Whatever the type of organisation, it is vital to prevent injury at work. Read our guide to the 10 most common workplace injuries and discover what you can do to help prevent health and safety risks that can result in injury at work for employees, contractors, the public and others.
To prevent and control hazards in the workplace, the UK has an extensive range of health and safety regulations that impose various obligations on employers. However, despite the regulations, 693,000 employees sustained a non-fatal injury at work, and 111 people were killed in 2019/20 according to government figures.
Employers must understand the activities, operations, incidents, environment and work equipment that can lead to an injury at work to comply with relevant health and safety legislation. Failure to document and control health and safety risks can lead to prosecution, fines, civil claims, lost time, harm to employees and reputational damage.
10 common types of injuries at work
Several injuries can occur in the workplace. By law, employers must identify hazards in the workplace and from work activities assess the potential risks and take measures to remove, prevent or control them. Training is a vital and common control measure to help prevent workplace injuries and ill-health, and it is required by law under many health and safety regulations.
Common workplaces injuries include:
Slips and trips
Slips and trips on the same level are the most common cause of injuries in British workplaces. In 2019/20, they accounted for 29% of all non-fatal injuries to employees reported under RIDDOR legislation.
Most injuries from slips and trips are caused by obstructions, contamination of walkways and uneven or unsuitable surfaces.
The measures you need to take to prevent such injuries are generally straightforward. They include making sure:
- Walkways are free of obstructions such as trailing cables, personal belongings and stored items.
- Surfaces are suitable for the environment, cleaned, fitted correctly and properly maintained.
- Lighting is sufficient so employees can see and avoid any hazards.
- Slippery surfaces are assessed and treated with suitable cleaning regimes in place.
- Rugs and mats are fitted securely.
The Health and Safety Executive has a useful slips and trips hazards spotting checklist here.
Sign up for the Praxis42 IOSH approved training on slips, trips and falls.
Falls from height
Falls from height are the most common cause of fatal injuries at work in Great Britain. They accounted for 29% of fatal accidents for employees in 2020.
Employees using equipment such as stepladders, ladders, scaffolds and mobile elevating work platforms can suffer a workplace injury due to falls from height, with roof work one of the most high-risk activities. Fragile surfaces such as roof lights, corroded metal sheets, glass and corrugated asbestos sheet materials can lead to falls if stepped or lent on.
By law, someone competent must assess the risk when planning and undertaking work at height. They include:
- Avoiding the need to access and work at height, such as using drone technology for inspections.
- Taking account of weather conditions that could cause safety hazards, such as high winds and lightning.
- Assessing and visually checking the place where work at height is taking place is safe.
- Stopping objects falling from work at height or taking measures to ensure no one is injured, such as using exclusion zones and mesh on scaffolding.
- Planning for emergencies and rescue.
Sign up for Praxis42’s ISOH approved working at height training course.
Manual handling injuries
Manual handling is the cause of over a third of all workplace injuries in Great Britain. These include musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as pain and injuries to the back, shoulders arms, legs and other joints.
The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 define manual handling as “any transporting or supporting of a load (including the lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving thereof) by hand or bodily force”.
Manual handling should be avoided where possible. If not, employers must assess the risk of workplace injury by considering the task, individual capability, load and environment where the work is undertaken – often referred to as TILE.
Sign up for Praxis42’s IOSH approved manual handling awareness training course.
Repetitive strain injuries and work-related upper limb disorders
Repetitive strain injuries (RSI) and work related upper limb disorders (ULDs) are another example of an injury at work. They include chronic or acute pain and aches, inflammation of joints, tendons and ligaments, tingling, numbness, cramp, burning, redness and swelling.
RSI and ULDs can result from:
- Prolonged repetitive work, particularly using the same hand or arm action.
- Uncomfortable or awkward working postures.
- Tasks being carried out for a long time without breaks.
- Working with hand-held power tools for long periods of time.
The Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Regulations 1992 cover employees who use equipment such as laptops and mobile devices such as tablets daily for more than one hour at a time.
By law, employers must:
- Carry out a workstation assessment.
- Reduce risks, including ensuring DSE users take regular breaks or do something different.
- Arrange an eye test for an employee who asks for one and provide glasses if an employee needs them only for DSE use.
- Provide display screen equipment training for employees even if working away from the office.
Sign up for Praxis42’s IOSH approved display screen equipment training.
Being struck by objects
Employees struck by a moving object is the third most common cause for both non-fatal and fatal injuries at work, while being hit by a moving vehicle is the second most common cause of fatal accidents.
Employees and pedestrians in the workplace should be segregated from moving objects and vehicles and should wear suitable personal protective equipment where a risk assessment shows they are required, such as hi-visibility clothing or head protection to reduce injuries from falling objects.
Tools and other equipment should be kept in suitable storage areas, while walkways may require physical barriers where internal transport operate or be clearly marked where hazards are present. Exclusion zones or overhead protection should be used in areas at particularly high risk of falling objects.
To protect employees working on or near vehicles, vehicles must not move when parked and during manoeuvring, loading and unloading the process must be managed.
Sign up toe Praxis42’s IOSH approved IOSH Working Safely Certificate.
Exposure to hazardous material
Hazardous substances at work can pose a serious risk to employees. Exposure to liquids, dust, gases and fumes can lead to respiratory problems, burns, scalds and eye injuries. It can also lead to serious conditions such as asthma, skin disease and lung cancer.
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) law places legal duties on employers to prevent, reduce or control exposure among employees and visitors.
Employees handling hazardous substances should use appropriate controls and systems of work developed following a risk assessment which might include the use of personal protective equipment. Substances should be properly stored with flammable materials kept in closed containers inside fire resistant cabinets or bins designed to retain spillages.
Hazardous substances should also be appropriately labelled with details about the substance and what to do in the event of accidental or acute exposures.
Sign up for Praxis42’s COSHH training.
Injuries from fires
Of the 14,308 fires attended by fire and rescue services at UK workplaces in 2019/20, 17 people were killed, and 877 people were injured due to fire in the workplace.
To prevent and detect fires, workplaces should have undertaken a fire risk assessment an appropriate fire detection system such as fire alarms, smoke alarms and sprinkler systems and means of evacuating the premises safely in the event of an emergency often using fire marshals or wardens. . Suitable fire-fighting equipment and extinguishers should also be in place to aid escape.
Employers should have a plan that tells employees what they must do if they discover a fire. It should also outline what warning systems are in place, the evacuation procedures and routes, and the fire assembly point.
Sign up for Praxis42’s fire safety training.
Exposure to noise and vibration
Exposure to noise or vibration at work can lead to hearing loss and damage to hands and arms. Exposed workers can also suffer from tinnitus which is ringing, whistling, buzzing or humming in the ears.
Harmful noise and vibration can be caused by activities such as the use of power tools and machinery or processes.
Employers should identify and assess where there are risks from noise and vibration at work and take steps to prevent or manage them, such as replacing tools, reducing exposure or using personal protection.
Sign up for Praxis42’s IOSH approved noise awareness training.
Cuts and lacerations
Accidents with sharp objects such as scissors, knives and needles can lead to skin wounds.
Employees should be trained in the correct use of such equipment, such as avoiding cutting towards themselves, storing knives in designated areas, not picking up glass with bare hands and collecting needles safely and storing in a sharps bin.
Suitable personal protective equipment, such as gloves should also be provided to avoid workplace injury.
Injuries from workplace violence
Violence and aggression in the workplace is defined as ‘any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work which can include verbal abuse or threats as well as physical attacks. They can result from disagreements between employees, but the most common cause is workers dealing with customers, the general public or in a social care or support context.
There were 299,000 assaults in British workplaces in 2019/20, with 38% leading to an injury.
Employers are required to risk assess the potential for violence and aggression and they can use conflict management training to help identify and control risk. It can also help managers know how to manage conflict among employees, while employees who have a direct conflict with customers should know how to handle difficult situations and prevent injury at work.
Where incidents of violence and harassment by third parties are more likely, such as in the transport, retail, health, hospitality and leisure sectors, CCTV for monitoring incidents should be in place.
Sign up for Praxis42’s IOSH approved conflict management training.