17 health and safety issues at work

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According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), there are just over 2m working people with a work-related injury or illness.[1] The cost of workplace injuries and illnesses to business is £3bn annually – that’s £1,111 each.[2]

The benefits of health and safety training

If you invest in exceptional health and safety training, you’ll see benefits and progress almost instantly, curbing the number of people hurt on the job and therefore, the risk of litigation.

However careful you are, you can always count on the unexpected. Accidents, minor or serious, will happen. The right training doesn’t just show you how to prevent, it also shows you how to respond and react so they don’t happen again.

Key points:

  • Health and safety training will help you to comply with UK laws, save money and give you peace of mind health and safety is in hand
  • Health and safety training usually includes some form of risk assessment training and will help you to spot skills gaps, so you can identify where your business needs extra support.
  • We recommend the IOSH Managing Safely for your Level 2 qualifications and the NEBOSH General Certificate for your Level 3 qualifications – read more about IOSH vs NEBOSH

Common health and safety issues

Your workplace will have its unique challenges to overcome, but there are health and safety issues familiar to every business, small or large:

  • Temperature, light and air conditioning
  • Harmful surroundings and hazardous substances, like asbestos
  • Workstation health and safety, like computers and other display screen equipment (DSE)
  • Manual handling
  • Noise and sound exposure
  • Slips, trips and falls
  • Handling heavy machinery, tools and equipment

It could be these hazards, or something more specific to your company, that creates health and safety issues if they go unmanaged. What are the tell-tale signs that your business needs health and safety training?

#1 A high rate of work-related injuries

Self-reported, non-fatal workplace injuries reached 581,000 in 2018/19

Certain accidents are familiar to every workplace, whether your staff operate a crane, or sit at a desk for most of the day.

Common injuries Percentage of accidents reported across all industries
Slips, trips and falls on one level 29%
Handling, lifting or carrying 20%
Struck by a moving object 10%
Violence 8%
Fall from a height 8%

In 2018/19, 4.7m working days were lost due to non-fatal workplace injuries.

In 2020, your health and safety objectives should focus on eliminating the most common workplace injuries.

The IOSH Managing Safely is an entry-level course for anyone that works in a high-risk environment.

If you want to build a strong health and safety culture within your teams and show them how to spot a common hazard a mile off, IOSH Managing Safely is the right course for your business.

With the training, your team will:

  • Constantly assess the function and size of a space, plus how many people are using it
  • Schedule inspections but stay alert for hazards at all times
  • Know how to assign a score to a hazard and describe the likelihood and severity of an accident if no action was taken
  • Apply hazard and risk controls, plus communicate when it officially needs to be reviewed so the hazard won’t put anyone at risk in the future.

#2 There are life-threatening risks at work

Employers reported 69,208 non-fatal injuries in 2018/19

You must submit a RIDDOR report if a member of your staff gets injured and they:

  • Die
  • Break a bone, except thumbs, fingers and toes
  • Need amputation
  • Lose their sight
  • Suffer a crush injury to the head or torso with damage to the brain and internal organs
  • Sustain a serious burn that covers more than 10% of the body, or damages the eyes, respiratory system and internal organs
  • Lose consciousness after a head injury or asphyxia
  • Need resuscitation
  • Get hypothermia

As there are significantly fewer employer-reported injuries versus employee-reported injuries, we can take that as a good sign – businesses are managing to control health and safety risks.

However, you must make sure that accidents are correctly recorded.

You must report an injury at work if it causes your employee to take more than seven consecutive days of sick leave.

If your employee’s injured, but it doesn’t fall into a RIDDOR report category, you must still make a record of it. You must keep an accident book under the Social Security (Claims and Payments) Regulations, 1979.

If you follow health and safety legislation carefully, you’ll sidestep legal action and compensation claims, assuring the future of your business and the wellbeing of your staff.

Quality health and safety training, like the IOSH Managing Safely or NEBOSH General Certificate, will show you how to safely handle accidents and control hazards, however dangerous they are.

As an example, the IOSH course is split into seven modules and gives you a very clear process for how your business should approach health and safety:

  1. Introduction to Managing Safely
  2. Assessing risks
  3. Controlling risks
  4. Understanding responsibilities
  5. Understanding hazards
  6. Investigating incidents
  7. Measuring performance

By the end of the course, your staff will know which hazards need to be reported to HSE and which need to go in the accident book.

There will be an increased number of accidents in the workplace following any kind of health and safety training, but it’s a positive trend. It shows the learning has transferred and that your staff are accurately reporting the accidents, hazards and risks the encounter, which were uncontrolled before the training.

#3 Work-related ill health is common

There were 1.4m cases of work-related ill health last year

Whether it was related to stress, depression, anxiety, or musculoskeletal disorders, work-related ill health kept workers off for 23.5m working days in 2018/19.

The HSE reports that each person suffering from work-related ill-health took 17.3 days on average away from work to recover:

  • For stress, depression or anxiety, they were off for an average of 21.2 days
  • For musculoskeletal disorders, staff took an average of 13.8 days off

As the saying goes, ‘prevention is better than cure’.

If you send your staff on the IOSH Managing Safely, they’ll learn how to identify hazards that contribute to anxiety, or musculoskeletal conditions.

They’ll have the initiative to flag and control hazards that are contributing to a high level of work-related ill health and absence.

#4 You work with harmful substances

There were 18,000 new cases of breathing difficulties and lung problems last year

The HSE estimates there will be 2,500 mesotheliomas (cancer) deaths every year until the end of the decade, linked to exposure to harmful substances at work.

The regulator also thinks that occupational lung diseases account for 12,000 of the 13,000 deaths that were previously linked to exposure at work.

There are other forms of lung disease that are contributing to the estimated number of annual deaths:

  • 20% Mesothelioma
  • 33% Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • 23% non-asbestos related lung cancer
  • 20% asbestos-related lung cancer
  • 3% other diseases

The data paints a picture of an ongoing health and safety trauma for businesses and their employees, that sprawls into the past and reaches into future.

It’s not hopeless – if you work with harmful substances and fumes, you can take steps to protect your staff/

Health and safety training that contains risk assessment training (both IOSH and NEBOSH do), will show your staff how to reasonably predict foreseeable risks, like occupational asthma, lung disease and mesothelioma.

All good health and safety training courses will walk through risk controls that can be dropped into working environments to safeguard against harmful substances that could cause respiratory conditions:

  • Is there physical signage alerting staff to the substance and instructing them how to behave?
  • Are health and safety procedures placed on the surfaces around the substance?
  • What equipment and machinery could be used to reduce the risk?
  • Is there a less hazardous substance which could be swapped in?
  • Could engineering solutions be employed to contain fumes?
  • Are staff wearing enough protective clothing? For example, masks, goggles, gloves and hazmat suits

Identifying opportunities to outsource to a specialist is another outcome of successful health and safety training. For instance, which chemicals and pollutants could be very harmful to your staff.

#5 The accident book is full of manual handling injuries

There were 498,000 cases of work-related musculoskeletal disorders last year

If a member of your staff has a musculoskeletal disorder, they have a medical condition that’s affecting their bones, joints and muscles that prevents them from working.

The severity of the condition will affect how long they’re away from work.

It could be a fracture, arthritis, tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome, causing pain in the whole body or just certain limbs:

  • 19% reported lower limb injury
  • 41% reported problems with upper limbs or neck
  • 40% reported back problems

Site managers – there are higher than average rates in the construction industry, with 2,000 workers affected in every 100,000.

Musculoskeletal disorders should be on your radar if your team are involved with manual handling – it caused 681,500 sick days in 2018/19.[3]

You can prevent hazardous manual handling by reviewing your processes and operations, to make sure you’re controlling how much of your stock needs to be moved by hand.

Your staff must learn how to complete a risk assessment to identify how likely and harmful a hazard is.

They’ll have to ‘describe the harm’ by looking at the severity of the hazard and decide how likely someone would be to get hurt, or die, if it was left as it is.

We’ve got two guides to the IOSH risk assessment project and the NEBOSH risk assessment if you’d like to know more.

Manual handling risk assessment example

A warehouse operative is lifting large boxes from a pallet and onto the warehouse floor.

Your risk assessment must evaluate and describe how the hazard could injure them and the implications if they’re hurt straightaway, what the long-term considerations are and if the injury could be life-ending.

Immediate musculoskeletal injuries as a result of manual handling could be bone fractures, pulled muscles and bruises. They might need bed rest, physiotherapy and numerous appointments with doctors and healthcare professionals.

The long-term implications could be torn ligaments and tendons, which need specialist therapy and treatment which extends beyond a few days off and an appointment here and there.

By assessing the risks associated with manual handling, recording and taking steps to control them, you’re:

  1. Limiting the risk of manual handling injuries
  2. Reducing the likelihood and cost of sick leave

#6 Cases of workplace stress, anxiety and depression are increasing

Last year, 246,000 workers reported that they felt stressed, depressed or anxious

In IOSH’s Management Today survey, it found that 62% of line managers receive inadequate help from their organisation to support the mental wellbeing of their staff.

Neither the IOSH Managing Safely or NEBOSH General Certificate have a specific module about mental health, however, the health and safety process they both apply to your business could help to alleviate pressure and stress at all levels.

If you can improve workplace mental health and wellbeing, you could prevent roughly five days of work-related absence every year.[4]

Although the estimated rate had been ‘broadly flat’ since 1998, it showed signs of increasing in more recent years – so it’s time to take action before it gets any worse.

Health and safety managers that try to control a working environment without an active safety culture may as well push water up a mountain. They’re accountable for a workplace that:

  • Isn’t working together to keep everyone safe
  • Has invisible, or neglected hazards
  • Has an unknown, uncontrolled and unreported risks

When hazards aren’t identified and flagged by your employees, there’s an increased reliance on your health and safety managers to pick up the slack.

They’re overstretched, their reporting won’t be accurate and you won’t have peace of mind that the business is protected.

Use IOSH Managing Safely to remedy these problems and build an open and health and safety culture where everyone is accountable for the wellbeing of their colleagues and the wider business.

With all eyes open to hazards, and a solid reporting process in place, you’ll alleviate the stress felt by health and safety managers.

#7 You’re slow to find and apply protective measures

There were 147 people killed at work last year

If a member of your staff loses their life at work due to your health and safety negligence, it could call time on your trading. The industries with the highest number of annual fatalities are:

Industry Number of annual fatalities
Construction 30
Agriculture, forestry and fishing 32
Manufacturing 26
Transportation and storage 16
Waste and recycling 7
Administration and support services 10


Health and safety training helps your team spot and control life-ending hazards, for instance:

  • Falling from a height
  • Being struck by a moving vehicle or object
  • Contact with moving machinery
  • Being trapped by something collapsing or overturning

During risk assessment training, your staff will use the 5×5 risk matrix and learn how to assess the danger posed by an untreated risk.

They’ll work out an inherent risk score by multiplying the likelihood score and a consequence score.

If the IOSH (5×5) risk calculator assigns a high score to a hazard, you must take immediate action to control it and ultimately, save lives.

For example, if the likelihood score was five – very likely – and the consequence score was five – catastrophic, deathly – the inherent risk rating would be 25.

Likelihood scores

Score Description
1 Very unlikely
2 Unlikely
3 Fairly likely
4 Likely
5 Very likely


Consequence scores

Score Description
1 Insignificant, no injury
2 Minor, but needs first aid
3 Moderate, three days absence
4 Major, more than seven days of absence
5 Catastrophic, death


If an employee dies at work you must report it to the police and HSE, even if your employee is working away from your workplace.

#8 You’re worried about prosecution, fines and sentencing 

The HSE issued £54.5m in fines for health and safety offences last year

There were 394 cases prosecuted by HSE, of those, 78% resulted in a fine which is an average £150,000 fine per case.

If your health and safety staff and the wider organisation complies with the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, you’re not at risk of prosecution.

However, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 does ask you to keep your staff’s health and safety skills up to date – regular, recognised training is a way to do that.

The IOSH Managing Safely qualification is regulated by IOSH, a widely respected and well-known Chartered body. Similarly, the NEBOSH General Certificate is regulated and maintained by awarding examination board NEBOSH, which is known world-over for its exceptional standards.

Once they have the qualification, it never expires, but to comply with those 1999 regs, you can send your team on refresher courses every three years, or move them onto further health and safety education.

Both IOSH and NEBOSH have an education framework, designed to keep health and safety workers informed about the changing landscape of their industry and deepen their knowledge.

If your company turns a blind eye to hazards and deals with accidents as they happen, that’s not a safe situation for you or your business to be in.

Quickly get control of a high-risk environment by challenging lazy habits and tired processes head-on, with best practice tips from the world’s leading health and safety training accreditors.

 #9 There’s no visibility across the business

You’re not involved with all areas of the business, so there are hazards you can’t see in rooms you never go in.

That’s a dangerous position for a health and safety manager to be in – you need to have a very precise knowledge of your workplace, so you can describe it and clearly discuss hazards and apply controls in a risk assessment.

Health and safety training helps you to routinely notice the function and size of the space, and how many people use it. You’ll schedule timely, formal inspections and you’re alert for hazards throughout the day.

#10 There’s no trust that processes are being followed

You need to be in a position where the health and safety processes guide the actions of your staff, even if you’re not there to supervise.

Health and safety training will teach you that even in a high-risk workplace, not every employee will run into every hazard, but there needs to be rules and policies in place to guide them if they do.

You need an awareness of which job roles are exposed to various risks, if visitors access the space near the hazard and if anyone accesses the area at different times of day, for instance, shift workers, cleaners and maintenance staff.

#11 There is no communication about hazards

“If hazards aren’t identified or reported by employees it is near impossible to keep a busy workplace safe. This puts significant pressure on those responsible for Health and Safety, and presents some serious risks for the organisation and its people” explains our commercial director, Matthew Channell.

Showing employees how to tackle a hazard when they find it will get the whole organisation working together to improve workplace safety and not overstretch health and safety managers.

Download the Insider's Guide to IOSH Managing Safely

#12 You don’t know who is responsible for health and safety

When accidents happen, it’s anyone’s guess who’s going to sort out the hazard. Reporting health and safety issues fail at the first hurdle. You might find that:

  • Dangerous hazards which need urgent attention, aren’t dealt with quickly enough
  • Superfluous or extreme controls are applied to trivial hazards

“Team Leaders, supervisors and managers not understanding their legal duties and responsibility for health and safety creates dangerous situations and risk of litigation,” Channell explains.

“If there’s a lack of collective responsibility, health and safety managers often feel like they are in a party of one, and that’s a lonely, frustrating place to be.“

You need to learn how to assign a score to a hazard so you can accurately describe how likely an accident is and how severe the consequences would be if you did nothing.

Then you can apply controls re-score and recommend how to appropriately control the hazard and the date when it needs to be resolved.

You can also assign the task of controlling the hazard to a specific person, so you’re reducing the chance of it causing trouble again.

“In my experience, health and safety professionals would like a few more allies in their fight to develop safety first cultures,” Matt says.

IOSH courses for example, can improve buy-in through a better understanding of importance and roles. Once every person understands that they have a responsibility for health and safety, regardless of role, we will be in a better place”

#13 Not all injuries are taken seriously

You need to know the circumstances of every injury, no matter how small. You need to learn how to assess the severity of the hazard. If you didn’t control a hazard, would it hurt your staff, so much so they’d need ongoing treatment? Could it end their life?

A tiny scratch could lead to blood poisoning and sepsis, for instance, but it’s up to you decide how likely that is.

With IOSH’s training, you’ll help your business to reduce staff sick days by reducing the risk of injury-related absence too.

#14 You’ve been told to save money

Health and safety can improve and protect your business income and financial security.

By reducing the risk of liability by investing in health and safety controls that make the workplace safer, long-term, you’re preventing needless spending.

IOSH Managing Safely course and the NEBOSH General Certificate training will show you how to identify, record and report hazards across your entire business and measure how successful the controls are. When you return to work, you’ll be able to prove that your approach to health and safety is saving the business money.

#15 You don’t have any accidents at work

Or, are they just not recorded? Turning a blind eye to accidents and hazards is irresponsible. You could face legal action, compensation claims, and place your staff and business in serious jeopardy.

In the months after your training, your senior managers might be alarmed by a sudden spike in the number of accidents in the workplace – this is evidence that you’ve learnt to accurately document the accidents going un-noticed. It’s a good thing.

The spike is a true reflection of how many accidents are taking place and how much work you’ve got to do to control them.

#16 There’s no budget for health and safety training

Training is a soft risk control that raises health and safety awareness throughout the business.

If everyone is keeping an eye open for hazards – and knows how to report them correctly – the health and safety culture should improve.

Managing Safely is a course for anyone, not just managers and supervisors, who work in a high-risk environment. It’s inexpensive and complete in just three days.

Health and safety often comes at a cost, but it’s a necessary one. If you attend Managing Safely, your financial officers will have a better understanding of the value that health and safety brings.

IOSH is unusual in that its qualifications don’t expire, but there are refreshers designed to get you up to speed on new legislation and health and safety changes – it’s important to get your top-up training factored into the budget.

Once you’re qualified, you must keep your skills sharp to prove you’re fulfilling your role with appropriate care.

 #17 “Health and safety is boring”

“Health and safety, unfortunately, has a boring reputation,” says Channell.

It’s difficult to get your people invested and caring about something they find tedious and unchanging. But if they feel like they’re making a positive difference, that encourages a caring safety culture and makes the environment safer for everyone.

The IOSH Managing Safely has been developed to be more engaging and accessible for everyone.

The Insider's Guide to IOSH Managing Safely


Health and safety courses we offer:

[1]According to HSE’s 2018/19 health and safety at work summary statistics and the Costs to Great Britain of workplace injuries and new cases of work-related Ill Health 2017/18 report . 2 million workers with a work-related injury or illness = 581000 workers sustaining a non-fatal injury + 69208 Employee non-fatal injuries reported by employers under RIDDOR +1400000 workers suffering from work-related ill health (new or long-standing)=2050208

[2]According to the Office of National Statistics, in February 2020, there were 2.7m VAT and/or PAYE businesses in the UK. £3,000,000,000/2,700,000 =1,111

[3]23.5 million working days lost due to work-related ill health, 29% of which were attributed to musculoskeletal disorders = 29% of 2350000 = 681,500 sick days.

[4] 12.8 million working days lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety, 2.7 million VAT and/or PAYE businesses in the UK = 12,800,000 / 2,700,000 =4.74


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According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), there are just over 2m working people with a work-related injury or illness.[1] The cost of workplace injuries and