Category Archives: Mental health

Can a workplace accident cause PTSD?

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

Helping workers with ‘common mental disorders’ should be high on health agenda

Chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies has highlighted a key issue for the health service to tackle nationally in her latest annual report – calling for better support for those suffering from mental health issues.

With between 60-70 per cent of people with common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety currently in work, Dame Sally has identified the amount of days off work currently taken by this section of people as having a major detrimental effect on the UK economy.

Figures show there has been a 24 per cent increase in the number of working days lost to stress, depression and anxiety since 2009.

And now she has called for more to be done to help people battling mental illness to remain in work, speeding up care through the health system.

Her report certainly made interesting reading, both to the business and health sectors, claiming mental health issues are leading to 70 million working days being lost in the UK each year, a total cost in excess of £100bn last year.

“The costs of mental illness to the economy are astounding,” she concluded.

“One of the stark issues highlighted in this report is that 60-70 per cent of people with common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety are in work, so it is crucial that we take action to help those people stay in employment to benefit their own health as well as the economy.

“Through this report, I urge commissioners and decision-makers to treat mental health more like physical health.  Anyone with mental illness deserves good quality support at the right time.”

The report has certainly brought a positive response, and thrown the issue into the national spotlight.

Stephen Dalton, chief executive of the NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network, welcomed the “bold report”, saying it has made an “important contribution to a long overdue national debate.”

And Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing added that the treatment gap for people with mental health problems can no longer be ignored.

“Not only are people with mental health problems in need of better support for their mental health conditions, but there is an unacceptable and preventable level of correlation with physical ill health,” he said.

At Neil Hudgell Solicitors, we have a dedicated, sympathetic team of medical negligence and personal injury solicitors who have more than 20 years’ experience working on a no win no fee basis.