Accidents and injuries

It is widely recognised that being in work is beneficial for your overall health. Statistics also show that workplaces are becoming safer, with a decreasing number of workplace injuries. In the unfortunate event of being involved in an accident or injury at work, it’s important to deal with the cause of the incident to prevent it from happening again.

Causes of workplace injuries

Injuries at work occur for a variety of reasons, most commonly as a result of:

  • musculoskeletal disorders;
  • exposure to harmful substances;
  • excessive noise;
  • stress.

Musculoskeletal disorders

Musculoskeletal disorders refers to a range of muscle and joint problems, including:

  • back pain;
  • upper limb disorders (ULDs).

Back pain is the most frequently cited reason for sickness absence in the UK. It isn’t only associated with labour intensive jobs involving heavy lifting, but with office-based roles requiring employees to sit for long periods of time using computer equipment.

Previously known as repetitive strain injuries, ULDs can include conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow. These are often pre-existing conditions and are exacerbated by adopting an awkward posture for long periods of time at work.

Exposure to hazards in the workplace

The nature of your work may require you to come into contact with substances that can adversely affect your health. Some substances may worsen a pre-existing allergy or cause new allergic reactions. This can include things that affect your breathing or react with your skin, resulting in occupational asthma or dermatitis.

Occupational asthma can be caused by exposure to substances that irritate your airways. These can include manufactured chemicals, as well as organic materials such as wood dust. Exposure can result in coughs, breathlessness and chest tightening.

Coming into contact with substances that irritate your skin can trigger occupational dermatitis. This can result in itching, rashes and skin blisters.

Visit NHS Choices for more information on asthma and dermatitis.

Work-related noise

Exposure to excessive levels of noise can result in temporary and permanent hearing loss. This is also related to the condition tinnitus, which causes a constant ringing in the ears. Minimising your exposure to excessive noise will help to reduce the chances of developing hearing problems.

Visit NHS Choices for more information on hearing loss.

Work-related stress

Work-related stress can lead to reduced concentration and impaired decision making. This can increase your chances of being involved in an accident at work.

Visit NHS Choices for advice on stress management.

Work activity risk assessment

Your employer has a legal requirement to assess any risks to your health and safety in your workplace, helping to minimise the risk of accident or injury.

Action could be taken to deal with hazards in the workplace, such as:

  • providing hearing protection against excessive noise levels;
  • limiting exposure to potentially harmful substances;
  • conducting Display Screen Equipment tests on workstations.

Helping yourself

Your workplace may run courses designed to prevent workplace injury and illness, such as:

  • display screen equipment — ways of altering your workstation to prevent injury;
  • health and safety;
  • fire awareness.

It’s important that you attend any training provided to raise your awareness of the causes of injuries and to enable you to prevent them from happening.