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Contrary to popular belief, it is still possible to be exposed to harmful components in the workplace that can affect your health for years to come. As the effects have come to light from some older working methods and certain materials used in different sectors – asbestos springs to mind. There are still many other people who have been put at risk or even still are being put at risk all in the name of earning a living.


Although not true of every job, in every sector – these days many more employers take their employee’s health much more seriously – there are still fairly common workplace illnesses that can have devastating effects on your life.

  • Asthma
  • Bloodborne Infectious Diseases (Hepatitis B&C, HIV/AIDS)
  • Cancer (Occupational)
  • Flu in the Workplace
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Emerging Infectious Diseases
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Tuberculosis
  • Stress
  • Violence (occupational) injuries
  • Traumatic Occupational Injuries

Are just a few of the types of conditions you or your colleagues could face depending on the type of work you do.

Occupational accidents and diseases account for about 4% of global GDP (ILO, 2003) in industrialized countries. this could be higher in developing countries.

The effect this can have on individuals and their families is immeasurable and can be catastrophic. As well as this, the economic implications are high. The financial cost for healthcare and social security is huge so it makes sense that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has put global law into place to reduce workplace injuries, diseases and the impact on the economy.


Your employer has a legal right to make sure that your risk of contracting an occupational disease has been reduced and managed as much as possible. Employees should not be required to risk their own personal health and safety to carry out work-related tasks.

This means carrying out risk assessments – usually, via an Occupational Hygienist –  of the premises and the materials and tools you will be handling. This should include the following;

  • Anticipation of occupational and environmental health hazards
  • Recognise hazardous agents and factors
  • Assess – qualitatively and quantitatively – workers exposure to hazardous agents and interpret the results
  • Design and/or recommend effective and economical prevention and control methods.


No one wants to be in a position where they have damaged their health at work. Missed sick days, health care bills and emotional and financial pressure can take their toll on the whole family.

As well as following your training and guidance there are things you can do as an employee at risk of workplace illnesses to help reduce the risk to your personal health and that of your colleagues.

Always follow strict guidelines and handling practises as laid out by your employer when it comes to hazardous situations and materials. Pay attention to the training you have been given and follow it strictly at all times. Keep up to date with new guidelines and working practices that are helping keep yourself and others safe at all times.

Inspect any protective items of clothing, tools and equipment for any signs of wear or damage before you use them. Any defective items could increase your risk of contracting workplace illnesses. Report any damage via the appropriate channel and wait to receive further notice or new gear before continuing with your work.

Be meticulous at all times and don’t allow yourself to get distracted. This will reduce the chance of any mistakes and will keep you safe at work.

Report any injuries or health issues – work-related or not to your employer. Sometimes this can affect the work you do or increase the risk of a workplace injury or disease. As well as spreading anything highly contagious – such as the flu, you could compromise the health of others leading to them being more compromised at work too.

All in all, working in any environment comes with some element of risk, no matter what your job entails. It just so happens that some industries can be more hazardous to your long term health than others. But that doesn’t mean you should avoid working there. Following your employer’s guidelines when it comes to safe working practices will help you stay safe at work as will reporting any failing you are concerned about to the appropriate authorities. If you havecontracted an occupational disease, you must seek assistance immediately from your healthcare provider and agencies who can investigate this to make sure no laws are being broken.

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