Occupational Illnesses: Five dangerous elements to be aware of

While most occupations are safe for employees, quite a few threaten your health, albeit unknowingly.

When you leave for work to earn for your family, the last thing you want is to be exposed to a health threat regularly and put your loved ones at risk.

It is widely known that every employer is responsible for ensuring the safety of their employees at the workplace.

Unfortunately, however, workplace hazards are pretty common; the International Labour Organization (ILO) reports approximately 160 million instances of non-fatal work diseases and 2 million fatal diseases that occur every year across the globe.

Such occupational illnesses are usually because of employer and management negligence. The health threat varies depending on the type and nature of the job, but an occupational disease of any kind, if left untreated or gone unnoticed, can pose a life threat.

As employees, it is your right to be aware of any such health threat at your workplace and take action if necessary.

But before you can take any step, you must know what you might be up against; the following are some dangerous elements you should be aware of:

  1. Asbestos exposure leading to cancer

Asbestos is a toxic mineral fiber that gets suspended in the air and can get inhaled or ingested. Such exposure can have a devastating impact, and one consequence is mesothelioma, a terminal form of cancer.

A study revealed that among individuals living or working near an asbestos manufacturing plant, pleural mesothelioma rates were the highest in those exposed to asbestos the most (significantly higher than the control group with no exposure; 2.8% compared to 0.1% in the control group).

P.S – Check out mesotheliomahope.com for more information about the illness and treatment options.

The occupations most likely to expose you to this terrible chemical include chemical plants, power plants, shipyards, and metal works.

  1. Gaseous chemicals

Gaseous chemical exposure is another widespread threat to your health at the workplace; commonly used toxic gases include sulfur dioxide, fluorine, and chlorine, gases that can seriously irritate the eyes and lungs.

Other gaseous chemicals like phosgene and nitrogen oxides are much more subtle in their impact; you might not notice that these gases are at their insidious work inside your body at exposure.

Within a few hours, it could cause breathlessness and ultimately fatal cardiorespiratory failure because of fluid build-up in your lungs.

Other gases like carbon dioxide and methane can interfere, reduce oxygen supply to your lungs, and cause asphyxiation. You should be aware of the threat posed by such gases, if any, at your workplace.

If you get a hint at such a situation, avoid entering enclosed spaces alone and get your manager to arrange for proper ventilation.

  1. COVID-19 contamination

Considering the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic, a severe threat, especially in the healthcare sector, is that of exposure to this highly contagious virus.

Even medium-risk exposure occupations with no direct and obvious contact with COVID-19 patients pose at least some threat. For instance, at jobs where there is little proper ventilation and frequent contact with the general public, you can unknowingly come into contact with someone carrying the virus.

Jobs that fall under this category include those where close personal contact (within 6 feet) with the community is necessary. Even if you’re not directly dealing with COVID-19 patients in hospitals, be aware of such threats in your workplace.

High to very-high exposure occupational settings include healthcare delivery, medical transport jobs, mortuary work, and healthcare facilities.

The CDC reports that the virus is most likely to spread through person-to-person contact with a carrier, inevitable in these settings.

  1. Exposure to irritants that cause skin disease

Another commonly reported occupational disease – a threat you should be aware of – is contact dermatitis. Physical exposure to chemicals, parasites, toxic plants, temperature conditions, and irritants can cause skin conditions.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that 13 million workers in the United States are likely to be exposed to such variables that can cause skin disease

  1. The risk of occupational asthma

Research by OSHA shows that 15% of all asthma suffers in the U.S. develop the problem through work-related factors.

Asthma is a disease characterized by problems in breathing, tightness in the chest, coughing, and related respiratory complications. Common irritants you encounter at work, like paint, insecticides, dust, gases, or fumes, can lead to this problem after repeated exposure.

Be on the lookout for any of the following symptoms; runny nose, eye irritation, wheezing, shortening of breath, nasal congestion, and tightening of the chest.

You might be experiencing such breathing difficulties because of regular exposure to irritants at the workplace, and you should be aware of the threat. Occupational asthma is generally a reversible problem, and if exposure is stopped in time, the damage can be reversed.

Final words

We cannot ignore the health risk posed to workers, no matter how small, at their workplace, and it is up to you, as an employer or an employee, to keep a vigilant eye on such factors.

You should be well aware of the safety threats you might be exposed to at your workplace; these can range from asbestos, gaseous chemicals, or COVID-19 virus exposure to the risk of occupational asthma.

If you notice any such health threat, it is up to you to inform the authorities and bring them to take action.