Occupational hazards exist in every working environment. But, how do you know which ones can harm you the most? By identifying workplace hazards, you’ll be better equipped to eliminate or control them to avoid injuries, illnesses, and accidents.
Before safety guidelines were established, occupational diseases and injuries were a significant cause of mortality and morbidity. Workplace interventions continually reduce exposure to workplace hazards that cause various diseases.
However, exposure to various work-related risk factors such as harmful chemicals, biological agents, and cancerous materials is still more prevalent in a few industries than in others.
While conducting a formal hazard and risk assessment is crucial, it’s also critical for workers to know every workplace’s risk factors. Because as a worker, the more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to keep yourself safe.
For instance, construction workers and insulation fitters are more prone to asbestos exposure than healthcare workers. Knowing you might be exposed to this material, you should take preventive measures like PPEs, gloves, and masks.
With that said, let’s look at a few occupational risk factors you might not have considered.
Occupational mesothelioma risk factors
Mesothelioma is an aggressive but terminal form of cancer that typically results from prolonged asbestos (naturally occurring mineral) exposure.
The severity of this disease depends on an individual’s asbestos exposure history. As far as treatment goes, surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy are your only option if you’re in the earlier stages.
An online informative and detailed resource will help you understand the disease in detail, the treatment options available, and the steps you should take if you’ve been diagnosed with it.
Doctors claim that the two most common risk factors of mesothelioma are your occupation and location. So, people working in maintenance and demolition are the most susceptible to developing this lung disease.
Occupational contact dermatitis risk factors
Contact dermatitis is a blistering/itchy skin disease typically caused by damaged skin’s direct contact with chemicals or substances. There are two main types of contact dermatitis – the irritant type and the allergic type.
Allergic contact dermatitis occurs when a worker’s skin comes in physical contact with known allergins like topical medication, cosmetics, plants, adhesives, or nickel.
On the other hand, irritant contact dermatitis occurs when damaged skin comes in physical contact with common triggers such as solvents, dyes, bleaches, soaps, etc.
As far as risk factors go, construction workers, machinists, hairdressers, beauticians, food handlers, and healthcare workers are more prone to contracting contact dermatitis than others.
Furthermore, genetics also play a massive role in determining whether an individual contracts contact dermatitis or not. These include how prone you are to developing allergies, how your body produces an inflammatory response, and how well your skin blocks out allergins.
Occupational asthma risk factors
Occupational asthma is a respiratory disease caused by inhaling dust, gases, chemical fumes, and other substances at the workplace. This work-related illness usually occurs when employees are exposed to substances known to cause an immunological or allergic response.
Like other forms of asthma, occupational asthma has various symptoms, including shortness of breath, wheezing, cough, chest tightness, and more.
That said, the intensity of exposure to these irritants or triggers increases your chances of contracting occupational asthma.
For instance, if you already have allergies, you’ll be more prone to developing occupational asthma when exposed to particular lung irritants.
Not to mention, if you smoke daily, your risk of developing occupational asthma will drastically increase when exposed to specific types of irritants.
Veterinarians, metal workers, hairdressers, pharmaceutical workers, chemical handlers, healthcare workers, and textile workers are at a high risk of developing occupational allergies and asthma.
Occupational Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) risk factors
COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease results from prolonged exposure to gases, chemicals, fumes, and industrial dust.
Metal molders, grain handlers, and coal miners exposed to chemical vapors and dust are more prone to developing COPD over time. In fact, according to a US-based survey, work-acquired COPD accounts for around 19.2% of all known occupational respiratory illnesses.
That said, in rare cases, genetics is a common risk factor for occupational COPD. Meaning, workers who lack the protein alpha 1 (α1) –antitrypsin (AAT) are at a higher risk of developing occupational COPD.
Furthermore, the risk of developing COPD is also prevalent in workers aged 40 years and above. Lastly, if you smoke, your chances of developing this respiratory disease are higher than those who don’t.
The symptoms of occupational diseases often provide clues about their causes. Therefore, ensure that you create a list of signs and symptoms when you visit your doctor for a diagnosis.
That said, once you identify the triggers of an occupational disease, treating it will be easier. Remember to take adequate precautions when working around dangerous materials, allergens, and chemicals. In the case of occupational diseases, prevention is always better than cure.