10 occupational threats that UK workers face

Although workplace accidents cannot be completely eradicated, the risk of them can be reduced.
Business owners and managers need to be aware of the dangers that their employees could potentially face and put measures in place to protect their employees and their business from harm.

1. Slips and trips
Slips and trips account for over half of all non-fatal injury accounts made by employees, usually due to spilt liquids, insufficient lighting or dangerous flooring.

By implementing simple safety measures, you can reduce the likelihood of such accidents happening. Look to make sure that spills or dangers are highlighted with wet floor signs and warning signs; keep corridors or walkways clear of unnecessary items; and carry out regular checks of flooring standards.

2. Falls
Falling from a height is one of the biggest causes of death in the workplace and is usually caused by unstable or inexistent supports, or falling through fragile materials.

Training, planning and supervision are crucial. Follow the HSE’s Working at Height guide to gain an understanding of everything you can do to prevent such fatalities.

3. Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)
RSI stems from carrying out the same movement everyday for a long period of time. It can affect employees in many industries, from office workers suffering from carpel tunnel syndrome to construction workers with vibration white finger.

By providing short breaks at regular intervals, ensuring that desk space is adequate and regularly assessing employees, you can reduce the possibility of employees developing RSI.

4. Back and neck injury
Another common threat for workers is falling victim to back and/or neck injuries due to constant heavy lifting without adequate breaks or appropriate training. Such injuries can also come from sitting incorrectly at a desk.

Health and safety training before heavy lifting, and displaying cards explaining workplace ergonomics are simple ways to prevent the occurrence of any back and neck injuries.

5. Cuts
These injuries are most common in businesses where employees are required to regularly use sharp equipment or machinery.

If there is a high risk of injury using machinery, provide relevant training before an employee begins work, as well as appropriate safety equipment, such as gloves, boots and helmets. You should also have at least one employee qualified in first aid for smaller injuries.

6. Burns
Burns can happen within many industries; a laboratory environment can put employees at risk of chemical burns, whereas construction work can cause welding burns, while restaurant staff can find themselves injured from hot water or oil.

Training and first aid are imperative to ensure that employees are far away from the risk of being burnt and if they do unfortunately get injured, they can be treated immediately.

7. Toppling accidents
Stacking shelves can result in an injury, the level of which can depend on what is being stacked and at what height.

Regularly check and maintain shelving units and provide training to employees working with them.

8. Impact injury
Impact injuries tend to involve vehicles or machinery, and are typically caused by improper use from irresponsible, untrained or overworked workers.

Training prior to starting work is vital for employees operating vehicles or machinery. Regular assessments can then help to stamp out any potential issues. Meanwhile, managers should ensure that these employees receive regular breaks to prevent stress or fatigue.

9. Hearing loss
Hearing loss is typically found in employees who are constantly exposed to loud noises at work.
Providing ear muffs, ear plugs and any other kind of sound cancelling ear equipment can help to prevent hearing loss as much as possible. Other steps can also be taken, such as making sure that employees take their lunch break offsite, as ear protection may be removed at this time.

10. Inhalation of fumes
Working with hazardous liquids, solids and or gases can affect breathing, sight and cause skin conditions.

All required safety procedures should be implemented before allowing employees to work with hazardous substances, which includes providing protective work wear or making sure that the environment is suitably ventilated.

The impact on a business
Even the smallest of workplace accidents or injuries can have an impact on a business. Time off, legal expenses, compensation claims and an increase in insurance premiums can all stem from accidents at work, so it is crucial that your business does everything in its power to protect both employees and your livelihood from harm.