There is no doubt that handling hazardous chemicals and materials at the workplace can cause severe health issues. During the 1900s, public awareness towards occupational illnesses and injuries increased as state and federal governments started compensating workers for work-related hazards.
However, despite the public’s growing awareness and the government’s efforts, occupational diseases and injuries still led to long and short-term health issues, including a high percentage of deaths at the workplace.
In fact, according to the ILO(International Labour Organization), there are 2 million causes of fatal occupational illnesses and 160 million non-fatal ones that occur worldwide every year.
Occupational illnesses usually result from unsafe workplace conditions. What’s more, the type of occupational illness depends on your sensitivity levels, exposure intensity, and job environment.
While recent regulations require workers to enforce and adopt occupational safety and health practices, there will always be an element of company negligence and human error that might result in dire consequences.
Let’s look at a few occupational illnesses and ways to avoid them.
Lung cancer and other lung-related illnesses
Thousands of employees die from lung-related occupational diseases globally because of company negligence and cost-saving tactics. For most of these employees, the damage occurred years ago when they inhaled or absorbed gases, fumes, and dust particles while at work.
In fact, inhalation of these air pollutants can lead to long-term, severe lung conditions such as asthma, COPD, asbestosis, and mesothelioma.
The type of lung disease you contract depends on the kind of job you do or the industry you work in. For instance, workers in the construction industry are prone to developing mesothelioma, a rare but terminal cancer that damages the lining of the lungs, heart, or stomach.
On the other hand, if you’ve already been diagnosed with mesothelioma, getting in touch with dedicated mesothelioma law firms should be your best course of action.
After selecting a firm to represent you against the company responsible, file a compensation claim, which will allow you to finance treatment and improve your quality of life once you win the lawsuit.
If you handle oils, wet cement, chemicals, acids, or detergents, there is a high chance you will develop various skin conditions down the line. Prolonged contact with water and exposure to water-based irritants can result in severe skin-related occupational diseases such as skin cancer, urticaria, and dermatitis.
Workers employed in the construction, hairdressing, and catering industries are more prone to contracting these skin conditions than others. Typically, symptoms might include but are not limited to swelling, weeping, blistering, redness, and much more.
That said, the HSE suggests a few ways to keep occupational skin disease at bay. Some of these include;
- Protecting your skin from irritation and contamination by wearing the proper PPE such as gloves, face masks, and safety goggles
- Avoiding direct contact with wet work, products, chemicals, and substances.
- Washing your hands with a high-quality soap or sanitizer before eating or drinking inside the workplace
- Using safer materials and wear gloves before handling chemicals known to cause harm
- Checking for symptoms such as redness of the skin, dryness, and itching to spot early signs of dermatitis
Doing your due diligence and following the measures mentioned above will help reduce the risks of skin-related occupational diseases.
Loss of hearing
Another typical occupational illness like skin and lung disease is loss of hearing. According to NIOSH, more than twenty-two million employees experience sound levels above the REL (Recommended Exposure Limit). That said, occupational loss of hearing results from ototoxic chemicals and loud noises. The symptoms typically range from complete hearing loss to reduced hearing capability.
Employers should utilize the Hierarchy of Control to regulate noise levels at the workplace. But, the easiest way to prevent hearing loss amongst workers is to eliminate the noise causing the issue itself.
In addition, employers should provide earplugs to their employees, set time limits, control the machinery causing noise pollution.
Heat-related occupational illnesses.
A harmful occupational illness for individuals working in non-ventilated, hot areas, heat-related medical conditions can vary in severity depending on the exposure. When employees are exposed to direct sunlight or high heat levels for a long time, they might suffer from cramps, exhaustion, and heat strokes.
According to the BLS, from 1992 to 2017, upwards of seven hundred employees were severely injured, and more than eight hundred of them died because of heat-related occupational illnesses. What’s more, employees who are older than 65 are more prone to succumbing to heat-related medical conditions.
Symptoms usually include fainting, waves of nausea, dizziness, profuse sweating, severe headaches, weakness, and much more. Therefore, like occupational hearing loss, prevention is the best way to avoid heat-related occupational illnesses.
Furthermore, slowly adapting your body to high temperatures, resting in shady areas, wearing light-colored clothes, and drinking water regularly can help you combat the dangers of hot weather conditions at the workplace.
Carpel tunnel syndrome.
It is a well-known fact that positioning your wrist in an awkward position or repetitive hand motions increases the pressure on your tendon and nerves in your carpel tunnel. Any employee can develop carpal tunnel syndrome if they perform work-related tasks that require repetitive hand movements every day.
Individuals working in the manufacturing, hairdressing, and accounting industries are at a higher risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome as most of their work requires continuous, repetitive motions of the hands.
What’s more, this medical condition can affect anyone, regardless of their age. A few symptoms include shoulder pain, loss of manual dexterity, and tingling sensation in the fingers.
The best way to ensure your employees aren’t victims of carpal tunnel syndrome is to provide them with an ergonomic working environment. A few measures include:
- Redesigning employee workstations
- Providing information on best body postures
- Not giving out tasks that require repetitive hand motions
- Sending employees on regular breaks
It is vital to keep yourself safe and secure at the workplace by prioritizing your health above everything else. Furthermore, following health and safety policies and regulations put out by your employers will help you remain accident-free and avoid contracting occupational illnesses, whatever they might be.
Remember, being near toxic materials is life-threatening, and companies that neglect health & safety protocols don’t accept their mistake, leaving you to battle with a severe illness yourself. It’s time to take back control and ensure such companies are held accountable.
Vivek is a published author of Meidilight and a cofounder of Zestful Outreach Agency. He is passionate about helping webmaster to rank their keywords through good-quality website backlinks. In his spare time, he loves to swim and cycle. You can find him on Twitter and Linkedin.