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The Accident Triangle

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3 min 31 sec
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Workplace Health and Safety: Key Terms Explained

Understanding the terminology used in workplace health and safety is essential for maintaining a safe working environment. This guide explains critical terms such as Accident, Incident, Near Miss, Dangerous Occurrence, and Occupational Health.

Definitions of Key Health and Safety Terms


An Accident is an event resulting in injury or ill health, as defined by the Health and Safety Executive. These incidents are unexpected and can have immediate health implications.


An Incident may involve a near miss or an undesired circumstance with the potential to cause injury or ill health. It often disrupts normal business operations.

Near Miss

A Near Miss describes an unplanned event that had the potential for harm but did not result in any injury or property damage.

Dangerous Occurrence

A Dangerous Occurrence is a specific event listed in Schedule 2 of the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR), such as equipment failures or collapses.

Occupational Health

Occupational Health focuses on controlling workplace risks related to chemicals, dust, noise, lighting, and other hazards. It aims to prevent work-related illnesses and injuries.

Causes and Prevention of Accidents

Accidents can arise from various factors, including human error, occupational hazards, and environmental conditions. Understanding these causes is crucial for prevention.

  • Human Factors: Lack of training, concentration, or engaging in unsafe behaviour.
  • Occupational Factors: Involving manual handling, equipment use, and exposure to hazardous materials.
  • Environmental Factors: Including safe workspaces, flooring, noise, and adequate rest areas.

Despite extensive rules and legislation, accidents can still occur due to unplanned events, inadequate management, or cost-cutting measures. It is vital for businesses to have and continually review robust policies and procedures to mitigate these risks.

The Accident Triangle

The Accident Triangle illustrates the relationship between near misses, minor accidents, and serious accidents. For every serious injury, there are numerous minor injuries, damage incidents, and near misses. Reporting and addressing these can significantly reduce the risk of more severe accidents.

Role of Management in Accident Prevention

Effective accident reduction involves more than just reporting. It requires management to analyse reports and implement necessary changes to improve safety.