Common causes of accidents at work


It’s a well-known fact that accidents can happen anytime, anywhere and for all sorts of reasons.  However, what you might not expect is to have an accident at work. After all, you’re just there to do your job – right? Sadly, that’s not always the case.

Despite the fact that each and every employer has a legal duty to ensure that your workplace is safe, they can’t possibly predict every eventuality and sometimes things simply go wrong – and often to an employees’ detriment.

In this article we take a look at the most common causes of accidents which occur in the workplace and more specifically, what can be done to prevent them.

What do the stats look like for accidents at work?

According to figures issued by the Government, 137 workers were killed at work during 2016/17 with the vast majority of those being aged between 16 and 59.  A further 92 members of the public were killed due to a work-related incident.

Ranking high among fatalities were construction worker, closely followed by agricultural workers.  The main reasons for fatalities were as follows:

  • Struck by a moving vehicle (31)
  • Falling from a height (25)
  • Struck by a moving object (20)
  • Trapped by something either collapsing or over-turning (10)
  • Making contact with moving machinery (8)
  • Making contact with electricity (8)

Fortunately, the rate of fatalities has significantly dropped since 1981 when there were 2.1 fatalities per 1,000,000 workers – compared to just 0.4 during 2016/17.  However, despite an otherwise long-term downward trend it certainly doesn’t make for good reading.

In terms of non-fatal injuries at work during 2016/17, these totalled 609,000 self-reported incidents and 70,116 non-fatal injuries reported by employers. 175,000 of these incidents necessitated the employee taking more than a week off work, with the majority of accidents being experienced by males (62%).

Accident types for non-fatal incidents were reported as follows:

  • Slip, trip or fall on the same level (29%)
  • Lifting or handling (22%)
  • Struck by an object (10%)
  • Falling from a height (7%)
  • Act of violence (7%)
  • Contact with machinery (4%)
  • Strike against something fixed or stationary (4%)

Incidents of this type have again fallen over the years – in fact, by around half since 2010/11.

Whilst the majority of data is currently collected from the Labour Force Survey (‘LFS’), it’s also supplemented by reports from employers and the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (‘RIDDOR’). That said, LFS data has several distinct advantages over that supplied by RIDDOR since they are neither affected by legislation nor subject to the substantial under-reporting which tends to affect RIDDOR statistics.

What are the most common causes of accidents at work?

So, in terms of statistical evidence, the most common cause of fatal accidents at work is being struck by a moving vehicle, whilst the most common cause of non-fatal accidents is caused by slips, trips and falls.

What can be done to help prevent accidents at work?

With regard to moving vehicles, the Health and Safety Executive offers very specific guidelines and accepts that the majority of people associated with vehicles are often visiting warehouses for a relatively short period of time. This could perhaps explain why safety is often very much overlooked – particularly for those who might visit that particular site on a regular basis, or (as is commonly accepted) only “…stopping by for a few quick minutes.”

Whilst some drivers will often be familiar with a given site, they should still be perfectly clear on what their responsibilities are and know who’s in charge of their loading or unloading activities for whatever period of time they’re there – even if its only for a few minutes.

More specifically any visitors to the site (whether regular visitors or not) should be very carefully managed and equipped with any personal protective equipment they might need, such as high-vis jackets, helmets and protective footwear.

The Health and Safety Executive further advise that every workplace should be well organised so that both pedestrians and vehicles can circulate safely and without risk of coming into contact with each other. Physical barriers can often help alleviate this problem and drivers should never assume that a pedestrian has heard or seen them move. This isn’t always the case.

With regard to trips, slips and falls – the most common type of non-fatal accidents at work – these can also be reduced with just a little careful planning. In their guidance notes, the HSE advise that the majority of trips are caused by obstructions which are placed in walkways or public areas. The rest, it says, are caused by uneven surfaces.

There are numerous ways to help prevent trips like this and many employers rely on mobile triangles to provide a visual warning of a given hazard – for example, a spillage, trailing wire or work in progress.




No-one goes to work expecting to have an accident but unfortunately they can, and do happen from time to time.

If you have any type of accident in the workplace, then it’s important to notify your employer (or designated first aider) as soon as possible and also ensure that the accident is formally recorded. This not only helps to provide useful statistical information in the longer term but can also assist in the unfortunate event that you need to make a claim.

When you first start any type of new employment – or visit an employer’s site for the first time – always ensure that you’re made aware of any specific health and safety rules. If you’re not told about them on arrival at the site then ask, as they really could make a big difference to your health and wellbeing whilst there.

What’s more, if you suffer any type of injury as a result of any work-related activity, then it’s important that you consult your own GP – or even the local hospital – to get timely medical advice and also have sufficient evidence to back up any claim you might need to make. Without this type of information, you could be unsuccessful in any subsequent claim for damages, or even time off work, so make sure you’re clear on what’s expected from you and when you need to produce it by.

However, by following basic health and safety rules you can quickly help to alleviate incidents at work so never be afraid to ask for further advice as and when you need it.