Common health and safety issues are the cause of fatalities and injuries in the workplace. In 2016/2017 137 workers were killed at work and 92 members of the public were killed due to work related activities.
Industry fatal injuries to workers occurred in Construction (30), Agriculture (27), Manufacturing (19), Transport and storage (14), Waste (14) and Other (33). The main kinds of accident recorded were Struck by a moving vehicle (31), Falls from height (25), Struck by a moving object (20), Trapped by something collapsing or overturning (10), Contact with moving machinery (8), Contact with electricity (8).
It’s a mistake to believe that accidents like those above will never happen to you or at your workplace. Accidents can happen to anyone but you can take steps to minimise or prevent accidents from occurring by assessing risks and putting procedures in place for good working practice as well as training and equipment.
Here are a number of the most common health and safety issues which are the cause of many accidents and what you can do about them:
Working at Height
Working at height is still one of the biggest causes of fatalities and major injuries. The most common cases include falls from ladders and through fragile surfaces.
What Can I do?
Look at the risks involved. Include the height of the task, the duration and frequency, and the condition of the surface being worked on.
Before working at height work:
- Check it’s absolutely necessary to work at height – minimise work at height by doing as much of the work as possible from the ground
- Make sure all workers working at height have the right training to ensure they understand the risks and how to work safely at height
- Ensure the right equipment is used and that is checked and maintained regularly
- Be aware when working near fragile surfaces (on average 7 people are killed each year after falling through a fragile roof or fragile roof light – many others suffer permanent disabling injury)
- Provide protection from falling objects (on scaffolds this can be achieved by this using toe-boards, brick guards and netting or fans and/or covered walkways)
- Consider and plan how you will evacuate workers if there are any problems
For more information read our article on Working at Height.
Slips and Trips
The majority of slips and trips occur through poor housekeeping e.g. when floors become wet or items are left out making them trip hazards. To help prevent these accidents you need to think about what might cause slips or trips in your workplace and decide whether you are doing enough to prevent them.
What Can I do?
By simply improving housekeeping and having procedures in place the majority of accidents caused by slips and trips can be avoided.
- Clean up spills quickly, as soon as they occur. Don’t leave them for someone else to tackle. Having routine cleaning practices in place can help with this.
- Signpost when floors are not safe to walk on e.g. when floors are still wet after they have been cleaned prevent anyone from walking on them until they are dry
- Look for trip hazards, such as uneven floors or trailing cables, and encourage workers to report them so they can be dealt with quickly
- Make sure workers wear footwear that is suitable for the environment they are working in
For more information read our article on getting to Grips with Slips and Trips.
Electricity can kill or severely injure people. Electrical injury is damage caused by an electrical current passing through the body. Symptoms range from skin burns, damage to internal organs and other soft tissues to cardiac arrhythmia and respiratory arrest.
A voltage as low as 50 volts applied across the human body causes a current to flow that can block the electrical signals between the brain and the muscles. This may have a number of effects including:
- Stopping the heart beating properly
- Preventing the person from breathing
- Causing muscle spasms that can be strong enough to break bones or dislocate joints
However, you can take simple precautions when working with or near electricity and electrical equipment to significantly reduce the risk of injury.
What can I do?
Carry out an assessment of any electrical hazards, which covers:
- Who will be working with them and what training do they have
- How the level of risk has been established
- What precautions are being taken to control the risk
A risk assessment should take into consideration the type of electrical equipment being used, the way in which it is used (is it being used for the purpose it’s intended for and the conditions in which it’s operated) and the environment that it is used in. It’s also important to ensure that anyone using electrical equipment understands how to use it properly and has had appropriate training in using it and only uses it for its intended purpose.
All elements of electrical equipment should be checked to ensure they are fit for purpose including fuses and circuit-breakers which need to be correctly rated for the circuit they protect. Isolators and fuse-box cases should be kept secure and locked if possible. Plugs, sockets and cables need to be robust and protected. An isolator should be built in to allow for a quick shut down in the case of an emergency.
It’s vital that all electrical equipment is maintained and checked on a regular basis and taken out of commission if a problem is identified until such times as it is fixed.
The term manual handling covers a wide variety of activities including lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling and carrying and include work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as pain and injuries to arms, legs and joints, and repetitive strain injuries of various sorts.
What Can I do?
The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (MHOR) require employers to manage the risks to their employees. To help prevent manual handling injuries in the workplace, you should, where possible, avoid employing manual handling as far as possible. However, where it is not possible employers must look at the risks of each task and put appropriate health and safety measures in place to prevent injuries.
There are many factors to take into account when manual handling is required e.g. the weight of the item, the number of times you have to pick up or carry an item, the distance you are carrying it, where you are picking it up from or putting it down (picking it up from the floor, putting it on a shelf above shoulder level) and any twisting, bending, stretching or other awkward posture you may adopt while doing a task. If any of these tasks are not carried out appropriately there is a risk of injury.
If you need to lift something manually:
- Assess the weight to be carried and think about whether a load can be broken down to smaller, lighter components
- If its not possible to break down a load look at whether a worker can move the load safely or whether it requires more than one person to carry out the task or needs any help
- Minimsie the amount of twisting, stooping and reaching that will be required to complete the task
- Avoid lifting from floor level or above shoulder height, especially in the case of heavy loads
- Consider how you can minimise carrying distances
If you need to use lifting equipment:
- Look at whether you could use a lifting aid, such as a forklift truck, electric or hand-powered hoist, trolley, turntable or a conveyor. You can read more about Lifting and Handling Aids in the HSE PDF “Making the best use of lifting and handling aids“.
- Think about storage as part of the delivery process. Could heavy items be delivered directly or closer to the handling area?
The Health and Safety Executive have also developed tools to help employers analyse lifting, carrying and team handling (the MAC tool and the V-MAC tool), repetitive upper limb tasks (the ART tool) and pushing and pulling (the RAPP tool) which may prove helpful. You may need to use more than one tool depending on the task involved.
Common Health and Safety Issues Can Be Prevented
Through risk assessments and quality health and safety training the majority of common health ans safety issues which lead to injuries and deaths can be prevented.