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Friday, August 20, 2010

Occupational Health

Ultraviolet (UV) photons harm the DNA molecule...Image via Wikipedia

Occupational health is essentially preventive medicine. The joint International Labor Organization(ILO) & World Health Organization(WHO) Committee- "occupational health should aim at the promotion and maintenance of the highest degree of physical, mental and social well being of the workers/employees in all occupations.
An industrial worker/employee may be exposed to five types of hazards depending on the occupations
  1. Physical Hazards
  2. Chemical Hazards
  3. Biochemical Hazards
  4. Mechanical Hazards
  5. Psychosocial Hazards
 Physical Hazards
(a) Heat and Cold
The common physical hazard in most industries is heat. The direct effect of heat exposure are burns, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and heat cramps. The indirect effects are decreased efficiency, increased fatigue and enhanced accident rates. Important hazards associated with cold are chilblains, erythrocyanosis, immersion foot and frost bite as a result of cutaneous vaso constriction.
(b) Light
The acute effects of poor illumination are eye strain, headache, eye pain, lachrymation, congestion around cornea and the chronic effects on health includes "miner's nystagmus". Exposure to excessive brightness is associated with discomfort, annoyance and visual fatigue.
(c) Noise
Auditory effects consist of temporary or permanent hearing loss where as non-auditory effects include nervousness, fatigue, interference with speech etc.
(d) Vibration
Vibration affects hands and arms. After some months or years of exposure, the fine blood vessels of the fingers may be increasingly sensitive to spasm.
(e) Ultra Violet Radiation
Occupational exposure to UV radiation occurs mainly in arc welding. Such radiations affect the eye, causing intense Conjuctivitis and keratitis.
(f) Ionizing Radiation
Ionizing radiations are finding increased application in medicine and industry. X-rays and radioactive isotopes are widely used. The radiation hazards compromises of genetic changes, malformation, cancer, leukemia, ulceration and in extreme cases the death.
Chemical Hazards
Chemical agents act in three ways; local action, inhalation and ingestion
(a) Local Action
Some chemicals are absorbed through the skin and cause systemic effects. Occupational dermatitis are due machine oil, rubber, x-rays, caustic alkalies and lime.
(b) Inhalation
  1. Gases: Carbon di-oxide, carbon monoxide, cyanide gas, sulphur dioxide cause gas poisoning
  2. Dusts: Inorganic dusts such as coal dust, silica, asbestos, iron causes anthracosis, silicosis, asbestosis, cancer lung, siderosis. Organic dusts such as cane fibre, cotton dust, tobacco, hay or grain dust cause bagassosis, byssinosis, tobacossis and farmer's lung.
  3. Metals and their compounds: This is due to various systemic effects caused by heavy metals like lead, mercury, cadmium, manganese, arsenic, chromium etc
(c) Ingestion
Occupational diseases may also result from ingestion of chemical substances such as lead, mercury, arsenic, zinc, cadmium, phosphorous etc

Biological Hazards
Worker may be exposed to infective and parasitic agents at the place of work. The occupational diseases includes leptospirosis, anthrax, tetanus, hydatidosis, fungal infections etc

Mechanical Hazards
The mechanical hazards in an industry center around machinery, protruding moving parts and the like. Around 10% of accidents in industry are said to be due to mechanical causes.

Psychosocial Hazards
The Psychosocial hazards arise from the worker's failure to adapt to an alien psychosocial environment. Frustrations, lack of job satisfaction, insecurity, emotional tension are some of the psychosocial factors that determine the physical and mental health of the workers/employees.


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