Bad falls, car accidents, electrocutions, and faulty machinery; you’re probably familiar with some of these common workplace injuries, but do you really understand just how many potential hazards you and your staff can face in a typical working day?
According to the most recent statistics released by the UK’s health and safety “watch dog”, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), 28.2 million working days were lost in the 2013/2014 year due to work-related illnesses and injuries.
While there are plenty of common issues that hurt or even kill workers in the United Kingdom every year, there are also a number of potential dangers that many personnel just don’t realise could harm themselves or other staff.
If you’re eager to avoid having an employee put in a claim for an accident at work in 2015, read on for just two of the more unknown, yet still quite hazardous, issues you should be aware of on the job.
Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome
Workers who use equipment such as hand-held power tools on a regular basis need to be aware of the potential health effects that result from continued exposure to vibrations. One such negative outcome is Hand-Arm Vibration syndrome, or HAVS as it is commonly called.
Hand-arm vibrations are transmitted to the hands and arms of the body when workers operate hand-held power tools; hold materials which are being processed by machines at the time; or when using hand-guided equipment. Anyone who regularly uses items such as impact wrenches, chainsaws, drills, grinders, jackhammers, and riveters in the workplace could be at risk of developing the syndrome.
The results of regular exposure to hand-arm vibration can cause a number of different conditions, including tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, and “vibration white finger” (something that is usually triggered by the cold and caused by the blood circulation to the fingers closing down temporarily). Collectively, these issues are known as HAVS.
Prolonged use of vibrating machinery and equipment can cause the circulation in the hand and forearm to be disrupted, as well as damage to happen to the muscles, nerves, joints, tendons, and bones of the hands and arms. In addition, workers may more generally experience other problems such as pain in the limbs used, and/or diminished muscle strength.
To reduce the risk of employees developing HAVS, the first thing to do is cut back each worker’s exposure to hand-arm vibration, both during each shift and over the long term. Staff should receive more rest periods from using vibrating equipment, and not be exposed (as much as possible) to work environments with low temperatures.
Other ways to keep employees safe at work include: purchasing tools which have a low vibration; using alternative work methods or processes that don’t require a need for vibrating tools; and maintaining equipment often in order to minimise the vibration is puts out.
Loss of Smell or Taste
One of the most common issues that happens in the workplace, across most industries, is workers slipping, tripping, falling over, or falling from heights. When such accidents lead to a head injury or a traumatic brain injury (TBI), unfortunately workers can suffer from a variety of medical problems as a result. One of these negative developments is anosmia, or the loss (or impairment) of smell and taste.
Post-traumatic anosmia — which occurs after a brain or head injury — can have a negative impact on many different parts of a sufferer’s life. People who lose their sense of smell and/or taste can face a number of different health and safety risks, as well as psychological and social issues.
If a worker develops anosmia they may no longer be able to detect gas leaks, toxic fumes, or chemicals; they may have an inability to distinguish dangerous liquids or poisons; and may not be able to tell when food has spoiled or turned rotten.
In addition, if someone has a reduced sense of smell and taste, they may increase their use of salts and sugars when consuming food, in order to try to regain some sense of flavour. This can quickly lead to health risks such as excessive weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease. On the other hand, a loss of interest in food caused by an inability to taste or smell it properly can also lead people to rapidly, and dangerously, lose weight.
Anosmia sufferers also face the risk of social and psychological problems. These include issues like mood swings, depression, changes to personality, and/or personal relationships, and a loss of interest in leisure activities that used to be enjoyed (such as eating out).