Recurring health and safety mistakes cause the majority of workplace fatalities and injuries in the United Kingdom. For decades, HSE inspectors have seen the same preventable failures over and over again.
A major problem is business owner or manager complacency—rather than heeding warnings or following regulations, owners or managers choose to ignore common health and safety risks. Doing so only further legitimises lax health and safety policies and increases the incidence of workplace injuries and fatalities.
As an employer, you are responsible for your employees’ health and safety. Ensure they are safe and do not make the following common mistakes outlined by the HSE:
• Poorly maintained or misused ladders. Almost one-fifth of workplace falls are from ladders. Assess your ladders’ condition and make sure they are the right tool for the job.
• Dangerous work at height. Falls from height account for about 700,000 lost working days each year. They are the most common cause of workplace fatalities. Always use proper precautions such as edge protection and fall prevention equipment.
• Inadequate machine guards. Machines with fast-moving parts that lack the appropriate safety guards cause roughly 12 deaths and 40,000 injuries each year. Employers are responsible for ensuring that machines possess the necessary guards. Failure to do so can result in fines, injuries or fatalities.
• Poorly organised workplace transport. Vehicle-related incidents are commonplace and deadly—they cause about 50 deaths each year. Keep vehicles separate from workers in factory spaces and loading areas and stress that employees must always properly secure loads before moving them.
• Exposure to dangerous substances. The workplace may be full of hazardous materials such as asbestos, toxic paint vapours and silica dust. Each industry has specific guidelines for dealing with such substances. Ensure your workplace practices are compliant with government regulations—it is the best way to avoid injury or fatalities.
• Vibrating power tools. The repetitive use of hand-held power tools can result in hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). Symptoms include blood vessel disorders, nerve damage in fingers and joints, numbness and lack of hand mobility. You are legally obligated to assess and lower risks like HAVS.
• Unhygienic or non-existent welfare facilities. Inspectors saw workplaces with filthy or completely missing lavatories and kitchen areas. Workers have a right to clean, adequate facilities rather than stark, Dickensian conditions.