Occupational Health Hazards

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Depending on the type of employment the worker may be exposed to physical hazard, chemical hazard, biological hazard, mechanical hazard and psychosocial hazard.

Physical Hazards: physical hazards may be heat & cold, noise, ionizing radiation, ultraviolet radiation, vibration and light.

1. Heat & cold: Heat is a common health hazard in industries. Direct effects of heat are heat stroke (sun stroke), burns, heat exhaustion and heat cramps. Indirect effects of heat are decreased efficiency, increased fatigue and increased chances of accidents. Ovens and furnaces radiate heat and in textile and jute industries causes heat stagnation. High temperature is also seen in deep mines where it may go up to as high as 65 deg. C. work under such condition is extremely difficult, stressful and health & efficiency of worker is diminished.

Important hazards due to cold are chilblain, frost bite and immersion foot or trench foot and erythrocyanosis. Cold injuries are commonly seen in the oilfields near the polar regions. Hypothermia is also an important health hazard in some industries.

2. Noise: noise is a health hazard in many workplaces and its effects can be auditory and non auditory. Auditory effect is temporary or permanent hearing loss. Non auditory effects are fatigue, nervousness, decreased efficiency and annoyance and interference with speech communication. The degree of injury due to noise depend on intensity and frequency range, duration of exposure and susceptibility of the individual.

3. Ionizing radiation: ionizing radiation from X-rays and radioactive isotopes are health hazards cobalt 60 and phosphorus 32 are commonly used now and cause radiation. Some tissues like bone marrow. Radiation can lead to genetic changes, cancers, leukemia, sterility and malformation. The International Commission on Radiological protection has set the maximum permissible level of occupational exposure to 5 rem per year to the whole body.

4. Ultraviolet radiation: ultraviolet radiation in industries like welding can the eyes and can cause conjunctivitis and keratitis known as “welder’s flash”. Symptoms of welder’s flash are redness of eyes and pain, but disappear in a few days without any permanent damage to the eyes.

5. Vibration: 10 to 500 Hz vibration can be seen in industries using pneumatic drills and hammers. Vibration usually affects arms and after months and years of exposures small blood vessels of fingers can become sensitive to vibration and cause spasm known as “white fingers”. Exposure to vibration can injure joints of hands, elbow joints and shoulder joints.

6. Light: worker may be exposed to poor or excess illumination. The acute effects of poor illumination include eye strain, eye pain, headache, tearing, eye fatigue and congestion around cornea. The effects of chronic exposure to poor illumination is “miner’s nystagmus”. Exposure to excess illumination or glare causes discomfort, visual fatigue and annoyance. Sudden intense direct glare can cause blurring of vision and accidents. Don’t forget, weight loss also has relation to your health.

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