Occupational Diseases

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Most of us, adults, spend at least one‐third of our day at work. Sometimes, we get carried away with the several tasks we have to accomplish before the end of the working day, then suddenly feel physically exhausted or even pained. In fact, there are several factors contributing to our well-being at the workplace that are related to the work environment, the handled materials, the machinery, the postures, etc. Both work owners and employees have to consider these factors to maintain a healthy working power, increase productivity, and avoid occupational diseases.

The World Health Organization defines occupational diseases as those “contracted primarily as a result of an exposure to risk factors arising from work activity”. Let us investigate some of the most notorious occupational diseases in detail and find out how to avoid them.

Occupational Overuse Syndrome

Occupational Overuse Syndrome (OOS) is among the most common occupational diseases. As the name suggests, this condition occurs when a certain activity is carried out over a period of time where there is an overuse of the affected area. In other words, it is caused by any repetitive work practice or activity that causes the muscles to be held tight and tense for long periods. For example, prolonged wrong seating postures for desk-based employees can lead to OOS.

The OOS symptoms develop gradually and worsen over time; if not treated, OOS can lead to losing muscle strength, burning sensations in the tissues, and sleep disturbances. Mild symptoms include fatigue, headaches, anxiety, and loss of concentration. Patients could also experience numbness, tingling, and spasms, as well as discomfort or persistent pain in muscles, joints, tendons, and nerves.

The treatment of OOS includes pain relieving and anti-inflammatory medications, relaxation exercises, and physiotherapy. To prevent OOS, workers and employers should avoid prolonged repetitive movements, take regular breaks, and maintain correct postures and a good level of general fitness.

Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders

Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WMSDs) are a group of painful disorders of muscles, tendons, and nerves. These disorders arise from repetitive, forceful, or speedy arm and hand movements; harsh temperatures and vibration also contribute to the development of WMSDs.

Muscle injuries occur due to prolonged muscle contractions that reduce the blood flow. As a result, some substances that are produced inside the muscles accumulate causing irritation and pains. The severity of the pain depends on the duration of the contractions and the intervals between activities to allow those irritating substances to move with the blood flow.

Tendon injuries can occur in tendons with sheaths found in the hand and wrist. With repetitive or excessive movement, the liquid that lubricates the tendon’s friction with its sheath decreases or becomes less effective, causing inflammation and swelling of the tendon area. On the other hand, tendons without sheaths are found around the shoulder, elbow, and forearm; fibers of these tendons can tear apart when repeatedly tensed.

Nerves damage as repetitive motions and awkward postures cause the tissues surrounding them to swell and compress them. The compression of nerves weakens muscles and causes sensations of numbness and tingling.

WMSDs can progress from mild to severe; hence, the treatment can vary from topical treatment to applying sophisticated surgeries. To avoid WMSDs, it is advisable that employers adopt mechanization for tasks that threaten human health; they should also apply a job rotation approach, which allows workers to move between different tasks, engaging different muscle groups.

I believe each and every one of us needs to revisit their daily experience at work and scan the possible threats and risk factors to our health and wellbeing. Speak to your employers and colleagues, share knowledge, and spread healthy practices. Last but not least, always remember that health comes first!

References

southerncross.co.nz

ccohs.ca

cupe.ca

dovemed.com

wsps.ca

debgroup.com


Cover image source


Published in SCIplanet Printed Magazine, Spring 2018 Issue

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