Physical and Psychological Health and Safety

A personal injury occurs when one has suffered either physically or psychologically from an accident. When this arises in the workplace, it is sometimes a result of an employer's health and safety negligence. Most jobs involve health and safety risks, and it is the employer's responsibility to ensure that employees are protected from all potential injuries. They must do this either by reducing the chance of injury completely where they are able to or by providing thorough training and the proper equipment to enable staffers to do their jobs while safe from hazards.

Psychological injuries
Injuries in the workplace may not only be physical, but also could have a long term psychological impact on the injured party’s personal health. For instance, an industrial injury that greatly affects an individual's quality of life, such as vibration white finger or industrial deafness, could have deeper psychological effects. Employers may find themselves liable and having to pay out damages for this as well as for the original injury sustained.

Psychological injuries can have physical effects on an individual, and vice versa. The predominant cause in the workplace is stress, which can cause a range of ongoing problems if it is not treated properly in the beginning.

Stress often occurs when an individual is given tasks beyond their level of capabilities. Whether that be because they are academically unable to cope, or because they have not been provided with the correct support, equipment, information, skills and finances by their employer.

Typical symptoms of stress include:

  • Emotional reaction -- upset and irritable
  • Behavioral reaction -- avoidance, withdrawal, becoming aggressive
  • Physiological reaction -- heart rate and blood pressure fluctuate rapidly, muscles become tense, sweating

Employers have a responsibility to their staffers to ensure their physical and psychological welfare equally. As illustrated above, they are frequently closely linked, and so the assessment of risks in the workplace may well include psychological impact, depending on the industry.

Performing a Risk Assessment
All industries pose varying health and safety risks, and so a comprehensive assessment is vital if an employer is to succeed at maintaining health and safety standards and preventing injuries. To best manage the risks, employers should consider the potential areas for harm and whether everything is being done to protect people from harm.

Once hazardous areas have been discovered, identifying suitable measures to put in place to control risks and protect employees with training, equipment, and skills should be the next step. In some instances, there may be health and safety solutions to implement as required by law. Ensuring a workplace is adequately up to standards in this respect is vital in order to protect both employers and employees in the long term.

Common Industrial Injuries
There are certain industries and tasks with higher health and safety risks than others, such as: construction, demolition, hairdressing, hospitality, and driving. These industries, among others, use chemicals and equipment that place employees in harm’s way with more regularity than others, and so injuries are more likely. The most common industrial injuries and diseases are:

  • Dermatitis. There are two types of dermatitis common in the workplace; allergic and irritant. Allergic dermatitis will manifest in a red itchy rash and usually begins after a person is first exposed to a material that their immune system is sensitive to. Irritant dermatitis is a common workplace disease that happens over time as a result of over exposure to a substance or material.
  • Occupational asthma. This is caused by over-exposure to a substance in the workplace. Sufferers may find themselves coughing, wheezing, and struggling for breath after a long day's work or at the end of a week.
  • Hearing loss. This can occur when employees are exposed to loud noises, either sudden or unexpected in the workplace, or from exposure at work to noise higher than 70-80dB for prolonged periods of time. Providing ear plugs or ear muffs and controlling noise levels can greatly decrease the chance of industrial deafness and tinnitus.
  • Vibration white finger. This condition affects many thousands of workers who use heavy vibrating machinery. Over time, vibrations pass through the fingers, hands, and arms, damaging blood vessels and nerves. To reduce the risks to employees, employers must provide anti-vibration gloves and ensure 10-minute breaks are taken away from power tools.

Living with industrial injuries
If you have sustained an injury or disease in the workplace, it is important to seek the correct medical advice in order to recover properly and to increase the chance of living as normally as possible thereafter. Employers are duty bound to regulate health and safety measures and regularly assess risks that could potentially harm employees. Health and safety hazards vary depending on the industry, but it is the responsibility of the employer to ascertain and maintain correct preventative standards.

Jonathan Corris is the Head of Direct & Online Marketing at Roberts Jackson, a law firm specialising in work-related illnesses, injuries and conditions, dealing with cases from Mesothelioma to RSI claims. He oversees the daily management of the firm's website, social media accounts and landing pages. He also writes articles for Law Magazines, websites and online & print advertising, while managing the firm's brand awareness strategy along with all general PR duties.

Posted by Jonathan Corris on Aug 16, 2013

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