How to minimise accidents in the workplace
Richard Morris, CEO of Evans Easyspace looks at some of the more common workplace accidents, and what we can all do to help avoid them.
In 2014-15 an estimated 611,000 workers sustained a non-fatal injury at work*, which goes to show just how important it is that all workplaces follow the correct health and safety advice.
Different kinds of workplace come with different types of risk. In offices, staff can trip over trailing wires or strain themselves by not sitting at their desks properly. In warehouses and workshops, accidents can be caused by misuse of equipment or items falling from shelves, for example. Whatever the setting, accidents can happen very easily when at work, and it only takes a moment of forgetfulness or a second of distraction for people to be put in harm’s way.
Falling or tripping over things in the workplace is actually one of the most common causes of accidents, but the risk can be easy to avoid. Staff could trip or fall if:
- electrical wires aren’t neatly tucked away, highlighted with electrical hazard tape, or covered with mats;
- file drawers are left open;
- carpeting is loose;
- objects, such as boxes, are left in walkways;
- slippery or wet floors aren’t signposted; and
- people use chairs or other objects as ladders.
These accidents are preventable if all staff understand the importance of checking to make sure there are no obstacles in their way and the need to report any potential issues, such as flooring that is coming loose. It’s also vital that the correct health and safety equipment is provided, such as wet floor signs.
Some workspaces require staff to carry and lift heavy items, and there’s potential for serious injury if they aren’t lifted properly. Many people lift with their back instead of their knees, which doesn’t correctly distribute the weight of the load and can put undue strain on the spine.
To ensure safety, staff should be taught the following technique for lifting heavy items:
- If lifting an item from the floor, squat down and use your legs to straighten up, rather than bending at the middle to lift with your back.
- Keep your back in the straight position at all times to ensure it’s properly supported.
- Make sure you have a good grip on the object before you go to stand up.
- Do not twist your body while standing.
- If you need to set the item back down, remember to use your knees again.
It might sound ridiculous, but a surprising number of workers are actually injured each year by items which colleagues have thrown across the room to someone else. While obviously well-meaning, these accidents can still cause very serious injuries.
Preventing these injuries is a simple matter of awareness; staff must understand the importance of getting up to pass items to colleagues rather than throwing them.
Poorly designed furniture can cause lasting damage. Slouching all day, sitting in a chair that puts pressure on the wrong parts of the spine, and holding the elbows incorrectly are all bad habits that can cause long term damage.
Employees should have workstations set up in the following ways:
- Office chairs should be positioned so that the employee’s thighs are horizontal to the floor, rather than being angled. A footrest should be used if their feet don’t touch the floor properly.
- Keep elbows at a 90 degree angle, and wrists straight.
- Monitors should be set up so that the top of it is at eye level.
- Chairs must support the lower back – if this isn’t the case, purchase back supports that can be fitted onto the chairs.
There are lots of possibilities for accidents in the workplace but just a few simple measures can help to improve safety. Revisiting health and safety instructions with staff and implementing some new guidelines, can help to minimise risk very easily.
Richard Morris is the UK CEO of Evans Easyspace. He was appointed to his current role in September 2014. Richard began his career at Royal Mail in 1996, before spending four years as Divisional Finance Manager for facilities management business Romec.
In 2003, Richard joined security solutions group G4S as commercial director, becoming managing director, group managing director and then UK & Ireland chief executive in 2012.
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