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Common Workplace Hazards and How to Prevent Them



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No matter your place of work, there are a variety of workplace hazards that you should be aware of. In this article, we explore the different types of workplace hazard and explain how risks in the workplace should be managed to ensure the safety of employees.  

What is a hazard in the workplace? 

Some workplace hazards may be dangers that crop up in your workplace environment, while others might be injuries you could suffer as a result of poor work posture and habits. Workplace hazards can be categorised into different types. These can include: 

  • Safety hazards 
  • Physical hazards 
  • Ergonomic hazards  
  • Organisational hazards (harassment, bullying, and psychosocial hazards) 
  • Chemical hazards 
  • Biological hazards 

Source: https://safetyculture.com/topics/workplace-hazards/ 

Workplace hazards can cause injury, ranging from minor injuries to serious harm, and in some cases, a workplace accident can be fatal. It’s important to be vigilant and be aware of common workplace hazards, as well as some of the ways of preventing them. However, it is the responsibility of your employer to mitigate workplace hazards where possible, and in many cases, workplace accidents can be avoided if the correct safety measures are put in place.  

Safety hazards  

Even in an office environment, it’s really important to look out for potential hazards in the workplace that might cause injury. But in busy spaces, it’s even more important. 

With warehouse work, for example, forklifts, equipment on the go, blocked entrances, and obstructed pathways all create various workplace safety hazards that can pose a risk to you. 

Common injuries from safety hazards  

Injuries from safety hazards can take many forms depending on the circumstances of the accident. Injuries might include a fractured arm from a trip, slip or fall, a head injury from a falling object, or a crush injury from a piece of machinery.  

Common causes  

Trips, slips, and falls are some of the most widely encompassing workplace hazards, with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reporting that in 2022/23, 32% of non-fatal workplace injuries reported under RIDDOR were due to slips, trips or falls. Another common safety hazard in the workplace is being struck by a moving object, and these types of accidents were responsible for 11% of non-fatal injuries for the same period.  

Further statistics from HSE showed that falls from height are the most common cause of fatal accidents at work.  

Health implications  

Slip, trip and fall injuries can have serious health implications. A knee injury for example, can leave you in a lot of pain and can cause mobility problems. Falls from height can cause significant injuries, such as spinal injury or brain injuries, sometimes with life-changing implications. As discussed earlier, falls from height are also responsible for most fatalities at work.  

How to prevent safety hazards at work  

Although slips and trips aren’t the only workplace accident caused by safety hazards, they are a common cause of injury and can often be prevented. The HSE give practical steps in preventing slip and trip accidents:  

  • Stop floors becoming contaminated: Examples include using entrance matting, fixing leaks, and ensuring equipment is well-maintained.  
  • Use the right cleaning methods: Advice includes considering whether the cleaning method is effective for the floor type, removing spillages quickly, and ensuring people don’t enter an area until the floor is dry.  
  • Consider the flooring and work environment: This includes checking for damaged flooring, ensuring sufficient lighting, and keeping walkways clear.  
  • Get the right footwear: Use slip-resistant footwear where floors cannot be kept clean and dry, trial footwear before use, and provide footwear free of charge if it is to be worn as PPE. 
  • Think about people and organisational factors: Consider how the workplace is managed, to avoid rushing, overcrowding, and trailing cables. Also, ensure that staff are involved in decisions, e.g. regarding PPE or a change in cleaning methods.  

Physical hazards 

According to Safety Culture, physical hazards refer to environmental factors that can cause physical harm to someone, without necessarily touching the hazard itself.  

Common causes  

Safety Culture go on to outline some of the types of physical hazards, which include: 

  • Radiation 
  • Prolonged exposure to sunlight/ultraviolet rays; 
  • Temperature extremes  
  • Constant loud noise 

Source: https://safetyculture.com/topics/workplace-hazards/ 

Health implications of physical hazards 

The health implications of physical hazards can vary depending on the cause, but in some cases, employees can suffer long-term health implications, for example in cases of industrial deafness. Industrial deafness can occur due to prolonged exposure to loud noise. This might be where someone is working with power tools and they haven’t been given adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), or maybe they weren’t informed of the risks associated with this kind of work. 

There are laws in place to protect employees from physical hazards like these, so it’s important you seek legal advice if you believe your employer has been negligent.  

Ergonomic hazards  

Ergonomic hazards refer to strain put on the body and often relate to repetitive movement or positioning due to workplace tasks.  

Common injuries from ergonomic hazards   

Ergonomic workplace injuries include: 

  • Musculoskeletal disorders 
  • Repetitive Strain Injury 
  • Vibration white finger 
  • Hand arm vibration syndrome  

Common causes  

Musculoskeletal disorders can often be caused by manual handling accidents, where inadequate training has been given on how to lift correctly.  

Repetitive strain injury, or RSI, is usually the result of a poor workstation which isn’t suited to the employee’s needs. RSI can also be caused by regular heavy lifting, or from repetitive movement, for example, if operating machinery on a production line.  

Vibration white finger and hand arm vibration syndrome are both typically caused by continuous use of vibrating machinery.  

How to prevent ergonomic hazards at work  

While the risks associated with ergonomic hazards can’t always be eliminated completely, there are steps an employer can take to mitigate these workplace risks. This includes ensuring that risk assessments are properly carried out.  

For those working with display screen equipment, the employer must carry out a DSE workstation assessment to help manage the risk of injury. 

For organisations where staff are exposed to vibration, there are additional regulations which must be followed. The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 highlight the steps an organisation must take to reduce the risk of working with vibration, such as eliminating unnecessary vibrating tasks, and other measures.  

Harassment, bullying, and psychosocial hazards  

This is perhaps one of the most overlooked workplace hazards, but linking mental wellbeing and physical wellbeing is an important piece of assessing hazardous workplace conditions. 

Nowadays, we’re far more aware of the effects of harassment, sexual misconduct, and bullying in the workplace. If an action can alter an employee’s mental wellbeing, that action needs to be addressed as a damaging hazard. 

Common injuries from organisational hazards  

Harassment and bullying in the workplace can be extremely detrimental to the health of the person involved. Stress at work can lead to mental health conditions and can also cause physical symptoms, such as headaches and nausea.  

Common causes  

The advisory service, ACAS outline some examples of bullying in the workplace, which might include constantly criticising someone’s work, deliberately giving an employee a heavier workload than others, or putting someone down in meetings.  

Harassment and sexual harassment are also forms of psychosocial hazard which can take place at work.  

Health implications  

While the health implications of organisational or psychosocial hazards are not always physical, this doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be taken seriously. The mental health implications of harassment or bullying can be devastating for those affected and can lead to long-term health conditions and stress related illness.  

At The Compensation Experts, we work with personal injury solicitors experienced in successfully obtaining compensation for stress at work claims, and we can help you get justice.  

How to prevent psychological workplace hazards 

ACAS outline some of the steps organisations can take in preventing work-related stress. Employers should: 

  • have a clear policy on mental health and stress 
  • address the causes of stress through risk assessments and employee surveys 
  • encourage people to raise their concerns – for example, if a person feels they are being discriminated against 
  • provide training for managers – for example, on managing conflict, change and work-related stress 
  • support their employees – for example, listening to concerns and acting on them quickly 
  • promote a work-life balance – for example, encouraging employees to use their breaks and take holiday 
  • provide employees with access to support – for example, an employee assistance programme (EAP) or training on stress management techniques 

Source: https://www.acas.org.uk/managing-work-related-stress/preventing-work-related-stress 

Chemical hazards  

Chemical hazards are defined as any “hazardous substance that can cause harm to your employees.”  

Chemical hazards at work can be incredibly hard to spot in some scenarios. Too often, the risk of chemical hazards increases simply because they go for a long stretch of time without being used. Thus, an atmosphere of ignorance and underappreciation can set in. 

Common injuries from chemical hazards  

Health problems caused by chemical hazards can include skin irritation, burns, dizziness, headaches, eye injuries, occupational asthma, pleural thickening, and mesothelioma.  

Common causes  

Chemical burns are commonly found in industries such as farming, manufacturing, construction, cleaning, and beauty and might be the result of inadequate PPE, poor working procedures, or lack of training.  

Mesothelioma is often caused by exposure to asbestos fibres. 

Because handling chemicals brings with it a substantial risk, it’s crucial that strict safety protocols accompany the use of harmful substances.  

Health implications  

While in some cases, workers can recover from chemical injuries, some injuries caused by chemical exposure can cause serious health conditions. Mesothelioma, for example, is an aggressive form of cancer. Unfortunately, mesothelioma often goes undetected for a long time and according to the NHS, there are around 2,500 deaths from the condition each year in the UK.  

How to prevent chemical hazard accidents 

The HSE explain that when it comes to using chemicals in the workplace, you should always try to prevent exposure at source by asking the following questions:  

  • Can you avoid using a hazardous substance or use a safer process – preventing exposure, eg using water-based rather than solvent-based products, applying by brush rather than spraying? 
  • Can you substitute it for something safer – eg swap an irritant cleaning product for something milder, or using a vacuum cleaner rather than a brush? 
  • Can you use a safer form, eg can you use a solid rather than liquid to avoid splashes or a waxy solid instead of a dry powder to avoid dust? 

(Source: https://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/basics/whatdo.htm) 

When exposure can’t be prevented, HSE advise that you should apply the principles of good control practice.  

Employers will need to ensure that they meet their legal obligations in relation to controlling exposure to harmful substances, including the rules set out in the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH). Some substances, such as asbestos, lead and radioactive substances have their own set of regulations. 

Biological hazards  

Biological hazards, as defined by Safety Culture, include exposure to things such as blood, mould, bacteria and viruses, insect bites, and animal droppings. 

Common causes  

HSE explain that employees can come into contact with harmful micro-organisms, such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses, either due to intentional work while employed in a microbiological laboratory for example, or due to incidental exposure from your line of work, for example, while working in healthcare or agriculture. 

An example of a biohazard in a healthcare setting might be a needlestick injury, which can lead to exposure to blood-borne viruses. If you’ve been injured due to a biohazard at work, our network of solicitors can help you make a claim for compensation.   

Preventing biohazard accidents 

As with any workplace hazard, your employer is responsible for protecting you from biohazards while at work. Employers have various responsibilities under law, which include carrying out risk assessments, listening to employee concerns, maintaining equipment, and providing adequate training.  

HSE outline the specific legal responsibilities that employers have in relation to working with blood-borne viruses.  

Legal and financial implications of workplace hazards  

The repercussions for employers who fail to comply with health and safety regulations can be extremely serious. The most obvious risk for those organisations that neglect workplace hazards is that it can lead to illness and injury for their workers and others.  

There are also legal implications for those who fail to protect their employees, as well as financial and reputational implications to consider.  

Employers have a legal duty to undertake regular risk assessments to identify and mitigate workplace hazards. Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, an employer should assess the risks to health and safety that employees and others are exposed to while they are at work.   

The HSE outline the minimum legal requirements when managing risks. An employer should: 

  • identify what could cause injury or illness in your business (hazards)  
  • decide how likely it is that someone could be harmed and how seriously (the risk)  
  • take action to eliminate the hazard, or if this isn’t possible, control the risk  

Resources and tools for hazard identification and reporting  

HSE explain how you can identify hazards to health in the workplace and how to record your findings. They also provide risk assessment templates and examples based on different types of business. Some organisations might choose to use software for their hazard management and reporting.  

How The Compensation Experts can help if you’ve had a workplace injury  

If you’ve suffered an accident at work due to a hazard in the workplace, you may be eligible to make a claim. At The Compensation Experts we’re committed to helping those injured at work get the compensation they deserve; we have a network of some of the UK’s leading personal injury lawyers who can provide legal advice on a No Win No Fee basis.  

Get in touch with the team at The Compensation Experts today to see what your claim might be worth. 

Workplace accident claims we’ve handled 

We helped a fuel delivery driver who suffered a soft tissue injury to his back after he lifted an 80-kilogram fuel hose on his own.  

Compensation figure: £6,200 

We supported a farm worker who slipped and fell into a divot at work, causing a partial tear in his left knee. It was found that his employer should have packed the ground regularly to keep it more even.  

Compensation figure: £25,000 

Our lawyers helped an employee who sustained a broken leg after falling down a staircase at work. It was found that the steps were slippery and had no thread on them.  

Compensation figure: £10,000 

About the Compensation Experts and Common Workplace Hazards 

This post is part of our ongoing series covering the issues to understand a workplace injury or work-induced psychiatric illness. Our goal is to keep you informed on the latest issues and risks involved with workplace injury claims