What they never tell you when you go out for your first job as a youngster is how often people get injured on the job. There were over 600,000 recorded workplace injuries in England in the 2010-2011 year, with over 200,000 of those resulting in more than 3 days absence from work. In no particular order, here are the most common workplace injuries you can keep in mind and try to avoid.
1. Slips and Trips. Slippery surfaces can occur in any work setting – from factory floors where materials spills are not cleaned up promptly to tiled reception areas or lavatories that are not kept clear by custodial staff. Always be aware of the surfaces you are walking on and their condition, especially during wet weather or if you work routinely with liquid materials.
2. Falls. There were over 12,000 incidents of workers falling from ladders in the 2008-2009 year, which are only a fraction of the total workplace falls recorded. Falls from ladders are the most common cause of fall injuries at the workplace, but falls also occur from scaffolding, platforms, and stairwells. The key to avoiding falls is observance of basic Working from Heights safety, but employers should supply harnesses where appropriate and assure that work areas are clear of obstructions.
3. Burns. Most commonly due to chemicals used in industrial settings such as labs or factories, burns can also be inflicted from overheated equipment, welding torches, and even use of the break room kitchen! Any burn should be considered serious until determined to be otherwise by a medical professional.
4. Back/Neck. Muscle strains are very common in almost any work setting that involves heavy lifting. Companies should provide basic safety training on proper lifting techniques, as well as back braces and other equipment in order to reduce the incidence of these sorts of injuries.
5. RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury). Often not taken seriously, RSI (otherwise known as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome) can become a very serious affliction stemming from any repetitive motion of the joints, not just keyboard use. Prevention is very simple and involves quick training on taking appropriate breaks and stretching exercises.
6. Cuts. Lacerations can be caused by a wide range of equipment, from table saws to just about any machinery with moving parts. The key to preventing laceration accidents is that training must be provided to all employees where such equipment is used, even if they are not expected to operate it.
7. Hearing Loss. In many industrial settings, constant exposure to loud noise can result in significantly reduced hearing. The effect can be subtle and gradual. Basic safety measures such as ear protection and separation of noise-producing machines behind ambient barriers can eliminate this injury from any workplace.
8. Crash/Impact Injuries. Accidents involving cars or trucks used for deliveries or other purposes, cherry-pickers or backhoes, tractors, and even small things like golf carts or Segways are common. Helmets and seatbelts should always be utilised in moving vehicles, even if the average speed of operation is very low.
9. Toppling Incidents. Any workplace environment that involves shelving is susceptible to toppling incidents, due to either improper employee behaviour or improperly secured shelving units. These injuries can be quite serious depending on the weight of the shelving and should be referred to emergency medical attention immediately even if the worker shows no obvious serious injury.
10. Inhalations. In factory or lab environments where employees work with chemicals of any sort, fumes or gas reactions can cause poisonings or skin/eye reactions. These areas should be equipped with employee emergency showers, and employees should be supplied with safety goggles and other protective equipment, including breathing masks if the risk of fume inhalation is high.