Health & Safety Risks at Work in the UK
There are many health and safety risks in the workplace. The most common cause of injuries at work by far are slips and trips. Fatal injuries can happen in every type of workplace. According to the UK Health and Safety Executive, most fatal injuries occur due to one of the following three causes: falls from height, being struck by a vehicle and being struck by a moving object. These dangers can occur even in office environments.
Fire is a major workplace hazard that must be prepared for. Thankfully it causes relatively few injuries today. As with all other health and safety hazards, the safest way to deal with fire is to prevent it. Employers are required to create and maintain emergency plans and procedures to fight and escape from fires. This is to protect both employees and the public.
In the UK employers and/or building owners or occupiers are also required to carry out a fire safety risk assessment and keep it up to date. Based on the risk assessment, sufficient information, training and supervision must be provided to employees to allow them to extinguish or escape fires safely. The training provided must cater to any specific needs an employee may have.
- Slips, trips and falls
Slips, trips and falls are the leading causes of injury in the workplace. The law in the UK requires that floors be appropriately designed, in good condition and free from obstructions. This allows people to move around safely.
The majority of trips are caused by obstructions in walkways. Uneven surfaces account for many as well. There are several environmental contributors to slips and trips. Light that is too bright can cause glare that hides slip hazards, while light that is too dark can also make it harder to see. Unfamiliar and loud noises distract pedestrians. Condensation and ice can be problematic both indoors and out. Human factors in slips include failure to remove hazards and rushing.
- Lifting and handling
Incorrect manual handling is very dangerous and causes work-related musculoskeletal disorders. It accounts for over a third of all workplace injuries. Weight is not the only cause of manual handling hazards. Large yet light objects can still be dangerous to carry. The number of times items must be picked up, how far they are carried, how they are picked up and placed down, and other movements all factor into the manual handling risk. Manual labour and poor posture can also result in the injuries normally associated with manual handling. Vibrating tools are also dangerous after several hours of use.
Most jurisdictions have many laws associated with manual handling and an effective legal register service may be useful in understanding and complying with them.
- Falls from height
Falling from height is the third largest cause of fatal injury at work. Stairs are by far the most common cause of falls from height. Ladders account for another significant number. The two biggest causes of falls from height are slip hazards and improper footwear.
Like many similar health and safety regulations, laws about working at height apply not just to employers, but anyone who controls such work.
Some common themes run through most of the regulations regarding health and safety at work. Risky work requires proper planning. It must be adequately supervised. The people who undertake it must be competent, having received the necessary training. This applies not just to workers in highly regulated industries but also general offices and retail outlets where items as mundane as computers and stairs can be a hazard.
- UK Health and Safety Executive – Slips and trips
- UK Health and Safety Executive – Manual Handling: An Overview
- UK Health and Safety Executive – Fire Safety