up with one or more workers being hospitalised due to the accident.
Shallow or deep lacerations: Many, many different objects or items can cause lacerations in the skin. Again, it doesn't really matter where you work, you can get cut at anytime by something you didn't notice was there. From office implements to power saws, there are a variety of ways you can cut yourself at work. Even the smallest laceration can become infected and cause some serious health problems.
Exposure to toxic fumes: Working in a toxic environment can cause very serious skin and respiratory health problems and is far more common than most people think. While every workplace in the world probably has a least one hazardous substance in their premises, not many of them present toxic environments for their employees to work in. Without the proper protection, these toxic environments can easily kill people through inhalation and poisoning.
Exposure to loud noises: There is no escaping noise. It's everywhere, all of the time. Even with modern ear protection, industrial deafness is still a thing. In fact, it's still quite common and can be the reason for very large compensation payouts. It is very much in every employers interest to properly control noise in their workplace.
'Walking into' injuries: I'm not going to lie, I do this rather frequently. Honestly, I'm sure we've all been there; you're walking along, checking your mobile phone when all of a sudden there is a sharp pain in your forehead and you're sat on your backside wondering what on Earth is going on. Or maybe you tried - and failed - to walk around that table a little too quickly, causing you to - somehow- walk straight in to the corner causing yourself some consider pain. I'm sure we've all been there. They're usually very painful, but very rarely are they fatal.
Violence at work: I can hear your thoughts going now, "what, really? Violence at work is the tenth most common cause of workplace injury?" Yes, it is. Almost every year. I remember a couple of feuds in the place I used to work, almost a decade ago. Both feuds came to blows, but fortunately no injuries. However, many cases of workplace violence do, indeed, cause some pretty nasty injuries. All it takes is a push or a shove in the wrong direction and one of the workers is falling under a forklift truck or down the stairs.
It is far too easy to become complacent and people will always inadvertently find new ways to injure themselves. However - with a little knowledge and training - injuries can often be avoided.
Ensuring you and your employees understand the types of injuries that can happen and are able to implement the control measures which will prevent them from happening will go a very long way to reducing the amount of injuries in your workplace.
Help your employees avoid a serious workplace injury by giving them thorough health and safety training. Visit the International Association for Chemical Safety's new Health and Safety E-Learning Academy! All of our e-learning courses are completely free for anyone to learn from!