What Are the Most Common Causes of Accidents at Work?

October 5, 2020
Caroline Preece

It’s at the forefront of any good employers’ mind - what are the most common causes of accidents at work, and how can they be avoided?

Employee safety is perhaps one of the most important things that organisations should be focusing on, as at the end of the day, it is people who often drive a business’ operations and success. That being said, accidents at work are often an inevitable part of day-to-day life, and the most employers can do is a) obey HSE regulations on assessing and mitigating risk and, b) put in place measures to help workers report accidents and get the help that they need.

This article will cover the following:

Most common workplace accidents

The most common workplace accidents and the reasons for them occurring are two sides of the same coin. While there are absolutely cases of freak accidents causing harm that no one could have averted it’s also true that, without the hazards that often go unnoticed and unaddressed, there would be far fewer incidences of workers becoming seriously hurt or injured while at work.

According to the HSE’s report on non-fatal injuries during 2018/19, the most common causes of accidents at work are:

  • Slips, trips or falls on the same level (29%)
  • Handling, lifting or carrying (20%)
  • Being struck by moving object (10%)
  • Acts of violence (8%)
  • Falls from height (8%)

Slips, trips or falls

Just what it says on the tin - this type of accident occurs when there are tripping hazards on the workspace floor, which ordinarily occurs with an untidy or disorganised environment. Similarly, slips commonly happen when floors are wet, perhaps without a warning sign erected to warn those nearby of the increased risk.

Handling, lifting or carrying

Handling heavy objects without proper training can be a recipe for disaster, with workers suffering from an injury or in some cases long-term chronic neck, back and spine issues. Formal instruction on how to bend, lift and carry with minimum stress on the body can help here, or the introduction of equipment to reduce the need for doing the job manually.

Struck by moving object

This is a wide-ranging category that covers everything from objects coming loose from a higher surface, to vehicles striking workers or pedestrians.

Acts of violence

Some job roles require employees to regularly interact with the public and with this comes the danger that they will find themselves in a violent situation.  Those in the retail industry or someone working as a security guard are just two examples where this type of risk is most prevalent.

Falls from Height

Another self-explanatory one. Falls from height are any instances where an employee is required to work from high places and is thus at risk of falling. ‘Height’ in this case is often categorised as anywhere above ground level and can lead to serious injury should the proper precautions not be put in place.

accident at work caution sign

How many working days are lost due to accidents at work?

The question employers often ask first regarding accidents in the workplace is how much time is lost because of them. It’s an understandable concern - while almost all employers want to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their staff first and foremost, they also need to look at the impact on their bottom lines.

The HSE reports that an estimated 28.2 million working days are lost because of illness or non-fatal workplace accidents in 2018/19. The average number of missed days for each person suffering from an issue was 15.1 days.

An important thing to note about these sobering figures is the reasons behind many of those lost days. While 8.1 days were due to injuries, a massive 21.2 days were due to stress, depression or anxiety. This of course highlights the need to take care of the overall wellbeing of employees, rather than merely focusing on physical health. 

In addition, 13.8 days were due to musculoskeletal disorders, which can in some cases be caused by handling, lifting or carrying incidents outlined above. This is particularly common in manual labour roles where lifting heavy objects is a job requirement.

Outside of days lost directly due to injury or illness, there’s also the time sacrificed to subsequent injury at work claim procedures, which can occur if an employer has not done their due diligence when it comes to mitigating risk. 

accident at work cable worker

Reporting Accidents in the Workplace

No matter the cause of accidents in the workplace, it’s crucial for employers to put in place a reliable way for workers to report safety issues. That’s because a robust reporting system would go a long way to preventing accidents in the first place, rather than simply being a way to log incidents that have already occurred.

It’s a proactive rather than reactive approach and should be best practice for all employers with workers in potentially risky situations. With the right data logged by the right people within the organisation (those on the ground as well as supervisors and managers), there are many accidents that can be avoided altogether.

The data can be used as part of your risk assessment, which needs to be constantly updated to reflect current conditions. It goes without saying that a risk assessment that uses past incidents to inform present and future measures will automatically be stronger than one dealing exclusively with hypotheticals.

Take a look at our guide to writing a lone worker policy, and our risk assessment template, to find out more about how you can streamline the process of both reporting incidents in the workplace and using those accident reports to increase safety.

Avoiding Injury at Work

For lone workers, in particular, additional safety measures are necessary to avoid scenarios in which employees are hurt or injured and unable to call for help. 

Lone worker alarms are a brilliant way to add an extra layer of protection for employees, as they allow the user to not only hit a dedicated SOS button should an accident occur, but also log ‘near-misses’ with accompanying software such as Vatix’s Protector™ platform.

In cases where accidents at work are sadly unavoidable, with the right tools, it is still possible for employers to prevent serious harm coming to their workers. Personal safety devices given to employees will ensure that, should it be necessary, workers’ whereabouts can be tracked and help sent to their location should something happen. 

Many of these alarms also include a Man Down feature, that can detect when a worker has fallen down whether from an accident, sudden illness and another incident.

In order to reduce the risk of injury at work, employers should conduct a thorough risk assessment, mitigate risks where they can, and give workers the right tools and equipment. With these things in place, the strain caused by accidents at work can be significantly reduced.

To find out more about how Vatix can help your business be proactive in its safety measures, or if you are interested in our lone worker services, click here or call us on 020 3820 1857.

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