Accidents At Work - Disease, Deafness And Other Long-Term Injuries
“Employment is nature’s physician and is essential for human happiness” Galen, ca 180 AD. In 2003/04 30 million working days were lost to illness that were caused by work related issues. Two million people believed they were suffering from a work related illness in 2003/04. ½ a million people were said to be suffering from stress/depression or anxiety. 183,000 claimed to have breathing or lung problems. Hearing problems were sustained by 81,000, skin problems by 31,000 and heart disease/attack by 66,000.
These harrowing figures are a shocking insight into the abuse of health and safety in the work place. Although these figures have improved slightly now; health concerns due to occupations are still a major problem.
An occupational disease is a chronic ailment that occurs as a result of work. It is when symptoms of diseases are more prevalent in bodies of workers than the general public.
Improving organization, work practices, addressing issues such as workload (over or under), matching workers skills to their jobs and having clear lines of accountability and responsibilities are all appropriate steps to prevent ill health occurring in the work place. The right work patterns, security and ensuring a ‘happy’ work place as well as good communication and safe working practices not only improve the safety of the work place but also creates a better working environment.
Examples of occupational disease are:
• Black lung disease – normally seen in coal mining industry
• Carpel Tunnel Syndrome - occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. The symptoms are usually burning, tingling, or itching numbness in the palm of the hand and the fingers, especially the thumb and the index and middle fingers with some people even stating their fingers feel useless and swollen even though they appear fine.
• Radiation Sickness – seen in the nuclear industry
• Byssinosis – disease of the lungs caused by breathing in cotton dust or dusts from other vegetable fibers such as flax, hemp, or sisal while at work
• COPD, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – the symptoms of COPD are a persistent cough/phlegm, shortness of breath and chest infections. Once the damage of COPD has taken effect it cannot be reversed. COPD is damaged airways in the lungs, causing them to become narrow, making it harder for air to get in and out of the lungs.
• Silicosis – The Oldest of all work related diseases. It develops over time when dust from Silica is inhaled into the lungs. A persistent cough, with or without sputum, shortness of breath and chest tightness are all symptoms of Silicosis. All of these usually appear over many years of exposure to high levels of Silica dust, with the tissue of the lungs becoming damaged by Fibrosis and being replaced with solid nodules of scar tissue. Even after the exposure stops, the disease still progresses.
• Asbestos – work related disease due to asbestos exposure can be highly serious. Mesothelioma is cancer of the pleura and asbestosis is a form of lung fibrosis, both of which are a direct result of asbestos, as well as bronchial cancer.
• Occupational Lung Disease - covers a range of damage, affecting things such as the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs (airways), the tiny air sacs where oxygen is transferred from the air we breathe into our blood stream. Other damage may affect the thin lining between our lungs and ribcage. Symptoms include chest pain, prolonged coughing, breathlessness and wheezing
• Occupational Asthma – it has been said that by 2010, the cases of occupational asthma are to be reduced by 30%. Occupational Asthma remains the most common form of work related illness. Dust from flour and grain; Industrial baking, farm work, grain transport. Wood dust, from hard wood, western red cedar, carpentry, joinery and sawmilling. Colophony, mostly found in soldering fumes but also present in glues and floor cleaners Dust from latex rubber, from jobs involving latex gloves used in nursing and dentist work. Dust from insects and animals are all causes of Occupational Asthma.
The above list is only a small section of work related illness and disease that can affect many employees.
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