What is a workplace accident?

What is a workplace accident

Accidents in the workplace can lead to serious injuries and in some cases, death. In 2017 / 18 there were:

  • 144 workers killed.
  • 1.4 million working people suffering from a work-related illness.
  • 30.7 million working days lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury.

When looking at workplace accidents there are a few definitions you need to be aware of:


The HSE defines an accident as "a separate, identifiable, unintended incident at work that causes physical injury including non-consensual violence". An example of an accident is tripping over a trailing cable across an office floor, causing a head / back injury.


An event which had the potential to cause injury, damage and / or loss but was avoided by circumstances. This includes:

  • Near-Miss - an event which had the potential to cause injury, damage and /or loss but none occurred. An example of this would be a door swinging outwards nearly hitting a worker, who jumps back and avoids being hit.
  • Undesired circumstance – a set of conditions / circumstances that have the potential to cause injury, damage and / or loss e.g. untrained staff.

Workplace accident

Why do workplace accidents occur?

The following three principles reflect the most reasons why accidents occur in the workplace:

  • Personal factors – caused by the individual. Often due to acting in an unsafe manner such as being overconfident, not following safe systems and being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Human errors – these can be slips (not putting your ear defenders on before starting the drill), lapses (taking off your ear defenders to talk to a colleague but forgetting to put them back on) or rule or knowledge based mistakes (pressing the wrong button believing it to be right).
  • Violations – these include the following:
    • Situational violations occur when the pressure of completing the job takes precedence over compliance with a rule e.g. when correct equipment is not available.

    • Exceptional violations rarely happen and usually occur when a safety rule is broken to perform a new task, e.g. emergency procedures in fire.

    • Routine violations such as not wearing PPE because it’s always been that way.

What do I need to do if I have a workplace accident?

Legal requirements are place on employers to ensure risk of accidents are reduced by applying suitable health and safety measures within the organisation.

If an accident occurs you need to do the following:

  • Report it to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) if it is a reportable accident / incident. We have an article here which covers what is / isn’t reportable and how to report them.
  • Record the accident in your accident book or form; this must be done whether the accident / incident is reportable or not.

Depending on the accident you may need to consultant a health and safety specialist. If you have any concerns about a workplace accident please do not hesitate to contact us on 01394 389683 or info@safetyboss.co.uk.