It is a well-known fact that handling and coming in physical contact with dangerous substances and materials at the workplace can lead to serious health problems.
In fact, due to the recent state and federal level initiatives, the public’s awareness of work-related diseases and injuries has drastically increased.
Despite the government’s efforts and growing public awareness, work-related disorders and injuries still lead to both long and short-term health conditions, causing an increasing number of work-related deaths.
The ILO (International Labor Organization) states that occupational hazards have resulted in around 160 million non-fatal diseases and 2 million fatal occupational illnesses in recent years.
That said, harmful workplace conditions and exposure to known hazardous chemicals and materials typically cause work-related illnesses and injuries.
But, the type of work-related illnesses you contract depends on the time you were exposed to a specific harmful substance, your sensitivity to it, and the industry you work in.
Although recent health and safety regulations require employees to follow and enforce a culture of safety in the workplace, human errors and mistakes can still lead to dire health consequences.
Listed below are a few occupational illnesses and prevention tips that everyone should know about.
The inhalation of asbestos fibers and asbestos-containing materials can lead to severe medical conditions like lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma.
While the type of lung-related occupation illness you have depends on the industry you work in, you’re more likely to contract mesothelioma if you work in construction.
To avoid inhaling asbestos fibers, you’ll need to use PPE, gas masks, safety goggles, and gloves when handling asbestos or to work with materials that contain asbestos.
On the other hand, if you’ve already been diagnosed with this terminal disease, consider hiring an attorney to file for compensation due to negligence on your employer’s behalf.
What’s more, you can also talk to your attorney about asbestos trust funds that were set up to compensate those affected by employer negligence. Your attorney will know of this and help you obtain fair compensation to pay for expensive treatment and therapies required to treat mesothelioma.
Illnesses caused by heat exposure
Heat-related occupational illnesses can vary in severity depending on the exposure time. However, employees who work in hot, poorly-ventilated areas are more vulnerable to heat-related diseases than others.
Furthermore, workers who are directly exposed to heat at their workplace for longer periods will suffer from heat strokes, cramps, exhaustion, fatigue, and much more.
As the BLS states, around 700 workers were injured, while nearly 800 died due to heat-related occupational diseases between 1992 and 2017. Not to mention, workers aged 65 and above are more likely to be affected by heat exposure than those below that age limit.
Symptoms typically include but aren’t limited to dizziness, nausea, dry skin, fainting, severe headaches, continuous sweating, and much more.
Prevention is the best approach to protect yourself from heat-related occupational illnesses. Try resting in areas with shade during breaks, drink lots of water, and wear light-colored clothing to reduce the chances of a heat stroke.
Occupational hearing loss
Like illnesses can result from excessive heat exposure, another common work-related illness is hearing loss.
Hearing loss is caused when workers are exposed to high sound or noise levels above the REL (Recommended Exposure Limit) of 85 decibels.
As per the NIOSH, upwards of 2 million workers worldwide are currently experiencing noise levels above the REL. That said, occupational hearing loss is the direct result of being exposed to loud sounds and ototoxic substances at the workplace.
The symptoms of hearing loss can range from partial to complete loss of hearing in severe cases. However, that depends on the type of sound you were exposed to and the severity of the exposure.
Just like heat-related occupational illnesses, prevention is the best approach here. Furthermore, employers must also consider using the Hierarchy of Control to ensure noise levels are regulated at all times.
However, the best way to avoid occupational hearing loss is to remove the source from the premises. Furthermore, employers should provide their workers with ear protection equipment, control machinery that causes overbearing noise and set time working time limits.
If you come in physical contact with acids, wet cement, chemicals, oils, and detergents; you have a high chance of contracting various skin diseases over time.
Furthermore, exposure to damp areas and prolonged contact with liquid-based irritants can lead to harmful skin conditions such as urticaria, cancer, and contact dermatitis.
Employees working in catering, construction, and hairdressing industries are more likely to suffer from such skin diseases than others. A few symptoms of occupational skin diseases include; weeping, redness of the skin, blistering, and dry/flaky skin, to name a few.
That said, according to the HSE, you can avoid contracting skin diseases by following a few tried and tested prevention tips, including;
- Avoiding contact with harmful substances, irritants, chemicals, and products
- Properly washing your hands with soap before and after handling known irritants
- Using a hand sanitizer
- Using PPE and other safety equipment around irritants and chemicals
- Regularly checking for symptoms like skin dryness, redness, itching, and skin flaking to identify contact dermatitis early on
Carpal tunnel syndrome
No doubt, twisting your hands and wrists repeatedly will increase pressure on your joints and tendons in the carpal tunnel.
That said, any person can develop carpal tunnel syndrome when performing activities that require long-term use of repetitive hand motions.
Furthermore, employees working in the grooming, manufacturing, and finance industries have a higher chance of experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome than others.
A few symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include; a tingling sensation in the fingers, fatigue, and shoulder pain.
The best way to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome is to create an ergonomic work environment for yourself, take regular breaks, and gently stretch your hands and fingers after performing any task.
It is important to prioritize your safety and security at the workplace. You can easily do this by following your employer’s employee health and safety policies to the best of your abilities.
Following guidelines will ensure you remain illness and injury-free for a long time. So, whether or not your employer asks you to wear personal protection equipment during working hours, prevention is the best approach to ensure workplace safety.