Workplace diseases not only cost the economy but also cost the individual worker in terms of pain, suffering, time away from work, loss of income, strain on family life, and mental anguish. While some patients may be at higher risk of developing a workplace disease due to the presence of an underlying health condition, there is no way of telling who among us is going to be the next statistic on the growing list of employees who have suffered a workplace disease. Let’s take a look at some of the major causes of diseases in the workplace.
Exposure to harmful substances
Exposure to harmful substances could include exposure to either chemicals or biological agents. While this typically involves skin complaints following contact with liquids or gas, the harmful substances category also includes carcinogens – which most commonly poses a health hazard in the workplace in the form of breathing in a hazard that can cause lung cancer (for further food for thought on lung cancer due to exposure to carcinogens in the workplace, also see where does lung cancer usually spread to first?).
Stress in the workplace can result in prolonged time away from work. Factors such as an excessive workload, poor communication from leaders that result in lack of clarity, and job insecurity can all lead to heightened levels of stress that put the worker’s wellbeing at risk. Workers also report feeling increased anxieties where the workforce is not involved in decision making, meaning poorly informed choices are made over how work should be carried out – often, not enough time is given to complete tasks, leading to a situation where the employee feels that their contribution is rushed and falls below standards, leaving themselves open to disciplinary action.
Vibration white finger is a work-related disease that typically affects workers who regularly use power tools as part of their day to day role within the company. The vibrations from the tools or machinery effectively destroy the small blood vessels in the hands, leading to circulatory problems that manifest as white fingers or thumbs. The condition is graded from mild occasional white finger symptoms to severe attacks affecting the function and health of the hands. Workplace station design, layout, and an appropriate work schedule to limit exposure to vibration can all help to reduce the likelihood of the onset of symptoms (protection against cold and damp working conditions is also advised).