Occupational hazards in various sectors can have a massive impact on workers’ health and lead to multiple occupational diseases and illnesses.
That said, the most effective and easiest method to prevent occupational diseases is to control or eliminate the hazards at the source.
Incorporating appropriate preventive measures help workers protect themselves from work-related risks and the occupational disease caused by them.
According to the Internation Labor Organization(ILO), occupational or work-related diseases can be categorized as illnesses and diseases caused by exposure to psychological, biological, chemical, and physical factors.
For example, physical hazards found at the workplace include; radiation, humidity, temperature, air pressure, vibration, to name a few. On the other hand, chemical hazards include; exposure to alkalis, acids, cleaning agents, solvents, etc.
Furthermore, biological risks typically found at the workplace are; fungi, viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens. As a result, identifying these hazards and doing whatever you can to stay away from them is the best way to remain protected from occupational diseases and illnesses.
With that in mind, let’s look at a few tips and tricks workers can utilize to avoid contracting various occupational diseases at the workplace.
Eliminate the hazards from the source.
As mentioned above, the best way to stay away from occupational diseases is by getting to the source of the hazards causing the illnesses themselves and eliminating them.
For instance, if your workplace contains materials with asbestos, prohibiting the use of insulation material or using proper prevention equipment lowers your risk of contracting pleural mesothelioma, a type of terminal cancer that results from extensive exposure to asbestos and asbestos-containing materials.
Furthermore, if your job involves caisson work, avoiding hand-dug caisson work and wearing breathing equipment can dramatically lower your risk of contracting silicosis. It is a lung disease caused by inhaling bits of silica found in soil and rock.
Incorporate the use of alternate materials, machines, or tools.
If it’s isn’t possible to avoid work processes that lead to various occupational diseases, safer alternative materials, machines, or equipment will help reduce severe health effects on workers.
For instance, using fiberglass instead of asbestos-containing materials will lower workers’ chances of contracting asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis from the workplace.
Furthermore, if you work around chemicals, substituting benzene with toluene-based solvents will prevent workers from contracting benzene-acquired leukemia.
Moreover, using water-soluble cleansing agents instead of organic solvent will lower the risk of contact dermatitis – an occupational skin disease.
In addition, if you’re a construction worker, using low-noise producing equipment will decrease employees’ chances of suffering occupational hearing loss.
Apply engineering controls at the workplace.
If work-related hazards cannot be controlled or reduced by using safer tools, machines, or materials, ask your employer to incorporate other engineering controls to limit exposure to such hazards.
As a result, enclosure of workplace hazards is the best way to minimize the risk of contracting occupational diseases.
For instance, project managers and contractors should enclose the rock-crushing process in a quarry to prevent workers from contracting silicosis due to silica dust inhalation.
But, if the enclosure isn’t possible, workers should be isolated from work processes or hazards that cause various occupational diseases.
For example, when removing insulation from the workplace, isolating the work area will limit the spread of asbestos particles to other locations. This prevents workers from contracting asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma or asbestosis.
If you’re working in the healthcare industry, isolating infected patients (those infected with Covid-19) into appropriate isolation wards will protect healthcare workers from being infected.
Ensure your workplace has an excellent ventilation system.
An excellent ventilation system will circulate fresh air into your workplace and ensure a comfortable working environment.
However, it is also vital for extracting dangerous particles and safeguarding your overall health and well-being. Good workplace ventilation will usually be affected by machinal or natural issues.
For instance, if your workplace uses a manual ventilation system, ask your employer to install additional local exhaust ventilation to reduce or lower exposure to harmful airborne substances effectively.
Another example would be if you work in the healthcare sector, ask your employer to install a negative pressure ventilation system in isolation wards to lower the spread of airborne diseases.
Restaurant owners should consider installing local exhaust systems to extract hot air from the kitchens, reduce humidity, regulate temperature, and help protect workers from heat-related illnesses like heat strokes.
Ask your employer to provide regular rest breaks.
Regularly rotating workers engaged in physically demanding tasks or offering rest breaks will reduce their exposure to work hazards that lead to multiple work-related disorders and illnesses.
For instance, regularly rotating workers from noisy to quiet environments will limit their exposure to loud noises and decrease their chances of suffering occupational hearing loss.
In addition, offering regular rest breaks to employees working in hot work environments can reduce their chances of suffering a heat stroke.
Typically, symptoms and signs of occupational illnesses and diseases don’t appear early. Due to this, workers might delay or neglect treatment until their conditions deteriorate to a point where treatment becomes difficult or is no longer an option.
Most occupational diseases such as mesothelioma or lung cancer are difficult to treat and cause life-long disabilities or death in worse cases.
But, in the end, work-related diseases are entirely preventable. So, consider the tips mentioned in this article, and you will be well on your way to keeping yourself safe and protected at the workplace.