According to an extensive survey by Safe Work Australia’s report ‘Key Work Health & Safety Statistics 2013’, the most injury-prone occupations were, in descending order, Labourers & Related Workers, Intermediate Production & Transport Workers, and Tradespersons & Related Workers. These results suggest that manual tasks present the greatest risk for workplace injuries, but what are the leading causes of these injuries? Here is a selection of five leading causes from this report.
1. Mental Stress
Mental stress is an invisible injury in the respect that outward signs may be well hidden by the sufferer. Mental stress can emanate from sources such as excessive workloads, workplace bullying, gossip, unfulfilling work, an unproductive work environment, customers, or a host of other causes. It may simmer under the surface for long periods and manifest as physical illness, lethargy and depression. However, a change of environment, counselling such as that offered by BetterHelp, dealing with the problem head-on, and regular exercise can mitigate or remove the stress entirely.
2. Overstressing the Body
Manual tasks present ample opportunities for injuries arising from overstressing your body. Lifting excessive weights and adopting incorrect lifting postures are common ways of overstressing and can cause severe and chronic injuries to muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints that may take years to repair – if they ever do. Education on ergonomic manual handling methods is available from safety consultants such as DRA Safety Specialists, but it is up to staff to ensure they use this knowledge to prevent injury to themselves and others.
3. Falls, Trips and Slips
Although most people are vigilant when moving around workplaces, accidents involving falls, trips and slips inevitably occur; some of these are preventable but many are not. Injuries that may result include sprains, broken bones, cuts and occasionally death. Taking care to remove or mitigate risks such as cleaning up, clearly marking or creating barriers around hazards can reduce the risks of such injuries.
4. Being Hit by Moving Objects
Workplaces like construction sites, factories, mines and forestry sites are recognised as having the most hazards involving moving objects. Falling objects and objects flung by machinery or explosives can potentially maim or kill people in their path, leading to the need for appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Common items of PPE include hard hats, goggles, protective eyewear, steel-capped footwear and high-visibility clothing. Properly maintaining equipment and operating it according to manufacturers’ specifications, plus appropriate training, can significantly reduce the risk of injury from moving objects.
5. Vehicle Incidents
Most common amongst people involved in the goods- or people-transport sector, vehicle incidents contribute to around 5% of workplace injuries. These may include road accidents caused by mechanical failure, fatigue or actions of other people or animals. Fatigue is one of the most serious causes of accidents for long-haul drivers, whose momentary lapse of concentration can cause a collision with another vehicle or simply running off the road. Regular breaks and strict no-alcohol and anti-drug policies can mitigate the risk of fatigue, but it is up to drivers and employers to ensure schedules are reasonable and policies are followed.
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