The Accident Triangle

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There are different terms we use when talking about things that can happen in the workplace.  These include:

  • Accident
  • Incident
  • Near miss
  • Dangerous Occurrence
  • Occupational Health.

It is important that you fully understand the definition of each of these terms.

An accident is defined by the health and safety executive as an event that results in injury or ill health.  An incident could be a near miss or an undesired circumstance that could have resulted in injury or ill health or one that has the the potential to result in someone becoming injured or unwell, generally this may result in disruption in business.

A near miss would be used to describe an unforeseen or unplanned event that could have but did not result in injury to an individual or damage to property.

A dangerous occurrence relates to an event which is listed in Schedule 2 of the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences (RIDDOR) An example would be the collapse , overturning or failure of any lifting equipment, or the failure of any load-baring part, whether it is used for lifting goods, materials or people.

Occupational Health is about identifying and controlling risks which could arise from the work carried out, examples of this are chemicals,  dust or fumes, slippery surfaces, excessive noise, poor lighting, repetitive movement, manual handling or stress.  Some of the most common types of work-related ill health include muscular and skeletal problems particularly in the spine and upper limbs, work related stress, problems with hearing due to long term exposure to loud noise or disease caused by exposure to chemicals, dust and other substances.

Accidents can be caused by human factors, occupational factors or environmental factors. Human factors could be lack of training or competency or horseplay or just a lack of concentration, occupational factors could be manual handling, use of equipment like ladders or tools and by using hazardous chemicals and environmental factors like safe entry and exit areas, safe flooring, space to work, noise, heating, lighting and rest areas

There are a lot of rules and legislation but accidents still happen. This can be due to unplanned events, inadequate management and cost savings. Businesses need to have robust policies and procedures in place and continually reviewed to ensure that accidents can be avoided.

The accident triangle is a way of showing the representation between near misses, minor accidents and serious accidents.

For every serious or disabling injury in the workplace, there are ten minor injuries that require first aid or a short period off work, 30 damage accidents and 600 near-miss occurances. The accident triangle shows the importance of reporting near misses as this increases the chance of reducing the risk of more serious incidents and accidents and helps to highlight hazards that may not have been identified or areas where risks are increasing.

Reporting this information is only one part of accident reduction, management needs to analyse and act on these reports to implement changes.