5 common workplace injuries: Causes, prevention, and safety measures

Workplace injuries are a major concern across all work industries in Scotland and pose the risk of impacting employee health, productivity, and company costs and reputation.

By understanding the common types of workplace injuries, and their causes, it can help reduce their occurrence and create a safer working environment.

By law, employers are obligated to follow a set of legal regulations to ensure workers are safe and are not exposed to any risks that could damage their health. However, if you have been injured at work through no fault of your own, you may be entitled to claim compensation.

5 common workplace injuries

We have broken down some of the most common types of workplace injuries, as well as how they can be prevented:

1) Slips, Trips, and Falls

  • Causes: Slippery floors, uneven surfaces, poor lighting, and cluttered walkways are common culprits. These incidents can occur in any workplace, from offices to construction sites.
  • Prevention: Ensure floors are clean and dry, use non-slip mats, secure cables and cords, improve lighting, and keep walkways clear of obstacles. Regular safety training on hazard recognition can also be beneficial.


2) Muscle Strains and Sprains

  • Causes: Lifting heavy objects, repetitive movements, and poor ergonomics contribute to muscle strains and sprains. These injuries are common in physically demanding jobs such as construction, warehouses, and manufacturing.
  • Prevention: Provide training on proper lifting techniques, use mechanical aids for heavy lifting, and encourage regular breaks to prevent repetitive strain. Ergonomic assessments and adjustments to workstations can reduce strain.


3) Injuries from falling objects

  • Causes: Objects falling from shelves, scaffolding, or being dropped by another worker pose a risk. These incidents are common in warehouses, construction sites, and retail environments.
  • Prevention: Secure shelving and storage, use safety nets or toe boards on scaffolding, and require workers to wear hard hats in areas where falling objects are a risk. Regular inspections of storage areas can help identify and mitigate hazards.


4) Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs)

  • Causes: Performing the same motion repeatedly can lead to conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis. Office workers, assembly line workers, and anyone engaged in repetitive tasks are susceptible.
  • Prevention: Encourage regular breaks and exercises to reduce strain, provide ergonomic equipment like adjustable chairs and keyboards, and rotate tasks among employees to avoid prolonged repetitive motions.


5) Inhalation of harmful substances

  • Causes: Exposure to chemicals, dust, fumes, and other hazardous substances can cause respiratory issues and long-term health problems. This is common in industries such as construction, manufacturing, and agriculture.
  • Prevention: Use proper ventilation systems, provide personal protective equipment like masks and respirators, and ensure proper storage and handling of hazardous materials. Regular health monitoring and safety training on chemical handling are essential.

Implementing safety measures

Creating a safe workplace requires a proactive approach to identifying and mitigating risks. Here are some ways employers can enhance workplace safety:

  • Safety training: Regular and comprehensive training programs for all employees on hazard recognition, safe work practices, and emergency procedures.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Provide and enforce the use of appropriate PPE for the specific hazards present in the workplace.
  • Ergonomics: Implement ergonomic solutions to minimize strain and repetitive motion injuries.
  • Regular inspections: Conduct regular safety inspections to identify and address potential hazards promptly.
  • Safety culture: Foster a culture of safety where employees feel responsible for their own safety and that of their colleagues. Encourage reporting of unsafe conditions without fear of reprisal.


Employer Liability laws in the UK

In the United Kingdom, workplace safety and the handling of workplace injuries are governed by a legal framework designed to protect employees and ensure that employers maintain safe working conditions.

The key regulations include the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) 2013, among others.


Here is an overview of the key laws and their requirements:


Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA)


The HSWA is the primary piece of legislation covering occupational health and safety in the UK.

Key provisions:

  • Duties of employers: Employers are required to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety, and welfare of their employees. This includes providing safe systems of work, and safe machinery, and ensuring safe handling, storage, and transport of materials.
  • Duties of employees: Employees also have responsibilities to take reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of others who may be affected by their actions. They must cooperate with their employers in following health and safety regulations.


Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999


These regulations supplement the HSWA and require employers to manage health and safety proactively.

Key provisions:

  • Risk assessments: Employers must conduct regular risk assessments to identify potential hazards and implement measures to control them.
  • Health and safety policies: Employers with five or more employees must have a written health and safety policy.
  • Health surveillance: Where appropriate, employers must conduct health surveillance to monitor the health of employees exposed to specific risks.


Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR)


RIDDOR requires employers, self-employed individuals, and those in control of premises to report certain workplace incidents.

Key provisions:

  • Reportable incidents: Includes work-related deaths, major injuries, over-seven-day injuries (where an employee is unable to perform their normal work duties for more than seven consecutive days), work-related diseases, and dangerous occurrences (near misses).
  • Reporting process: Reports must be made to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or the relevant local authority, typically through an online reporting system.


The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992


These regulations outline the requirements for the work environment, including facilities and conditions.

Key provisions:

  • Work environment: Requirements include adequate ventilation, lighting, temperature control, and cleanliness.
  • Facilities: Employers must provide adequate welfare facilities such as toilets, washing facilities, and drinking water.


The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER)


PUWER focuses on ensuring that work equipment provided to employees is safe to use.

Key Provisions:

  • Work equipment must be suitable for its intended purpose and maintained in a safe condition.
  • Training: Employees must be provided with adequate training on the safe use of equipment.


The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992


These regulations require employers to provide appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to employees.

Key Provisions:

  • Provision of PPE: Employers must provide PPE where risks cannot be adequately controlled by other means.
  • Training and use: Employees must be trained on the correct use and maintenance of PPE.


The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH)

Overview: COSHH regulations aim to protect employees from health risks associated with hazardous substances.

Key provisions:

  • Risk assessments: Employers must assess the risks posed by hazardous substances and implement measures to reduce exposure.
  • Health assessments: Conduct health assessments where necessary to monitor the health of employees exposed to hazardous substances.


Further reading

For more information about accidents at work, check out our resource.



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