Some jobs wouldn’t strike you as dangerous at first glance. Sitting at a desk or a checkout, it’s hardly dicing with death, is it? Reading through page after page of health and safety material can seem like the most tedious task in the world. Yes, you think. I know how to look after myself. Well, as unlikely as some of these seem to be, accidents, no matter how outlandish or mind-boggling, really do happen.
According to the International Labour Organisation, health and safety issues are not limited to stereotypically dangerous workplaces such as factories, but any workplace, whether it is indoor or outdoor.
So with this myriad of bizarre accidents happening every day, is Health and Safety not the modern-day madness that we first labelled it, and instead a vital way of preventing workers from coming to harm?
We have all been warned.
We’ve all seen it, the ubiquitous Danger! Wet Floor sign. Fair enough, you think. Nice of somebody to let us know. You gingerly step around the area until you are out of harm’s way. Phew! What a relief. Danger averted for another day. We all know about the videos of people on the internet, falling flat on their face or walking at full speed straight into a glass door. Hah! Not me, you say. I’m wise to that.
Imagine though, just for a moment, the strangest possible way in which you could injure yourself at work. Falling down the stairs? No, far too mainstream.
How about these ones instead?
Trying to move a filing cabinet and it then falling on top of you? Or perhaps a bird flying in through an open window and causing chaos, with staff falling over and hurting themselves in a bid to escape? What about the malfunctioning office chair that decides to skip straight past recline and deposit you onto the floor instead? Your coat becoming caught in the closing door of the lift and yanking you backwards.
Perhaps the much maligned repetitive strain injury, the bane of every desk-bound worker’s life, which left unchecked, can cause serious damage. These five scenarios are much more like it, although they are by no means the most far-fetched. Look at the examples below, and marvel at these real life workplace blunders.
From the sublime to the ridiculous. Well, mainly just the ridiculous.
A list of astoundingly odd workplace accidents can be found here, at the Accident Advice Helpline website. These tales of workplace woe include an office worker trying (and succeeding!) to lift a water cooler up above his head in a bid to impress his colleagues, injuring his back in the process. Alongside this, there is also the story of a London bartender, engrossed by his phone, who fell down through a trap door into a ten-foot ventilation shaft.
Or there are weird and wonderful tales of firms desperate to meet health and safety standards and in avertedly supplying their workers with counterfeit safety helmets. These counterfeit helmets are so fragile; they can be broken with the pressure of bare hands. Not exactly accident proof then. It could be argued that these could even cause accidents, opening up a whole new window of opportunity for workplace accidents.
It’s the kind of stuff that has injury lawyers rubbing their hands together with glee. So if these accidents really do happen, is it high time that we took healthy and safety rules a bit more seriously?
Over cautious or always prepared?
There’s no doubt that there’s humour to be found in some particularly over-zealous health and safety guides, followed by eye rolls and declarations of surely no one is that stupid. There’s even more laughter to be found in pictures like these, from the Daily Mail website. The flagrant disregard for any kind of procedures to ensure that safety of workers may be amusing at first, but would you like to work in a place like the ones shown in those pictures? Probably not.
So next time you see a sign warning you not to do something, it might be worth paying attention, no matter now obvious it seems. Although our five imaginary scenarios are pretty far-fetched, the real-life stories that follow prove that when it comes to the workplace, no accident is strange enough to not happen. As the saying goes, better to be safe than sorry.
Chris Walker is a representative for Health and Safety Signs who provide an extensive range of health and safety signs, first aid kits, personal protective equipment and work wear.