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The Protection Risk of Incidents, not Accidents

All employers have a duty of care to safeguard the wellbeing of their staff and other visitors or contractors who come onto their facilities. This applies not only to those working in lone situations, where they are in isolated, vulnerable or potentially dangerous conditions. It applies across the workforce and the wider community that comes onto company premises. In this post we look at the often overlooked area of incidents in the workplace, and make a distinction between their much less common cousins, namely accidents.

When we ask companies about why they don’t take a more progressive attitude to protecting their staff, something that goes beyond manual procedures and embraces technology to provide ‘always on’ protection, they immediately think in terms of accidents. ‘Well, we haven’t had an accident in this facility for 7 years, we operate strict safety procedures and that works well for us.’ Or, you might hear ‘We’ve never had an accident, not even a near miss, so we don’t see the need for that kind of investment.’

Accidents, thankfully, are few and far between, and long may it continue that way. But what about incidents, as opposed to accidents? These are much more commonplace, and most companies can tell a story about incidents in the workplace. And those companies have the same duty of care for the wellbeing of their people, incident or accident. Incidents are the silent stories, the silent risk that we don’t account for and don’t prepare for properly.

Sudden Illness

The most common type of incident is when a person is overcome by a sudden illness. We’ve put together a list of a few such sudden illnesses. Imagine what the ramifications would be if the person was in an office or area on their own, or where they were not regularly visible to a colleague.

- Heart attack or coronary. A heart attack is not an accident, but it’s a pretty serious threat to the life of the sufferer. Even when it’s a mild heart attack, the more quickly we can respond, the better their chances of making a full recovery.

- Stroke. Similar to the heart attack, a mini-stroke or major stroke is a medical emergency which requires a swift response. And we can only respond quickly if we know immediately that another person is suffering and in need of help.

- Allergic reactions. Unfortunately, some people are acutely allergic to certain foods. In extreme cases, anaphylactic shock can lead to a sudden loss of blood pressure and difficulties breathing. If this happens to a sufferer, and they’ve stepped away from their injection device or other medication for a few minutes, they’re in trouble.

- Seizures. People prone to mild or serious epilepsy – or those who had never suffered these conditions before – can be suddenly incapacitated, lying on the floor and having a fit. This can be a scary incident for those who witness it, and if there’s no one around then there is a risk that the unattended person may bang their head or otherwise injure themselves.

- Food poisoning. Similar to allergic reactions, becoming sick from food poisoning can happen quickly and severely, rendering the person unable to help themselves. If no-one’s in the vicinity to help them, they’re helpless.

- Panic attacks. Anxiety, stress, depression and fear can all trigger a sudden feeling of intense discomfort or panic in people, often accompanied by palpitations, shaking and sweating. If they’re in a confined space, or a wide open space, and there’s no-one around, they’re left to wait out the storm all alone.

- Mental health and suicidal tendencies. We understand and can diagnose mental illness better than before, but suicidal thoughts are not confined to places outside of work. When people try to turn such thoughts into desperate actions, then they will frequently choose an isolated area in which to carry them out.

- Fainting or sudden dizziness. Incidents of dizziness and feeling faint are much more common. They’re usually less threatening to life, but can often involve falling over or having to lie down immediately where they are, which might not be the safest situation.

Rows, Pushing, Shoving and Fighting

There’s not much we can do to stop an incident occurring, but then there’s a range of incidents that are preventable but still happen. Work can be a stressful place, arguments can ensue and tempers can boil over. Verbal intimidation and threats tend to follow. Sometimes this can escalate to physical confrontations, with pushing, shoving or even full-blown fisticuffs. When this happens, injuries are inevitable and can in extreme cases be life-threatening.

If the person suffering this kind of violence is left alone following the break-up of the incident, they may not be able to seek the swift help that they need. In these circumstances there is a little difference between a serious incident and a workplace accident like falling off a ladder. The end result could be a seriously injured and isolated person.

The risk of incidents is far greater and far more prevalent than that of accidents, yet it’s the risk we choose to do very little about. What’s more, the outcomes for the person can be just as bad.

Talk to us about how you can protect your people against incidents – and accidents – in the workplace.

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