What causes accidents at work?
If you’ve been unfortunate enough to sustain an accident at work, you may be wondering if this falls into the category of being a work-related injury. You may assume that workplace accidents are only likely to happen in a dangerous environment such as a construction site, warehouse or factory, but in reality it’s possible for accidents to happen in any working environment, with many claims coming from people who work in an office.
Starting a claim against your employer can be a difficult and unpleasant process, but it’s even harder to start if you’re unsure if the accident you’ve had is classed as an accident at work. In this blog, we focus on accidents at work, looking at what counts as a work-related injury and how the more common accidents are likely to occur.
What constitutes an accident at work?
Accidents can occur in many different forms, and the same can be said for accidents at work. Whether it’s a trip, slip, fall or any other type of general accident, if it happens within your working environment or in connection with your job, it could technically be classed as an accident at work.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is an independent regulator that ensures the health and safety of every person in every business. Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) is a piece of legislation that the HSE enforce, as it is the governmental method of reporting accidents in the workplace.
Under RIDDOR guidelines, an accident is defined as a clear and specific incident which led to physical injury. However, an accident is only recognised as work-related if it’s connected to the way the task that led to the accident was carried out, if it involved a piece of machinery, substance or equipment provided by work, or if the conditions of where the accident happened played a part. Only specific work-related accidents are RIDDOR reportable, but they must first tick specific boxes, such as involving a working environment and leading to a type of injury.
Examples of injuries that can be reported under RIDDOR include:
- injuries related to gas leaks
- injuries to someone who isn’t an employee, such as a visitor or member of the public
- asthma caused by exposure to a respiratory sensitiser
- physical movement that led to tendonitis, tenosynovitis, hand arm vibration syndrome, hand cramp, forearm cramp or carpal tunnel syndrome
- exposure to a biological disease or carcinogen.
What is the most common injury at work?
Statistics released by the HSE indicated the most common types of injuries at work between 2018 and 2019. It was based on official reports made to RIDDOR, and the results only included non-fatal injuries.
From this information, 29% of accidents involved slips, trips or falls, 20% were handling, lifting or carrying-related, 10% were through being hit by a moving object, and acts of violence and falling from a height each accounted for 8%.
What is the main cause of slipping accidents at work?
There are a number of factors that can lead to slips, trips and falls occurring in the workplace.
General reasons for these types of accidents include:
- poorly fitted flooring
- incorrect flooring
- flooring in poor condition.
- unsuitable footwear
- footwear that doesn’t work well with the flooring.
- a lack of lighting or too much lighting, making it hard to see the floor or a potential hazard
- condensation, rain or cold weather impacting the condition of surfaces
- sudden or loud noises causing an accident.
Obstructions and contamination:
- objects, wires and other potential slipping or tripping hazards blocking the way
- leaks or spills contaminating the area and causing a hazard.
- walking using mobile devices
- failing to clean up spillages or clear obstructions
- running or moving too fast
- transporting large or awkwardly-shaped items.
Although it’s difficult to completely remove every possible cause of an accident, you can take steps to decrease the chance of an accident occurring. For example, examining the walkways being used, opening other walkways to ease congestion and prevent collisions, checking that the route is clear of obstructions, and checking that the walkway is in a suitable condition would help.
After this point, regular maintenance and considering options to introduce more lighting, remove distractions and fit handrails could also improve the safety of these areas.
Is stress considered a work-related injury?
Employers are legally obligated to work within the Health and Safety at Work Act, ensuring the welfare of every member of staff. Claims of stress caused by your employer are harder to make due to evidence being more difficult to gather, but it is possible to do this, and many past claims have been successful.
Reasons for feeling excessive stress in the workplace include being overloaded with work, feeling bullied, a poor working environment or working with a lack of support from people in a position of authority.
A primary factor in attempting to claim against an employer would be that they failed in fulfilling their duty of care in not providing a safe system of work. However, if the sustained stress could be argued as part and parcel of the specific role, it’s likely that the claim will be dismissed.