Keep safe at work
For all of us, employees and employers alike, safety in the workplace is of paramount importance. Nothing can compensate for the loss of a limb or an eye, should something go wrong. Indeed, over 50 people died last year in Ireland while at work. We take a look at some dangerous occupations and some tips to aid safety in the workplace
Some industries, like construction, have clear dangers every day for many workers, but every work environment has its own hidden dangers.
Many of us work in offices, a relatively benign environment but one that also contains dangers. We take a look at some of the varied and surprising ways in which we can come a cropper in offices.
More seriously, farming is one of the most dangerous occupations in Ireland, and one that results in a huge amount of fatalities each year. Farmers often operate dangerous equipment and machinery, deal with dangerous animals and they often do it on their own, meaning help is not always close at hand.
There were 54 deaths in the workplace in 2011 according to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) website.
Luckily there are many ways to ensure that we are more aware of safety in the workplace, including talking to the likes of Nifast, Heartbeat Safety, AllSafe, NST Ireland, West Cork Safety Services and One Stop Handling could all help, depending on the nature of the workplace.
First though it is important to realise just how many fatalities and injuries occur in Irish workplaces each year.
According to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) website, www.hsa.ie, the number of fatalities in the workplace has fluctuated substantially in the years from 2008 to 2011 despite extensive information campaigns.
In 2008 there were 57 deaths, falling to 43 in 2009, rising by 5 to 48 in 2010, up to 54 again in 2011. There have been 16 deaths so far this year in workplace fatalities in 2012 up to 29 May.
Farming fatalities were the highest or joint highest each year, with the sector leading again this year with six deaths already. Fishing follows closely with five deaths in the sector in 2012, while there were three deaths on construction, down from 15 in 2008. This may be a reflection of falling numbers working in the sector, but improved safety practice may have played a part.
In the case of injuries and illness, the stats aren’t quite as up to date. In a report in 2010, the HSA reported that there were 81,284 recorded injuries from 2001 to 2010, including 7,284 in 2010.
In contrast to the fatality rates, the highest number of injuries reported by sector was in human health and social work activities with 1,384, followed by 1,262 injuries in manufacturing. The sheer scale of the numbers highlight the risks to all of us.
The case of agriculture is perhaps the most shocking of all. The HSA website has recently tried to highlight the huge amount of risks involved in farm work by uploading six testimonies of farmers who shared their farm accident stories, from PTO shaft entanglement to livestock attack.
Someone has died every two weeks on an Irish farm in recent years. Many more suffer life-changing injuries, while the vast majority of these accidents are preventable. In 2010, agriculture and forestry fatalities accounted for 25 out of 48 of all workplace fatalities in Ireland.
Agriculture has traditionally been a cornerstone of the Irish economy. Official figures indicate that there are up to 120,000 employed in this sector. The agriculture sector has a very high risk profile and consistently has the highest fatality rate of any sector.
Farms continue to account for the majority of workplace deaths even though only approximately six per cent of the workforce – around 115,000 people work in agriculture. In addition to those at work, approximately 400,000 people are exposed to risk if all family members are included.
Simple safety tips for the office
Safety in the office is not really a typical daily concern for most of us. Employees are generally more concerned with looking after their workload rather than their actual safety, which is something of an assumption in an office. However, potential safety hazards exist in every office and surprisingly in some cases, it can result in possible injury.
It may sound silly but the most common office accident is falling which accounts for the greatest number of injuries. Bosses take note, injuries as a result of falling result in a high percentage of lost work days. We all get that lazy feeling at some point when we are sitting at our desk. Leaning back for a quick break may seem like a good idea but lean back too far and you are in trouble! It doesn't look pretty and it doesn't feel it either. You could easily land on your head if your chair was to fall over which could be quite serious, so straighten up and concentrate on your work - you are less likely to be injured this way.
Many people are bringing their home-made lunches to work nowadays to save a bit of money so kitchenettes can often be the go-to spot come 1pm. If you are having a lunchtime chat with a colleague while preparing your lunch, your concentration may be elsewhere which can result in cutting yourself with a knife. Surprisingly other infectious cuts can be caused by staples, paper knives or even paper cuts! What may seem like a rather feeble injury can quickly become infected and cause serious pain so be careful around sharp objects.
Injuries from strain and overexertion frequently occur when office workers attempt to move or improperly lift heavy objects. Muscular and back injuries can be caused by carrying or moving book, office furniture, equipment and supplies without assistance. Never be afraid to ask for help-two pairs of hands are always better than one in terms of lifting and your back will thank you for it. Manual handling training should be provided in every workplace where staff are likely to be lifting and carrying anything regularly.
Another seemingly innocent office object is the filing cabinet. File drawers may fall from the cabinet when pulled too far or doors opened from the side can hit off a person. We all have tendencies to be clumsy and walking in to obvious objects can be listed as anyone’s downfall. Is there any worse pain than something dropping on your toe? Diligence and care means that heavy files need not end of falling on your feet and plus the clear up is practically as much pain as it falling in the first place. Some of these safety hazards may seem slightly ridiculous in theory but these type of accidents occur daily in the workplace. Of course, there are many other serious safety hazards that can occur in the workplace and it is the employee's as well as the employer's responsibility to ensure that safety is the top of everyone's priority list. A safe work place is a happy workplace.
Check www.hsa.ie for more figures on workplace injuries and fatalities.