Common injuries in the workplace

Most people in the UK spend a significant portion of their waking hours at work. When workplaces are hazardous, therefore, the risk to employees can be significant – especially over the long term. Minor risks can, over days and weeks, compound into significant ones. You might step over a trailing cable ninety-nine times, only to trip over it once.

We should therefore be proactive and vigilant when it comes to minimising risk. Let’s assess a few common workplace injuries, and how they might be dealt with.

Common injuries

We’ve already touched upon one of the most common workplace injuries: the slip or trip. These can occur in workplaces of every kind, and they have the potential to be disastrous. You might trip up while walking down a flight of stairs, or you might snag your foot on a loose section of carpet. Slippery floors are notoriously hazardous, too.

According to RIDDOR, same-level slips and trips account for just under a third of the non-fatal accidents.

Given the sedentary nature of the modern workforce, it might not be a surprise to learn that strains of the upper back and neck are particularly commonplace. The same goes for lower back injuries that come about after lifting a heavy load. Handling, lifting and carrying injuries come second in the RIDDOR statistics, with 17% of injuries falling into this category.

Cuts and burns can occur even in safe office environments – but it’s electrical and chemical burns that arguably pose the greater risk. If you’re dealing with harmful substances, like acids, then precautions are warranted.

When it comes to serious injury, it’s falls from height that are particularly risky. Fall from a raised platform, and you’re at risk of broken bones, or worse.

Sectors with a greater risk

If we look only at fatalities, then a clear pattern emerges. Construction is the most dangerous industry, with 45 workers killed in 2022/23. Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing combined account for 21 fatalities, while Manufacturing accounts for 15.

When we look at the non-fatal workplace industries, and we look at rates of injury per 100,000 (rather than total fatality figures), we get a slightly different picture. Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing climb to the top of the ladder, at 3,730, while Construction sits just behind, on 2,640.

Guarding against injury as an employer

If you’re an employer, then you have several legal, moral, and economic incentives to make the workplace safer. If you don’t, and a worker (or member of the public) suffers harm as a result, then you could leave yourself open to a personal injury claim. Absenteeism can also drive down productivity, and leave your business exposed to the harms of staff turnover.

Risk to workers might be mitigated through regular risk assessments, and by the provision of appropriate PPE. Workers in healthcare, for example, might be provided with gloves and facemasks, as well as the training needed to use them appropriately.