Thanks to the increasing prevalence of health and safety law and culture (and the inescapable advent of technology), workplace accidents in the UK have become rarer in recent decades.
They’re not only less frequent, but less severe, too: according to statistics cited by the Health and Safety Executive, the 20th century saw annual workplace fatalities fall from several thousand per year to just over a hundred.
Of course, there’s still substantial room for improvement – not only in bringing down workplace deaths, but in preventing severe injuries. Construction, agriculture and heavy industry tend to be the most dangerous sectors to work in – with the worst kinds of injury resulting in a work-related amputation.
How common are work-related amputations?
The UK government collects statistics on the number of amputations suffered by service personnel, but data on the phenomenon in the general working population is more difficult to come by.
Amputation claims can be taken by victims of accidents who have had limbs removed. These sorts of injuries are often inflicted by heavy machinery, by mishandling of large loads, by vehicle accidents, and by explosives.
They are mercifully rare, but the seriousness of the injury means substantial losses – both in terms of productivity and quality of life. It’s vital that employers take the risk seriously.
Advancements in Robotics and Automation
Certain tasks, which might once have presented a risk of serious injury to a human being, can now be performed remotely with the help of machine aids. You might think of bomb disposal, tree surgery, and heavy machinery in manufacturing settings.
Certainly, many industries that work predominantly with heavy machinery have aggressively adopted automation, including the automotive and construction trades. In fact, these are now the top two industries from the perspective of automation, with this helping to reduce serious accidents in the workplace.
Wearable Technology and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
We can also physically protect workers while still allowing them to perform the tasks in question. You might shuck oysters or operate a chainsaw, for example, while wearing chainmail gauntlets.
Exoskeletons, helmets, and other items which you might think of as ‘armour’ can all reduce the risk. But the same might be said of equipment which makes a worker more visible, and therefore less vulnerable.
Collaborative Robotics (Cobots)
Robots are not only being used to replace human labour, but to supplement it. A workplace environment where machines and humans work together might afford employers the benefits of both kinds of labour, while reducing the risk of injury and amputation.
Safety Culture and Education
One of the most important tools in the battle against workplace injury is the one that has been responsible for the progress already made: education.
Where workers are conscious of the risks, and they have the tools required to do a job safely, then they are much less likely to suffer a life-changing injury. Training, workshops, and the proactive instilment of a safety culture can all be of great benefit too, especially if you want to create a culture of safety over time!