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Causes of Industrial Accidents: 18 Major Causes

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Everything you need to know about the causes of industrial accidents. Accidents are caused by a combination of factors, each one of these may vary from situation to situation.

Accidents do not just happen, they are caused. As per J. Donald, Kirpatrick the “accidents are usually the result of a combination of factors, each one of which may vary from situation to situation.” Their combination may be of unsafe work acts, and unsafe work environment or both.

Some of the causes of industrial accidents are:-

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1. Unsafe Conditions 2. Unsafe Acts 3. Machine Factors 4. Non-Machine Factors 5. Inherent Hazards or Nature of Job 6. Slipping, Tripping or Falling on the Floor 7. Collision and Obstruction 8. Equipments and Machines 9. Fire Hazards

10. Physical Causation Factors 11. Underlying Causation Factors 12. Poor Physical Conditions 13. Psychological Climate at the Workplace 14. Work Schedules 15. Technical Causes 16. Human Causes 17. Environmental Causes 18. Miscellaneous Causes.


Causes of Industrial Accidents: Unsafe Conditions, Unsafe Acts, Machine Factors, Non-Machine Factors and a Few Others

Causes of Industrial Accidents – Unsafe Conditions, Unsafe Acts and Other Causes

According to safety experts, there are three basic causes/factors that contribute to accidents in organisations. They are chance occurrences, unsafe conditions and unsafe acts on the part of employees.

1. Unsafe Conditions (Work-Related Causes):

These, of one sort or another, are the biggest cause of accidents. Such causes are associated with defective plants, equipment, tools, materials, buildings etc. These can be termed ‘technical causes. They arise when there are improper or inadequate safety guards on machines; when machines break down; when improper personal protection equipment is installed; when mechanical or construction designs are defective and unsafe; and when control devices, which have been installed to make the operation of machines safe and accident free are lacking or defective; or when there is an absence of proper maintenance and supervision of these devices.

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Thus, unsafe conditions include:

i. Improperly guarded equipment.

ii. Defective equipment.

iii. Hazardous arrangement or procedure in and or around, machines or equipment.

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iv. Unsafe storage; congestion, overloading.

v. Inadequate safety devices.

vi. Wrong and faulty lay-out, and bad location.

vii. Improper illumination — glare, insufficient light.

viii. Improper ventilation — insufficient air charge, impure air source.

ix. Poor house-keeping.

The other work related causes of accidents are:

(a) The job itself- Some jobs are inherently more dangerous than others, such as the job of crane-man in comparison to that of the foreman. Similarly, work in some departments (like personnel) is inherently safer than the work in others (like production department).

(b) Work schedules, accidents increase late in the day. They do not usually occur during the early hours of the work day. They are more frequent during the night shift. This is due partly to fatigue and partly to the fact that night is the period when one requires rest.

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(c) Psychological climate of the work place also affects the accident rate. Psychological, mental and emotional imbalances are at the root of several accidents.

2. Unsafe Acts:

These acts may be the result of lack of knowledge or skill on the part of the employee, certain physical defects and wrong attitudes.

These acts include acts like:

i. Operating without authority.

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ii. Failing to secure equipment or warning other employees of possible danger.

iii. Failing to use safe attire or personal protective equipment.

iv. Throwing materials on the floor carelessly.

v. Operating or working at unsafe levels of speed, either too fast or too slow.

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vi. Making safety devices inoperative by removing, adjusting, disconnecting them.

vii. Using unsafe equipment or using equipment unsafely.

viii. Using unsafe procedures in loading, placing, mixing, combining.

ix. Taking unsafe positions, under suspended loads.

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x. Lifting improperly.

xi. Cleaning, adjusting, oiling, repairing, etc. or moving a dangerous equipment.

xii. Distracting, teasing, abusing, startling, quarreling, day-dreaming, horseplay.

Personal Characteristics also influence accident behaviours of individuals. For example, characteristics like personality and motivation serve as a basis for certain behaviour tendencies — such as tendencies to take risks and undesirable attitudes.

3. Other Causes:

These causes arise out of unsafe situational and climate conditions and variations — such as bad working conditions, rough and slippery floors, excessive glare, heat, humidity, dust and fume-laden atmosphere; very long hours of work; unsatisfactory behaviour of domineering supervisors; excessive noise and carelessness in the handling of such inflammable materials such as gasoline, solvents, oil and grease, explosives etc.

Certain broad conclusions can be drawn on the basis of experience and studies undertaken by psychologists such as:

i. Young, untrained and new workers generally sustain injuries more frequently than older, trained and experienced employees.

ii. Those addicted to alcoholism and drugs, and those who suffer from boredom and fatigue or indulge in exhibitions, generally account for a higher rate of accidents.

iii. The way the management motivates employees affects the rate and frequency of accidents. The tensions which aggressive and negative supervisors generate among the employees also tend to increase this rate and frequency.

iv. Unmarried employees generally have more accidents than married employees.

v. Accidents are more frequent during the night shift.

vi. Woman employees have a better safety record than their male counterparts.

vii. Workers who work under stress or who feel their jobs are threatened or insecure, seem to have more accidents than those who do not.


Causes of Industrial Accidents – Machine Factors and Non-Machine Factors

The primary causes or factors responsible for accidents are as follows:

1. Machine Factors:

These factors are also called as technical factors. Machine factors mean the faulty mechanical or physical conditions. Although they are less in number, usually they are serious in nature, i.e. they normally result in injuries of serious or fatal nature.

These include the following factors:

(i) Improperly or inadequately guarded equipment.

(ii) Defective equipment.

(iii) Deficiencies in tools.

(iv) Deficiencies in plant.

(v) Unsafely designed tools, machines, etc.

(vi) Insufficient lighting, glare, etc.

(vii) Improper ventilation, impure air source, etc.

(viii) Unsafe storage, overloading, congestion, etc.

(ix) Poor house-keeping.

(x) Lack of automatic quick stoppage devices.

(xi) Inadequate fencing of machines.

(xii) Wrong and faulty plant layout, bad location, etc.

(xiii) Inadequate safety devices.

(xiv) Defective electrical fitting.

2. Non-Machine Factors:

As per an estimate around 80 per cent accidents occur due to non-machine factors.

These factors can be divided into two categories as follows:

(i) General Factors:

These include the following:

(a) Prick of a wire nail carelessly thrown away by someone at the workplace.

(b) Falling down from ladder or slipping off the ladder itself, especially in construction work/ repairing/ innovating/maintenance work, etc.

(c) Loading or unloading of heavy material without taking due care or without giving proper warning.

(d) Improper foot rests or grips.

(e) Non-wearing of right dress while working on or near an exposed moving part of a machine.

(f) Not-using goggles in welding.

(g) Flying-off of hammerheads or chisels, sometimes the whole hammer itself.

(h) Lack of inspection of machines, etc., by experts.

(i) Defective work methods.

(j) Inefficient supervisor/leadership.

(ii) Personal Factors:

These factors relate to an individual’s proneness to accident. There are a few individuals who get involved in more accidents than others.

An individual’s proneness to accidents may be due to the following personal factors:

(a) Poor eye-sight.

(b) Poor physique.

(c) Nervousness.

(d) Fear complex.

(e) Suffering from diseases such as high blood pressure, fits, epilepsy, etc.

(f) Immaturity, irresponsibility, etc.

(g) Colour-blindness.

(h) Fatigue.

(i) Depression, worry, etc.

(j) Ignoring safety instructions,

(k) Emotional instability, too much sensitiveness, etc.

(l) Addiction to drugs, liquor, etc.

(m) Day-dreaming,

(n) Absent-mindedness, and

(o) Frustration.

(iii) Other Factors:

Apart from the earlier discussed causes of accidents, there are a few others, which are the following:

(a) Young, untrained and new workers generally sustain injuries more frequently than older, trained and experienced employees.

(b) The way the management motivates employees affects the rate and frequency of accidents. For example, the tensions, which aggressive and negative supervisors generate among the employees, also tend to increase this rate and frequency.

(c) Unmarried employees generally have more accidents than married employees.

(d) Accidents are more frequent during night shift.

(e) Women employees have a better safety record than male counterparts.

(f) Workers who work under stress, or who feel their jobs are threatened or insecure, seem to have more accidents than those who do not.


Causes of Industrial Accidents – 6 Basic Causes: Nature of Job, Fire Hazards, Unsafe Acts and a Few Others (With Measures to Ensure Industrial Safety)

The basic causes of industrial accidents are:

1. Inherent Hazards or Nature of Job:

There are many jobs in industries which are highly prone to accidents. Coal-mining, marine transport, quarry and construction, chemical factories etc., are more dangerous as compared to communication, banking or IT industries.

2. Slipping, Tripping or Falling on the Floor:

People fall when they slip. Highly polished surfaces, accumulation of water, soap or oil, on the floor, torn or loose coverings causes the floor to be slippery.

3. Collision and Obstruction:

This takes place when there are inadequate lighting arrangements, furniture and equipments are placed improperly, sharp edges of machines etc.

4. Equipments and Machines:

Heavy mechanical machines are not handled properly or maintenance is low. Defective equipment, improperly guarded equipment, overloading of machines, wiring of suitable is not proper. Safety devices have been removed, adjusted or disconnected.

5. Fire hazards:

Non-existence of fire escapes and exits can cause serious injuries, especially factories manufacturing inflammable objects like crackers, papers, chemical etc. Fire protection equipment and fire extinguishers have nor properly fitted or available in the factory.

6. Unsafe Acts:

Many accidents occur due to lack of knowledge and training of the employees.

Some examples are:

(i) Operating without authority

(ii) Operating at unsafe speeds

(iii) Failure to go by the warnings & precautions to be taken.

(iv) Using unsafe procedure in loading and unloading.

7. Miscellaneous Causes:

Young, untrained and experienced workers are more prone to accidents. Alcoholic and drug addicted workers, workers having disturbed family life, overwork, monotony, fatigue, and quarrelling, abusing, unsatisfactory behavior of supervisors are some of the reasons of industrial accidents.

Measures to Ensure Industrial Safety:

In order to reduce or minimize the physical hazards and accidents, effective safety management must be followed in industries.

Certain measures which can be taken to ensure industrial safety are:

1. Safety Engineering:

To minimize workplace accidents, proper engineering procedure could be followed. Fencing of machinery, adequate space between machines parts and equipments, use of material handling equipment, safety devices, proper maintenance of machines etc., are undertaken to prevent accidents from occurring.

2. Safety Training & Education:

Safety training and education programmes should be held from time to time to train and educate employees, supervisor and workers, about precautions to be taken during machine handling. These programmes should develop and encourage among them safety habits like paying attention to warnings etc. Disciplinary actions may be used for breach of safety regulations.

3. Safety Committee:

A safety committee should be constituted is every plant and factory. It should consist of the representative of both the management and the workers. The committee should educate and impress upon the line manger about the safety measures required in the establishment. The safety programmes & policies should be formulated and implemented through the safety committee. The committee should also hold safety campaigns and safety contests from time to time.

4. Regular Inspection:

There should be regular inspection of machines and equipment to check any defect. The inspection should also check that the machines are well-maintained and safety devices are properly plugged in or properly placed. Organizations should also monitor and evaluate the workers at regular intervals so as to check whether they are following warnings, instructions and precautions while handling any machine or equipment.


Causes of Industrial Accidents – Physical Causation Factors and Underlying Causation Factors

Several authors discuss in different manner the causes of accidents.

It is convenient to examine the causes at two levels:

(1) Physical causation factors, and

(2) Underlying causation factors.

(1) Physical Causation Factors:

Accidents most frequently take place when people are handling and lifting goods and materials, are working with machinery, fall from heights or on the same level, are hit by falling objects, bump into or step on objects, are using hand tools, or come into contact with works transport. There are two possible causative factors that contribute to such accidents- (a) environmental factors; and (b) work process factors.

Environmental factors include unsafe or badly maintained machinery, highly polished and slippery floors, floor covered with torn or loose carpets, protruding surfaces, rickety steps or dangerous openings, unsafe building, telephone cables trailing on the floor, bad lighting, furniture and equipment improperly placed, untidy workplace, faulty electrical connections, faulty hand tools, left open cabinet drawers, fire hazards, uncovered edges of equipments can all play their part in contributing to accidents and injuries at work.

Work process factors refer to the way in which the work has to be done. The design of the job may create hazards; for instance, the cleaning or maintenance of machinery while it is in use, the lack of suitable seating, the need to carry or lift heavy objects, and processes which involve handling of dangerous substances.

(2) Underlying Causation Factors:

It is rightly observed that first we develop habits, and then they develop us. Our ancestry and upbringing make us what we are. The faults that we develop are certain personality weaknesses like recklessness, nervousness, excitability, greed, ignorance, and so on. These result in committing unsafe acts or allowing dangerous situations to arise.

Unsafe acts may be the result of lack of knowledge or skill on the part of the employee, certain bodily defects and wrong attitudes. Personal characteristics like tendencies to take risk can also result in unsafe acts. Other possible causes may be failure to follow safety rules and procedures, and reluctance to use safety equipments or haste on the part of the employee.


Causes of Industrial Accidents – Unsafe Conditions and Unsafe Acts: Nature of Job, Nature of Machinery and Equipments, Poor Physical Conditions and a Few Others

Accidents are caused by a combination of factors, each one of these may vary from situation to situation. Accidents do not just happen, they are caused. On the basis of an analysis of 75,000 incident cases from insurance file. Heinrich concluded that 98 per cent of accidents were caused either by unsafe action, or unsafe mechanical or physical conditions or both and these could have been prevented. He put a theory of chain of injury occurrence.

Thus:

1. An injury occurs only as the result of an accident;

2. An accident occurs only as a result of unsafe condition or unsafe act or both;

3. Unsafe conditions or unsafe acts exist only because of faults on the part of persons; and

4. Faults of persons are inherited or acquired from the environment — anatomical or physiological characteristics of an individual, improper psychological characteristics, lack of knowledge or skill, and improper mechanical and physical environment.

Based on the theory of chain of injury occurrence, it can be concluded that in every accident, there is a chain of events which occurs in a logical and fixed order. There are a variety of factors which cause the occurrence of this chain and accidents. These factors may be grouped into two categories- unsafe conditions and unsafe acts.

I. Unsafe Conditions:

Unsafe conditions are work-related causes and are the most frequent causes of accidents. Such causes are associated with defective plants, equipments, tools, materials, buildings, and other technical factors. Since these causes are related to the technical aspects of the work, these are known as technical causes.

Various work-related factors which cause accidents to occur are as follows:

1. Nature of Job:

Nature of a job itself is a source of accidents. Some jobs are more prone to accidents as compared to others, e.g., job of a crane operator as compared to a foreman. Generally, those jobs are more accident prone in which the workers come into direct contact with machinery in motion or hazardous materials like different types of chemicals, explosives, etc.

2. Nature of Machinery and Equipments:

Some machinery and equipments have high danger zones as compared to others. For example, about one-third of accidents occur around hand lift trucks, wheel borrows, and other handling and lifting equipments. The most serious accidents usually occur near saws or transmission machinery like gears, pulleys, and flywheels — stairs, ladders, walkways, scaffolds, and handrails.

Similarly, hand tools — chisels and screw drivers and electrical equipments — extension cords, electric drop lights, etc. are also major sources of accidents. Chemical tanks, boilers, gas storage devices, etc. cause serious industrial accidents.

3. Poor Physical Conditions:

While nature of jobs and machinery and equipments affect every organization uniformly, these become causes of accidents when these are not properly laid down or maintained.

Poor physical conditions prevailing at the workplace causing accidents are of the following types:

(a) Hazardous layout of plant and machinery.

(b) Defective work procedures in and around machinery and equipments.

(c) Defective machinery and equipments.

(d) Unsafe storage, congestion, and overloading.

(e) Inadequate and faulty safety devices.

(f) Improper illumination — glare or insufficient light.

(g) Improper ventilation causing insufficient air charge and impure air source.

4. Psychological Climate at the Workplace:

Apart from physical conditions, psychological conditions prevailing at the workplace also cause accidents. Psychological factors are in the form of mental fatigue, anxiety, monotony, boredom, frustration, and other emotion arousing factors. All these factors cause inattention in the workers and they become prone to the accidents.

However, all workers may not be equally affected by these factors but their personal characteristics play important role in this respect.

5. Work Schedules:

Work schedules are also responsible to some extent for the accidents. Work schedules involving long hours of continuous working generate fatigue which may be the cause of accidents. Similarly, night shifts generate more accidents as people are not accustomed to working in night which is considered to be the rest period. It has been observed that more accidents occur during the late hours as compared to early hours of work schedules.

II. Unsafe Acts:

Unsafe acts are those activities which are not taken according to the prescribed standards or procedures.

Such acts are of the following nature:

1. Operating without authority.

2. Failure in using safety devices.

3. Failure to listen to warning.

4. Throwing materials on the shop floor carelessly.

5. Operating machines/equipments at unsafe speed.

6. Making safety devices inoperative by removing, adjusting, or disconnecting them.

7. Using unsafe equipments or using equipments unsafely.

8. Using unsafe procedures in loading, placing, mixing, and combining.

9. Taking unsafe positions under suspended loads.

10. Cleaning, adjusting, oiling, repairing, etc. on moving equipments.

11. Any other improper act against prescriptions.

However, not all individuals are susceptible to such unsafe acts but their personal characteristics are important factors.


Causes of Industrial Accidents – Technical, Human and Environmental Causes

The nature of an accident may vary from industry to industry. An employee may fall from a height while engaged on a particular assign­ment or he may be caught in a machine while working on it or he may fall against machine or explosives used carelessly may explode and injure an employee.

Such accidents may result in disablement or death.

Disablement – Whether partial or total-may take the form of a loss of ability to work or to move. Such incapacity may be partial or total.

Both the types of disablement may be temporary and permanent In case of partial disablement worker is entitled to compensation only to the extent to which his ability to earn is reduced.

On the other hand total disablement makes it impossible for a workman to engage himself in any work – which he was capable of performing at the time of the accident which resulted in that disablement. In these circumstances, he is entitled to full compensation.

Causes of Accidents:

Accidents are usually the result of a combination of factors, each one of which may vary from situation to situation.

This combination may be of unsafe acts and equipment of people factors and conditions. It has been rightly said that an accident does not have a single cause but a multiplicity of causes, which are often closely related.

The causes of accidents may be broadly classified as:

1. Technical,

2. Human and

3. Environmental.

1. Technical Causes:

These causes are associated with defective plant equipment tools, materials, buildings etc. They arise when there are improper or inade­quate safety guards on machines. When machines breakdown, when improper personal protection equipment is installed, when mechanical or construction designs are defective or unsafe, when tools and equipment are defective, when there is an absence of proper maintenance and supervision. When control devices which have been installed to make the operation of machines safe and accident free are defective.

2. Human Causes:

Research evidence indicates that about 80 per cent of industrial ac­cidents are caused by such human factors as fatigue and anxiety.

These causes arise out of the deficiencies of an individual himself, improper attitudes, carelessness, recklessness and day-dreaming on a job.

They also involve such physical inadequacies as poor eye sight and hearing, defective limbs and low stamina, dislike of the job on which a worker is engaged and dislike of the Supervisor and the environment of work; low intelligence and manual skill, violations, of safety rules and regulations, absentmindedness arising out of fatigue and anxiety and ig­noring of safety devices.

All these factors affect for the worse, the alertness of any employee, distract him make him lose his concentration on the job in hand and lead to accidents.

3. Environmental Causes:

These causes arise out of unsafe situational and climatic conditions, variations—such as bed working conditions, poor lighting and ventila­tion and rough or slippery floors; unsafe storage facilities; congestions and overcrowding; unsafe plant layout, bad location, excessive glare, heat, humidity dust and fume laden atmosphere, inadequate safety de­vices, very long hours of work and the unsatisfactory behavior of super­visors, unnecessary or excessive job related strain or tension, excessive noise and carelessness in the handling of such inflammable materials as gasoline, oil and grease.

Some of the other causes which lead to accidents are drinking while on duty, poor housing etc.


Causes of Industrial Accidents – Unsafe Conditions and Unsafe Acts

As per J. Donald, Kirpatrick the “accidents are usually the result of a combination of factors, each one of which may vary from situation to situation.” Their combination may be of unsafe work acts, and unsafe work environment or both.

The main causes of accidents may be grouped as under:

1. Unsafe Conditions:

They arise when improper working conditions, poor maintenance of equipments, machines and control devices, poor construction of building, and improper plant layout, etc.

They include:

(i) Improperly guarded equipment.

(ii) Defective machines, and equipments.

(iii) Hazardous procedures in, on, or around working place.

(iv) Poor ventilation.

(v) Improper plant layout.

(vi) Lack of proper store, for example, congestion, overloading.

(vii) Poor maintenance of machines and equipments.

(viii) No proper and sufficient supply of tools.

(ix) Excess work schedule.

(x) Improper illumination, for example, glare, insufficient light.

2. Unsafe Acts:

They arise when skill is insufficient, physical or mental conditions of employee is not good and sometime due to wrong attitudes of the employee.

They include:

(i) Improper handling of materials or finished goods.

(ii) Operating at unsafe speeds, either too low or too fast.

(iii) Failing to use protective equipment.

(iv) Using unsafe methods or procedures.

(v) Using equipment unsafely.

(vi) Lifting improperly.

(vii) Improper training.

(viii) Mental return of employee.

In general new recruits or untrained employees sustain injuries more frequently than trained and experienced employees. The unmarried employees act careless having more accident than married employees. The higher rate of accidents are during night shift as compared to day or general shifts.


Causes of Industrial Accidents – Inherent Hazards, Collision, Slip or Fall on Floors/Stair-Casings and Miscellaneous Causes

We may classify the causes of industrial accidents into four categories as follows:

(i) Inherent Hazards:

There are many jobs in industries which are highly prone to accidents. Coal mining, marine transport, quarry and construction are considered more dangerous industries as compared to communication, banking and tobacco industries.

(ii) Collision:

This takes place when:

(a) There are inadequate lighting arrangements,

(b) Furniture and equipment are placed improperly,

(c) Edges of equipment are not properly covered, and

(d) Cabinet drawers are left open.

(iii) Slip or Fall on Floors and Stair-Casings:

This happens when:

(a) The floor and staircases are wet with water, soap or oily substance,

(b) The floor is highly polished and slippery,

(c) The floor is covered with carpets and the carpets are torn or loose,

(d) The telephone cables trail on the floor, and

(e) There is lack of proper lighting.

(iv) Miscellaneous Causes:

Sometimes, accidents occur due to:

(a) Excessive noise

(b) Lack of cleanliness,

(c) Leaking of electric cables,

(d) Either very high or very low temperature,

(e) Industrial fatigue,

(f) Machines operating at a high speed,

(g) Poor health of the workers, and

(h) Age and experience of the workers.

Industrial accidents mainly cause loss of man-days apart from other losses. Industrial accidents are also due to various human reasons such as carelessness of workers, absence of proper education and training to workers, alcoholism and drug-addiction among workers, defective plant layout, and limited space for movement of workers and so on. The industrial accidents which are due to human errors can be avoided.


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