occupational health and safety officerHealth and safety is a hugely important aspect in the running of any business. Whilst it may get a bad reputation from over-zealous officers limiting the angle of a flapjack’s corner or ordering the removal of floral hanging baskets, Health and Safety can – and does – save lives on a daily basis.

From preventing large-scale disasters to simply ensuring workers don’t sustain minor injuries that could limit their workrate for a number of days or weeks, Health and Safety provides businesses with greater efficiency and helps workers ensure they are not likely to get hurt, injured or killed simply undertaking their typical line of duty.

So with this in mind, what are the most common Health and Safety issues that the workplaces of today need to consider?

Physical hazards

A physical hazard – which is certainly one of the most common – concerns such issues as slips, trips and falls. Often these are the first to be talked about in Health and Safety briefings, such are their frequency but also ease of avoidance. The frequency of slips, trips and falls shouldn’t undermine the importance of trying to avoid them, however, but instead reinforce it.

A typical Health and Safety report will pit frequency against severity to determine the end result. For example, any danger that could happen intermittently but cause little damage would be seen as somewhat low scoring in the danger scale. Similarly, anything that could be very treacherous but is hugely unlikely to happen may be given the same low score. Any time the severity or frequency begin creeping upwards in tandem, however, is when there’s a problem.

Slips trips and falls can range from something trivial that will hardly injure a person at all and make them loath to report it, to something much bigger and potentially fatal, with much depending on the workplace itself. For this reason, it’s little surprise why physical hazards are not only among the most common but also the first to be addressed.

Chemical hazards

Not all industries deal with chemicals, of course, making their health and safety concerns much less widespread. In the oil and gas extraction industry, however, this is a huge concern so will often take centre stage. Couple this with the long hours that oil and gas workers will typically undertake – as well as the unusual hours – and you have potential for real danger.

Not only that, around four in ten workers have claimed they “regularly” had frequent skin contact with chemicals, so ensuring best practice is adhered to at all times is of paramount importance to prevent serious damage.

Psychological hazards

Not all damage is physical, however, but Health and Safety also covers the mental well-being of workers. This can concern feelings of depression or anxiousness that could go on to seriously affect the way an individual carries out their work. Thus, ensuring staff are mentally healthy could prevent workers from developing further or more serious issues, whilst also protecting employees against lengthy spells of sickness absence.

So whilst Health and Safety may be a buzzword for over-zealous protectionism in the national press, it can actually play a huge role in protecting both workers and the company that employs them.