Employers reported 78,222 injuries in the workplace last year, according to the latest figures from the Health and Safety Executive – that’s three in every thousand workers. Most of these were caused by lifting, carrying or handling, and more than 58,000 of them caused employees to take seven days or more off work.
We are constantly reminded that workplace injuries and accidents are preventable, and yet the rate of injury suggests that employers and employees are still not doing everything they can to avoid these incidents.
Below are some of the most common dangers to your health in the workplace, and how to avoid them.
Slips and trips
These can occur in any workplace – from a freshly-mopped kitchen floor to a spill in a factory, not to mention outdoors when conditions are icy. Slips and trips are most common in environments where people carry objects that prevent them from looking at the floor, and poor lighting can also play a role. Employers should ensure that all wet and slippery surfaces are clearly marked, while employees need to keep a sharp eye out for potential hazards on the ground.
Repetitive strain injury is a musculoskeletal disorder that can take a variety of forms, including carpal tunnel syndrome (common to computer users), tenosynovitis and bursitis. They are caused by repetitive movements that cause overuse of certain muscles and tendons.
It’s important to speak to your employer if you are experiencing symptoms of pain, stiffness, numbness or cramp: they have a legal duty to take steps to prevent it. Maintaining good posture and taking regular breaks from repetitive tasks will also help prevent RSI.
Stress is often considered an “invisible illness”, but its consequences can be all too clear. High blood pressure, heart problems, insomnia and depression are just a few of the problems stress can cause, and there’s no single way to reduce it in the workplace: what’s stressful for one person may be enjoyable for another.
However, employers should make workers aware that they take the issue seriously and offer support wherever they can. For their part, employees should not be afraid to speak up when the demands of the job become stressful, and try to maintain a work-life balance that reduces their stress levels
Lifting and carrying injuries
Pulled muscles, back strain, slipped discs and more – lifting and carrying accounts for more than a third of all injuries in the workplace, according to the Health and Safety Executive. Although the “safe lifting seminar” has become a bit of a workplace joke, it happens for a reason: poor posture and lifting technique really do cause a large number of debilitating disorders.
It’s usually recommended that heavy lifting should be avoided as much as possible, or carried out by people who are properly trained in it. If a lifting task needs to be done, follow these best practice guidelines to avoid coming away with an injury. Employers should make sure workers know about these and schedule the occasional training session – even if it does mean a few rolled eyes!
By Brian de Selby