An illustration of a man falling down some stairs, with his briefcase flying in a different direction. This symbolises workplace health and safety.
Image: © Nuthawut/

Forklifts and brownies: Close calls of workplace health and safety

27 Oct 2023

BrightHR’s Alan Price discusses some real-life examples of health and safety blunders in the workplace, from the slapstick to the near-fatal.

The world of health and safety is one full of jump scares. One wrong move and you could find yourself face-to-face with a nasty injury – or worse, death. And no, we’re not being dramatic.

It may surprise you, but near miss incidents can even exhibit some likenesses with your favourite horror film.

So, here are some of the petrifying near misses that real clients have logged which makes keeping your business and your people safe and on the right side of health and safety laws quick and easy.

The close encounter

The horror fans among us will be familiar with the Saw franchise and the torturous scenes inflicted on viewers. Believe it or not, they bear some similarities to real-life health and safety near misses.

For example, one employee of a client narrowly avoided a gory situation when he reflexively went to retrieve something he’d dropped at the bottom of an acid tank.

Thankfully, his elbow-length latex gloves saved him from much harm. But imagine what could have happened were it not for the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

The frightening fall

If that’s not enough to make you recoil, how about this client’s employee who narrowly missed a brick falling on their head from some scaffolding? We all know a stressful working day can be a real headache. But that really takes the biscuit!

The killer vehicle

Cult horror fans will be familiar with Christine, the car with a devilish mind of its own. Christine’s rampages aren’t a million miles away from what happened in this case, where an unmanned forklift truck began rolling down a ramp, gaining momentum and taking down anything in its path.

Luckily, our hero of the story managed to jump in and pull up the handbrake in time to stop it in its tracks. This really highlights the need for robust security procedures and routine maintenance checks.

The scary shock

In this ‘shocking’ case, one employee was pointing to a machine when his finger slipped through a security guard and touched a live terminal.

Thankfully, the electric shock was minimal, but this demonstrates that safety measures must be appropriate, fit-for-purpose and not a mere tick-box exercise.

Click here to go to the BrightHR website.

The beastly blaze

Of course, no blockbuster is complete without an inferno and one client almost got one when an employee set out to cut open a tank containing unforeseen wood chippings inside, which of course instigated a blaze.

The fire was doused immediately, but the situation could have been a whole lot worse had a fire extinguisher not been within reach!

The mystery in the fridge

With all good thrillers, there’s usually an element of ‘whodunnit’, just like in this case with the mystery of the hash brownies. Who left them in the fridge? And what are the health and safety repercussions for those who ingested them whilst at work? Cue an investigation as to how the intoxicating treats wound up there…

The obscure obstruction

This case is more slapstick than horrific, but certainly a one-of-a-kind near miss. One employee was driving around a roundabout when a fire extinguisher lying on the back seat accidentally went off. The safety pin came loose because of pesky potholes, filling the driver and the interior of the vehicle with white powder – obscuring his view.

Luckily, he was able to navigate to safety. The lesson here is to always conduct proper equipment checks.

Avoiding the scare of startling near misses

As all movies have takeaway messages, there are many learnings from these logged near miss incidents, namely the importance of following robust health and safety practices and the need for employers to take proactive measures to maintain the safety and wellbeing of their employees.

That’s why you should prioritise conducting regular risk assessments provide proper training and protective equipment, and encourage open communication with your staff to correctly identify potential hazards.

By implementing these measures, and by logging all near miss incidents, you can create a safer work environment and prevent accidents from happening.

By Alan Price

Alan Price is the CEO at BrightHR and COO at the Peninsula Group. A version of this article was previously published on the BrightHR blog.

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