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The top 5 health and safety concerns for businesses

There are incalculable dangers in the workplace. These vary according to many factors, such as the industry and safety measures. Regardless, the five most significant health and safety concerns for businesses are 1) Slips, trips, and falls 2) Hazardous Substances, 3) Height falls, 4) Mental health, and 5) Manual handling. It's important to recognise these hazards so that they can be prevented.

1. Slips, trips, and falls

Slips, trips, and falls are among the most common hazards in all industries, taking up almost 30% of workplace injuries, according to the HSE (Health and Safety Executive). In 2018/19, slips, trips and falls accounted for 29% of non-fatal injuries in the UK and 33.5% in the US.

These injuries occur in all types of environments, from office workplaces to construction, and many things can lead to a fall, such as:

  • Loose tiles.

  • Uneven surfaces.

  • Wet and slippery surfaces.

  • Exposed or loose wires.

  • Unchecked material.

  • Cluttered workplace.

To avoid these injuries as much as possible, the HSE provides a public checklist for all business owners and employers called the 'slips and trips mapping tool'. Some prevention measures include:

  • Make sure that all cables and wires are secured.

  • Keep all pathways free.

  • All workplaces should be tidy. This includes both the removal of unnecessary material and the often floor cleaning. For the second example, all slips must be cleaned immediately and correctly signed with a "wet floor" sign.

  • Ensure the workplace is clean and safe for the following employee's shift.

  • Create regular safety meetings to keep up with the latest procedures.

  • Also, every employee should always wear PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).

2. Hazardous Substances

The inhalation or contact with hazardous substances is a huge concern in workplaces. Some substances include chemical waste, asbestos, silica and fine dust.

Asbestos exposure is dangerous as it causes life-threatening respiratory problems, including lung cancer. Although 56 countries have banned asbestos, it remains a significant source of work fatalities. It is estimated that 500,000 buildings in the UK still have hidden asbestos. Also, the HSE estimates around 5000 deaths annually (just in the UK) due to asbestos exposure.

How to prevent it?

  • The asbestos material needs to be disposed of safely.

  • A professional should assess all work areas to detect any possible asbestos residue.

  • Ensure that all workers are aware of all the safety measures

The inhalation of large quantities of invisible and fine dust (also known as 'breathable dust') can result in serious health problems. Asthma and lung cancer are among the most common health problems. The primary sources of this problem include:

  • Woodworks.

  • Cutting concrete and aggregates.

  • Laying ballasts.

How to prevent the inhalation of 'breathable dust'?

  • Reducing the time of work with material that may create dust.

  • Replace these materials for others with a lower amount of dust or with a less prejudicial one.

  • Usage of PPE all time.

  • Workers must clean their PPE before removing it, even for short breaks.

  • Investment in proper PPE for all workers may include dedusting equipment.

3. Height falls

According to HSE statistics, falls from height are common in the construction industry and are fatal workplace injuries. Some of its primary sources of risk include unsafe scaffolding or ladders and a lack of safety nets or training.

The employees should have the proper training to prevent accidents and learn how to deal with them in an emergency. As a healthy consequence for the employer, this simple action significantly reduces the number of workplace accidents.

Safety changes:

  • Reduce the height, duration, and frequency of the task

  • Increase the condition of the Surface being worked on as much as possible (e.g., changing the wood, making sure the Surface is always clean and dry.)

  • Put a safety mattress (or similar) when working from considerable heights to reduce the consequences of an accident.

  • When portable equipment is used by workers who have yet to gain full knowledge of the material, even for temporary access, hire a professional lifter.

Mental health

The subject of mental health is slowly being talked about more by the public. Still, it needs to be reinforced within the work environment, and the HSE shows a significant relationship between a poor work environment and debilitated mental health. More than 17 million work days were lost in 2019/20 due to mental health issues, such as depression, stress or anxiety. As expected, the number of workers reporting these issues is also increasing (822,000 cases in 2020/21 in the UK).

Workplace stress can come from multiple factors, such as extreme pressure, harassment or neglect.What can be done to reduce workplace stress?

  • Setting boundaries is essential. Make sure you don't take the stress from work home with you. There should be little work-life conflict.

  • You can't always do everything alone; sometimes, talking to someone else, whether a professional or a friend, can go a long way. You never know if they could also be feeling the same way, and having the ear of someone who understands your experiences can take a lot of weight off your shoulders.

Make time for an activity that relaxes you, whether painting, exercising, or watching a film. Use your breaks to engage in activities that calm you down and take your mind off your stressors.

Manual handling

Incorrect lifting posture, regular lifting of heavy material/equipment and carrying material loads can have severe risks to a worker's health, such as Musculoskeletal Disorder (MSDS).

According to the HSE, around 470,000 workers suffer from work-related musculoskeletal injuries. Also, carrying and lifting heavy things can stress other parts of your body besides your back, such as shoulders, arms, legs and knees.

It seems simple enough, but it's serious. Thankfully, there are a couple of ways to prevent these issues:

  • Correctly handling and lifting the material can be enough, although it depends on the material itself, its weight and the individual's characteristics.

  • Whenever possible, reduce the manual handling risk.


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