The safety and health of the staff are one of the biggest concerns of the organizations registered with regulatory authorities.
However, several factors influence occupational illnesses or workplace diseases among the workers. These may include the nature of the work, constant exposure to harmful substances, poor working conditions, and excessive wear and tear.
When employees work in environments that do not follow safety standards, they are more likely to suffer from occupational illnesses.
All workers must know about workplace hazards and safety and health standards to protect themselves from workplace diseases.
Here are the six common types of workplace diseases you should know about.
1. Occupational Hearing Loss
According to statistics, one of the most common occupational diseases among United States workers is hearing loss. Workers who perform their jobs in noisy environments such as construction sites, factories, shipbuilding, mining, etc., are at high risk of losing hearing.
In addition, an isolated event, for example, an explosion, can also affect the workers’ hearing. Employees may face varying levels of hearing problems or complete loss of hearing depending on the severity of the workplace environment.
In general, 85 decibels or less is the safe limit to work for an eight-hour or less period. Ototoxic chemicals, including asphyxiants and organic solvents, also cause occupational hearing loss.
The most effective method to avoid occupational hearing loss is eliminating the harmful noise exceeding the safe limits.
Moreover, organizations can implement safety protocols such as replacing, regulating, and setting time limits. In constant exposure to loud noise, protective gear may become ineffective in safeguarding the workers from partial or complete hearing loss.
2. Occupational Cancers
The most common occupational cancers include lung cancer, mesothelioma cancer, skin, and bladder cancer.
Occupational cancers are likely to develop in workers exposed to carcinogenic agents. These may include industrial chemicals, metals and combustion materials, asbestos, dust, diesel engine exhaust, etc.
Asbestos is the primary carcinogenic agent that causes mesothelioma, which is terminal. Ultraviolet radiation is also one of the causes of skin cancer among workers who work long shifts under direct sunlight.
Oil rig workers and farmers are especially at high risk of developing skin cancer. Some professions, such as aluminum manufacturing and painting, are at higher risk of causing cancer due to the nature of the work.
Workers can avoid extreme environments and wear masks to protect themselves from occupational cancers.
3. Occupational Asthma
Respiratory problems are common at workplaces caused by dust, harmful chemicals, toxic gasses, and polluted air.
Construction workers, miners, healthcare staff, bakers, factory and textile workers, and automotive industry workers are more susceptible.
In the United States, work-related factors contribute to the growth of respiratory diseases like asthma in 15 percent of these disease-affected patients.
Several factors may cause occupational asthma, including exposure to irritants such as chlorine or ammonia, allergies linked with animals or materials like paint, insecticides, etc.
In short, almost every chemical or material present in the environment that a human can inhale may trigger asthma.
Constant or excessive exposure to toxic environments can lead to permanent damage in asthma patients.
Based on their immunity systems, it affects workers differently. As long as you are part of the environment that caused asthma, there are no chances of cure.
Other occupational respiratory diseases are tuberculosis, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and hypersensitivity pneumonitis.
4. Contact Dermatitis
Workers suffer from occupational skin disorders when directly exposed to chemicals, allergens, and harmful UV radiation.
Contact Dermatitis is one of the serious occupational skin disorders caused by allergies, chemicals, parasites, irritants, mechanical labor, plants, or animals.
Occupational contact dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin and accounts for 90% to 95% of the total skin-related workplace diseases in the United States.
Using protective gear, sunscreen and avoiding exposure to harmful substances can prevent itching, redness, and painful and dry skin caused by dermatitis.
Apply cool and damp clothing to the affected areas in severe conditions, and seek professional support for steroid therapy and antihistamines.
5. Occupational Heat Illness
Occupational heat illness is common among workers who work in hot environments, direct sunlight, and non-ventilated areas.
The degree of heat illness varies depending on exposure to the hot environment. Stroke, camps, and exhaustion are common heat illnesses that workers suffer from exposure to heat for extended hours or excessive heat for a shorter time.
The symptoms of heat illness vary from weakness, sweating, and headache, to nausea and fainting. The factors that trigger heat illness may include obesity, cardiac diseases, and old age.
The preventive measures effective against heat illness are keeping your body hydrated, wearing light-colored dresses, resting in shady areas, and avoiding exposure to direct sunlight.
In addition, protective gear can also help keep the body’s normal temperature.
6. Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) are also an occupational disease in the United States. The muscles, joints, nerves, spinal discs, cartilage, and tendons are injuries or work-related musculoskeletal disorders.
The common musculoskeletal disorders include carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, rotator cuff tendinitis, and hernias. According to statistics,
Workers involved in physical activity for a long period and repeated and strenuous working of muscles are more likely to suffer from musculoskeletal disorders.
In several professions, workers perform overexerting tasks of lifting and moving heavy objects, standing in the same position for hours, etc.
Healthcare staff, especially nurses, typists, cashiers, butchers, and warehouse workers, are at higher risk. According to statistics, registered nurses in the United States experienced 8,730 health-related cases caused by MSDs.
The ratio of MSD cases is much higher, 46.0 cases per 10,000 full-time workers, than all other occupations.
Prevention is always the best treatment for occupational illnesses. Health and safety standards help organizations maintain a healthy working environment for workers.
The best approach to overcome and control workplace diseases is implementing strict safety and health policies regarding workers.
Organizations that exercise safety measures and provide healthy working conditions to workers are more progressive. Moreover, workers must follow safety protocols while performing their jobs.
For instance, they must wear protective gear such as gloves, caps, uniforms, etc., to protect themselves against harmful substances and extreme temperatures.