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The Most Common Workplace Injuries and How to Avoid Them

25 January 2018 No Comment

Some people never seem to tire of bemoaning that we live in a health and safety conscious society. However, awareness of health and safety issues at work is important in ensuring workers rights. We are currently living much safer lives in all areas than our ancestors have. We all now go to work safe in the knowledge that we are protected from needless danger while working, but for health and safety to be effective, workers also need to remain mindful of the most common workplace dangers and how they can avoid them.

Although many people don’t realise it, the types of injuries sustained in the workplace remain the same, whether it’s an office or a building site. Obviously, there are some dangers unique to certain workplaces, but the general types of injury e.g. trips, falls, muscle strains, etc. can occur just about anywhere. It doesn’t matter where you work, you should be aware of what the most common injuries and hazards are and how you can avoid them.

Slips, Trips, and Falls

Slips, trips, and falls can be minor incidents, or serious situations, depending on where they occur. All it takes is an awkward landing angle, or a head connecting with a hard surface as someone goes down, and an otherwise harmless fall can cause serious damage. Minimising the risk of all three is mostly a case of keeping floors clear and promptly tidying things away.

Slips are the result of liquids on the floor, or ice, or anything else which makes a floor slippery. The hazard of a slipping injury can be exacerbated by the liquid or substance responsible. If the floor is covered in a corrosive or toxic substance, then slipping in it could cause accidental ingestion and exposure. It is important that any spills are clearly marked with signs, warning passers by of the danger. If the substance is hazardous then it needs to also be identified as such. Hazardous substances often require specific, authorised personnel to clean them up, so you should inform the appropriate person as soon as possible.

Trips occur when a person suffers a fall because of tripping on a physical object. Most commonly these are bags, coats, shoes, and other items which are currently left on floors. Such items should be tucked away beneath a desk so that they aren’t obstructing any walkways. Trips can also be caused by loose carpets or by rugs, mats, and uneven floor surfaces. You should replace any problematic materials as soon as you can, and make sure that any visitors are aware of uneven floors.

Falls occur when someone falls from a height, and they are often more dangerous than the other two, depending on the heights involved. The most effective way of preventing falls is to place warning signs near to any fall hazards, ensure that there are no trip or slip hazards near to ledges, and that stairs in particular are kept clear.

Muscle Strains

Muscle strain injuries in the workplace are usually caused as a result of repetitive actions, such as using a mouth or typing on a keyboard for numerous hours on end. They can also be caused by poor posture when sitting in a chair, especially when the individual spends most, or all of their working day sat down. In order to avoid these forms of muscle injury, workers should take regular (every hour or so) breaks from their computers.

Another common source of muscle strain is the repetitive lifting of heavy objects. When starting a new job that requires heavy lifting, those whose bodies aren’t used to such activities may find themselves more susceptible to muscle pain in the short term. As their bodies adjust to lifting weight every day, these pains should disappear. Workers should never try and lift more than they are comfortable carrying and all new workers should be trained on proper lifting techniques.

Falling Objects

Falling objects are another hazard that can potentially cause very severe injuries. The biggest danger from falling objects comes from their likelihood of hitting their head. Even a relatively light object can cause damage, and heavier objects can cause people to lose consciousness. In order to minimise the potential for falling objects, make sure that all employees understand how to safely stack objects on shelves. Heavier objects should be kept on the lower shelves so that they won’t be able to fall into anyone from a height.

Cuts and Lacerations

Cuts and lacerations are caused when a sharp object penetrates the skin and causes a wound. The range of everyday office items which can cause lacerations and cuts is endless. Usually the kind of cuts and lacerations seen in an office environment are not serious, but when they are they usually arise as a result of inadequate training. All new employees should be given a comprehensive walkthrough of the workplace and be made aware of any hazards.

In more industrial environments, or anywhere where heavy machinery is being used, the risk posed by cuts and lacerations is compounded and becomes significantly more dangerous. In these types of environments, common laceration hazards include electronic saws, sharp blades, and other cutting devices. Safety equipment is very important here, as is ensuring that everyone has adequate training.

Long-Term Exposures

Different workplaces will expose workers to different hazards. For example, working in buildings of a certain type, and built at a certain time, may mean exposure to asbestos. Working on an industrial work site, such as a building site, can expose workers to loud noises, eventually causing hearing loss. A relatively new type of workplace injury that is starting to be reported, and forming the basis for a number of the personal injury claims made against employers, is acoustic shock. Acoustic shock is caused by headsets being too loud, usually in call centres, and over time, this can cause hearing loss.

Exposure to a variety of chemicals is also possible, depending on the workplace. The best way of minimising the risk of long-term exposure problems is to make sure that everyone uses the appropriate protective equipment.

Legal Action

If you suffer an injury in the workplace, and you feel that this injury was sustained because the company failed in their health and safety duties, then you could be entitled to pursue legal action. If you are considering taking legal action, then you should look for a local law firm who you can consult with on the merits of your case. You can do this by searching on Google, for example if you are in the Plymouth area then try searching for ‘solicitors Plymouth’ or ‘law firms Plymouth’, and you will be directed towards websites such as http://roperjames.co.uk/.

When searching online for ‘lawyers Plymouth’, you will get results for all varieties of law firms. You can refine your search using terms such as ‘personal injury solicitor Plymouth’ in order to prioritise results for solicitors who specialise in this type of case. Having a more specialist firm is preferable as they will have much more experience to inform their decisions, including assessing the merits of your case.

It is essential that both employers and employees remain conscious of their obligations under health and safety legislation. Maintaining a safe workplace is in everyone’s interests, as when businesses fail in their obligations, then workers have a right to pursue litigation.

 

This post is in association with Roper James

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