The principles of controls for health risks are the same as those for safety. However, the nature of health risks can make the link between work activities and employee ill health less obvious than in the case of injury from an accident. Unlike safety risks, which can lead to immediate injury, the result of daily exposure to health risks may not manifest itself for months, years and, in some cases, decades. Irreversible health damage may occur before any symptoms are apparent. It is, therefore, essential to develop a preventive strategy to identify and control risks before anyone is exposed to them.

Occupational health risk from work activities include.

  • Contact of skin with irritating substance which can lead to dermatitis, etc.
  • Inhalation of respiratory sensitizers, triggering immune responses such as asthma.
  • Badly designed workstations requiring awkward body postures or repetitive movements, resulting in upper limb disorders, repetitive strain injury and other musculoskeletal conditions.
  • Too high noise level can cause deafness and conditions like tinnitus.
  • Too much vibration, for example from hand-held tools leading to hand arm vibration syndrome and circulatory problems.
  • Exposure to ionizing and non-ionizing radiation including ultraviolet in the sun’s rays, causing burns, sickness and skin cancer.
  • Infections ranging from minor sickness to life threatening conditions, caused by inhaling or being contaminated with microbiological organisms.
  • Stress that can cause mental and physical disorders.

Some illnesses or conditions, such as asthma and back pain, have both occupational and non occupational causes and it may be difficult to establish a definite causal link with a person’s work activity or their exposure to particular agents or substances. But, if there is evidence that shows the illness or condition is prevalent among the type of workers to which the person belongs or among workers exposed to similar agents or substances, it is likely that their work and exposure has contributed in some way.

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