Understanding key health and safety terms in care settings

Understanding key health and safety terms in care settings - Dr Richard Dune -

Navigating the health and social care world can sometimes feel like learning a new language. The UK's Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides a wealth of guidelines and regulations that care providers must adhere to, and understanding the key terms is the first step towards compliance.

In this article, Dr Richard Dune will discuss the importance of language in health and safety within care settings, highlighting its role in achieving compliance and maintaining the highest safety standards.

Common health and safety terms

Common health and safety terms - Dr Richard Dune -

Below are key health and safety terms you might commonly encounter in health and social care settings:

  • Accident
  • Hazard
  • Dangerous occurrence
  • Risk
  • Near miss
  • Risk assessment
  • Significant risk
  • Safe
  • Undesired circumstance
  • Health surveillance
  • Control measure
  • First aid
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Workplace exposure limit (WEL)
  • Manual handling
  • Display screen equipment (DSE)
  • Duty of care.

Remember that precise definitions may vary, and it is always a good idea to check the HSE website or seek expert advice when in doubt.


Accident - Dr Richard Dune -

An accident is a separate, identifiable, unintended incident leading to physical injury or ill health. This includes acts of non-consensual violence against people at work. Understanding what constitutes an accident helps prevent and ensure a prompt response when they occur.


Hazard - Dr Richard Dune -

A hazard is anything with the potential to cause harm. This could be a substance, a process, a situation, or an environment. In care settings, these could range from physical hazards like wet floors to health hazards such as improper medication disposal.

Dangerous occurrence

Dangerous occurrence - Dr Richard Dune -

These specific, unintentional events may not result in a reportable injury but potentially cause significant harm. Recognising such occurrences is crucial for preventing more severe incidents in the future.


Risk - Dr Richard Dune -

Risk refers to the likelihood and consequences of harm occurring, such as someone slipping and falling on a wet floor. It is the cornerstone of many health and safety strategies, which aim to mitigate risk where possible.

Near miss

Near miss - Dr Richard Dune -

A near miss is an event that does not cause harm but holds the potential for injury or ill health. It's essential to report and investigate these instances as they are important indicators of where harm could occur.

Risk assessment

Risk assessment - Dr Richard Dune -

Risk assessments are processes of identifying existing or potential hazards in the workplace. A well-conducted risk assessment helps to prevent accidents and ill health, ensuring a safer environment for employees and visitors.

Significant risk

Significant risk - Dr Richard Dune -

Significant risks are those with a high probability of occurring, posing a substantial risk to health and safety. Immediate action is required to control these risks, considering the cost includes time, effort, and finances.


Safe - Dr Richard Dune -

Being safe is about being protected from or not exposed to danger or risk. Creating a 'safe' environment is the ultimate goal of health and safety management.

Undesired circumstance

Undesired circumstance - Dr Richard Dune -

An undesired circumstance involves a set of conditions that could lead to injury or ill health. Recognising and remedying these situations is fundamental to maintaining safety in care settings.

Health surveillance

Health surveillance - Dr Richard Dune -

The process of monitoring the health of employees who are exposed to certain health risks due to the nature of their work.

Control measure

Control measure - Dr Richard Dune -

An action or activity designed to reduce the risk associated with a hazard. This can involve changes to work processes, using protective equipment, or implementing new safety protocols.

First aid

First aid - Dr Richard Dune -

Immediate care is provided to an injured or ill person until medical treatment is available. In a workplace setting, designated first aiders are typically trained to provide an initial response to health emergencies.

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

Personal protective equipment (PPE) - Dr Richard Dune -

Protective clothing or equipment designed to protect the wearer's body from injury or infection. PPE can include items like gloves, masks, and safety glasses.

Workplace exposure limit (WEL)

Workplace exposure limit (WEL) - Dr Richard Dune -

The maximum concentration of a hazardous substance in the air an employee can be exposed to is averaged over a specific period.

Manual handling

Manual handling - Dr Richard Dune -

The transporting or supporting of a load by hand or bodily force. In a care setting, this can include moving patients.

Display screen equipment (DSE)

Display screen equipment (DSE) - Dr Richard Dune -

Devices or equipment with an alphanumeric or graphic display screen, including computers, laptops, tablets, etc. Specific regulations exist for the use of DSE to prevent associated health problems.


COSHH - Dr Richard Dune -

COSHH stands for ‘Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) Regulations.’ These regulations require employers to control substances that can harm workers' health. In a care setting, this might include cleaning chemicals or medication.


RIDDOR - Dr Richard Dune -

RIDDOR stands for ‘Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations.’ These regulations require employers, the self-employed and those in control of premises to report specified workplace incidents.

Duty of care

Duty of care - Dr Richard Dune -

The legal obligation to safeguard others from harm while they are in your care, using your services, or exposed to your activities. This is particularly important in health and social care environments.


Understanding key health and safety terms in care settings - Conclusion - Dr Richard Dune -

By understanding these terms, we are better equipped to promote and maintain a safe and healthy environment in our care settings. It's not just about ticking boxes or following rules; it's about keeping people safe. We hope this article has helped to demystify some terminology used in health and safety, empowering you to make positive changes in your workplace.

Stay tuned to our blog for more insights and information to help you navigate the health and social care sector. Until next time, stay safe and keep up the excellent work you do in care!

References and resources

Health and Safety Executive (2023) - Who regulates health and social care.
Health and Safety Executive (2023) - Sensible risk assessment in care settings.

Understanding key health and safety terms in care settings - References and resources - Dr Richard Dune -
About The Mandatory Training Group - Dr Richard Dune -

About The Mandatory Training Group

The Mandatory Training Group is one of the leading UK providers of CPDUK-accredited statutory and mandatory training, continuing professional development (CPD) courses, eLearning software and workforce development solutions for all sectors.

By making things simple and designing interactive e-learning content, we can provide meaningful training programs at all levels and enhance the capacity and resilience of individuals and organisations.

Click here to see our wide range of accredited health and social care courses and training programmes.

About Dr Richard Dune

Dr Richard Dune is a leading health and social care governance expert. Throughout his career, he has worked in various settings across the UK, including NHS Trusts, research and development, academic institutions, and private companies.

His work primarily focuses on developing, deploying and evaluating technologies, such as clinical decision support systems, educational technologies, workforce development and regulatory compliance solutions.

Dr Dune regularly writes about topical issues affecting the UK's health and social care sectors. Additionally, he speaks at conferences, stakeholder workshops, and professional forums. Dr Dune is also a research fellow at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire in the Research, Development and Innovation department. His other passions include content development, education, and coaching. Click here to read more articles by Dr Dune.

About Dr Richard Dune - Dr Richard Dune -

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