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Occupational Health Hazards -Introduction and Types

Occupational hazard may be defined as a source or situation with a potential for harm in terms of injury or ill health, damage to property, damage to the workplace environment, or a combination of these.

Types of Occupational Health Hazards

a)    Physical
b)    Chemical
c)    Biological
d)    Mechanical
e)    Psychosocial

a. Diseases due to Physical Agents

1. Heat – Exhaustion, Syncope, Cramps, burns, Prickly
2. Cold – Frost bite
3. Light – Occupational Cataract, Illumination
4. Atmospheric-pressure – Caisson disease, explosion
5. Noise – Occupational deafness
6. Radiation – Cancer, Leukemia, Aplastic anemia
7. Electricity – Burns, Shocks

Heat Illness

Predisposing factors for heat illness include:

–    Physical activity
–    Extremes of age, poor physical condition, fatigue
–    Excessive clothing
–    Dehydration
–    Cardiovascular disease
–    Skin disorders
–    Obesity
–    Drugs -Phenothiazines, Anticholinergics, Diuretics, Amphetamines, Cocaine, MAOIs

b. Chemical Hazards

Routes of entry of chemical hazards include inhalation (main route of entry), ingestion and skin absorption.
Chemical agents may be:

1. Metals – Lead, As, Hg, Cd, Ni , Co
2. Aromatic Hydrocarbons – Benzene, Toluene, Phenol
3. Aliphatic Hydrocarbons – Methyl alcohol
4. Gases

a. Simple asphyxiants : N2, CH4, CO2;

b. Chemical asphyxiants : CO, H2S, HCN

c. Irritant gases: Ammonia, SO2, Cl2

TLV (Threshold Limit Value)

“Time-weighted average concentration for a normal 8-hour working day and a 40-hour working week, to which nearly all workers may be repeatedly exposed day after day, without adverse effect”

c. Biological Hazards

Biological hazards include:
•    Bacteria – Tetanus, Tuberculosis, Anthrax, Brucellosis (Milkmen), Gonorrhea
•    Virus – Hepatitis, HIV
•    Protozoal & Parasitic – Malaria, Hookworms, Hydatid (Dog-handlers), tapeworms
•     Fungi (Agri-workers) – Tinea-infections, Psittacosis, Coccidiomycosis, Ornithosis

d. Mechanical Hazards

Mechanical hazards include:
•    Injuries – Falls, cuts, abrasions, concussions, contusions
•    Ergonomic Disorders – Musculo-skeletal disorders(MSDs), Cumulative-trauma-Disorders (CTDs)
•    Ergonomics –  Adjustment of Man & Machine
•    Ergo-friendly tools – Tools which reduce the stresses or problems resulting in CTD’s / MSD’s.)

e. Psychosocial Hazards

Psychosocial hazards include lack of job satisfaction, insecurity, poor interpersonal relations, work pressure, ambiguity.
Psychological & behavioral changes including hostility, aggressiveness, anxiety, depression, alcoholism, drug addiction, sickness absenteeism
Psychosomatic disorders like hypertension, headache, body-ache, peptic ulcers, asthma, diabetes, heart disorders.

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