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What Are Occupational Hazards?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 26 March 2014
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Occupational hazards are dangers to human health and well being which are associated with specific occupations. While efforts are made to reduce hazards, these hazards remain present in the workplace by nature of the profession. For a telephone lineperson, for example, falls from height are an occupational hazard because members of telephone crews need to work at heights to do their work. Recognizing occupational hazards is the first step in working on risk reduction programs for the workplace to keep work as safe and healthy as possible.

Some jobs are, by their very nature, extremely hazardous. Jobs with numerous occupational hazards often provide better pay for their employees, in recognition of the danger, and they are also usually charged higher rates for insurance, because underwriters recognize that the chance of paying out on that insurance is much higher. For example, insuring professional firefighters is more expensive than providing basic disability insurance for a small office, because the assumption is that firefighting is dangerous.

Occupational hazards may lead to illness, injury, or death. They can include physical risks like falls and exposures to heavy machinery, along with psychological ones such as stress. Occupational hazards like exposure to chemical, biological, and radiological agents are also a concern. In people who work in jobs with at recognized occupational safety hazard, special training is often provided so that people are made aware of the hazard.

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Given that these hazards cannot be eliminated, workplaces take steps to address them. For example, people who are exposed to radiation are expected to wear radiation badges to monitor their exposure so that if their exposure level becomes dangerous, they can be treated. Likewise, people who work at heights wear safety harnesses so that if they fall, they are less likely to be injured. Emergency response plans are also in place to handle workplace injuries and accidents quickly and efficiently.

People should make sure that they are familiar with all of the occupational hazards in their workplaces, and that they know how to address the hazard. This includes everything from learning proper typing posture to reduce injury at a desk job to checking safety equipment before entering a burning building with a fire crew. Employers who fail to provide adequate training and equipment for their staff can be penalized by government agencies which monitor health and safety, and employees who behave negligently around occupational hazards may find themselves out of a job.

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Discuss this Article

surfNturf
Post 3

Comfyshoes- People that engage in heavy machinery or perform dangerous jobs like mining often have occupational health safety meetings in order to ensure that these employees are prepared for their jobs and know what to do in case of an emergency.

The recent Chilean miner accident reminds us too much of what can happen to these miners and the risks that they often take to perform their jobs. They were lucky, but most mining accident have grim results. This is why it is really important for companies to have safety in the workplace meetings.

comfyshoes
Post 2

Mutsy- I think that is so sad. I wanted to add to that many in the medical profession are also susceptible to occupational accidents in the workplace.

Although doctors wear scrubs and head covering and gloves along with washing their hands, they can still be exposed to contagious diseases.

For example, I was watching the show, “Extreme Cases in the ER” and a doctor punchered a slight hole in a patient’s chest in order to relieve the pain and the stress that was causing the patient.

By doing so, the patient’s blood splattered all over the doctor including his eyes. The patient did not reveal that he was just diagnosed with HIV. The doctor then took an HIV test and luckily he did not have the virus.

This just goes to show you that you can still find occupational hazards even though as a doctor you can have gloves and a mask because in this case the blood could have entered through his eyes which were exposed.

This really exposed the occupational medical hazards that exist everyday that we don’t even think about and how occupational health safety can always be improved.

mutsy
Post 1

I know that there are many workplace hazards. For example, a construction worker may experience an occupational accident such as a fall and become injured or die.

A general contractor working on refurbishing an older building might be exposed to asbestos which releases toxins in the air that leads to mesothelioma which is a rare form of lung cancer.

Another example includes many surviving firefighters and police officers that later died due to the exposure of the carcinogens that were in the air as a result of the devastating attack on the twin towers during September 11th.

Many of these workers received various forms of cancer and died even though a lot of these workers used masks. Some of the relief workers also suffered the same fate from the toxic air which was earlier deemed acceptable by the EPA.

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