Having an accident at work can have lasting effects on a person. And not just physically.
When you suffer an injury in an accident at work, you may end up suffering the emotional and psychological consequences.
You might think a condition like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects only those in particularly high-stress roles, like the military. However, it can strike anyone after any significant distressing event.
Witnessing an accident
Accidents at work are most likely to affect those working in agricultural industries – including forestry and fishing. This is according to the Health and Safety Executive’s latest data. In 2018/19, 32 people in these industries were killed on the job.
Construction was the second most dangerous industry, with 30 deaths in this period, while manufacturing was third, with 26 people killed.
According to mental health charity Mind, witnessing a fatal accident can be a cause for PTSD. This means that workers in these industries are not only at greater risk of death in the course of their daily lives, but are also more likely to witness a colleague have a fatal accident.
This could lead to affected workers suffering significant levels of emotional trauma, affecting their work and personal lives.
PTSD after an accident
Suffering an accident yourself can also lead to mental trauma. Agriculture and construction were the two industries that saw the highest number of non-fatal injuries and work-related illness in 2017/18, according to the HSE’s most recent figures. Agriculture saw 3,690 per 100,000 workers hurt, while construction saw 2,620.
These workers could have suffered serious accidents, leaving them with significant injuries. Those who have suffered this kind of injury could find that they then experience further pain and suffering in the form of PTSD.
Some of the most serious types of accidents at work – and those typically more likely to cause a higher level of emotional suffering – involve being struck by a moving object or vehicle. Meanwhile, falls from height can cause serious injuries and affected 8% of employees who reported a workplace accident in 2017/18, according to the HSE.
Potentially the most upsetting type of accident a worker can suffer, however, is an act of violence. This could be caused by a colleague, customer or member of the public. Those in positions of authority can be particularly vulnerable to this kind of injury. For example, a survey commissioned by Channel 4’s Dispatches found that eight in 10 police officers were physically attacked and one-third suffered injuries last year.
Symptoms of PTSD
Mental health charity Rethink Mental Illness has highlighted some of the symptoms of PTSD, including:
- Flashbacks or dreams about the event or accident
- Avoiding situations that remind you of what happened
- Trouble sleeping
- Being unable to feel emotions
- Poor concentration
- Not enjoying activities any longer
- Feeling on edge, being easily startled, as well as alert and anxious
The Royal College of Psychologists suggests that if you have experienced these symptoms for more than six weeks since the event, you should talk it over with your doctor.
There has been a general downward trend in rates of self-reported non-fatal workplace accidents in the last two decades. Since 2000/01, the estimated rate has dropped by around half, says the HSE’s statistics. Meanwhile, there has been an estimated decrease of 58% in employer-reported non-fatal injury since 1986/87.
However, although these accidents are becoming less likely to happen to workers – as health and safety practices become more robust across all industries – those that do happen can have huge impacts.
This is why it’s vital to seek out the right help when an incident like this affects you.
Image credit: Pop Nukoonrat