A happier, healthier workforce means a more productive business. As an employer, it’s your responsibility to provide a workspace free of hazards and to train your staff on workplace safety. To educate your team about occupational risks and how to prevent injury, you want to recognize the most common work-related injuries and illnesses. Some jobs present more risks than others, so be sure to research industry-specific liabilities.
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Overexertion happens when an employee pushes themselves too far. Common symptoms include dizziness, nausea, lightheadedness, and feeling faint. The best treatment for overexertion is rest and hydration. Depending on the overexertion level, it could take several weeks or even a few months to recover.
Overexertion is most common in labor-intensive industries that take place outside, such as construction or lawn care. Thankfully, preventing overexertion is fairly simple. Encourage your workers to stay hydrated, take scheduled breaks, and wear weather-appropriate clothing on the job.
2. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome develops from repetitive hand movements, such as typing. Common symptoms include numbness, tingling, and weakness in the hand and arm, typically on the palm side. Mild cases can be treated with wrist exercises and rest, but more severe cases may require surgery.
To prevent employees from developing this syndrome, you can provide wrist pads for mouse and keyboard use and encourage anyone who types for most of the day to stop and stretch their hands and wrists frequently.
Tendonitis also occurs due to repeated movement, but the symptoms include swelling around tendons, which connect muscle tissue to the bone. Most tendonitis cases occur in the shoulders, elbows, and ankles, and you can treat it with ice packs, rest, and pain killers.
Any worker who lifts heavy items or has to rotate their joints regularly is at risk of tendonitis. You should train them in proper lifting techniques and show them how to stretch and warm-up before starting manual labor. Also, encourage them to take breaks and rest when necessary.
4. Rotator Cuff Syndrome
Rotator cuff syndrome is a specific type of tendonitis that occurs in the shoulder. Repeatedly lifting heavy objects or boxes is a common cause.
If ice packs and pain medication is not enough, an employee with rotator cuff syndrome may need physical therapy or steroid injections to help their shoulder heal.
5. Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can have different causes, but the most common is exposure to loud noises. Unfortunately, hearing loss due to loud noise is permanent and can only be treated with hearing aids.
Industries using loud machines, such as construction, assembly lines, or mechanics, are at high risk of hearing loss. Preventing hearing loss is as straight forward as providing adequate protective gear. Earmuffs or plugs will block out sound and prevent loud noises from causing damage.
6. Occupational Asthma
Occupational asthma occurs when someone regularly breaths in a toxic substance or dust on the job. Indicators of the condition include wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and tightness in the chest. Doctors treat asthma with bronchodilators and anti-inflammatory medications.
Any industry that deals with chemicals or dust, such as construction or painting, is subject to this hazard and should consider supplying employees with self contained breathing apparatus. Employers should limit employee exposure to dust and toxic substances by rotating workers throughout the day. You should also provide protective gear and train employees on the risks of prolonged exposure to dust.
7. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
COPD is an inflammatory lung disease caused by inhaling toxic fumes and smoke. It shares similar symptoms with asthma, but with the addition of mucus development. Medical professionals treat COPD with rescue inhalers and steroids.
This condition typically affects firefighters, painters, miners, concrete manufacturers, smelters, and other employees in industrial positions.
Wearing protective gear like facemasks can help mitigate the risks of developing COPD. In extreme cases, providing employees with oxygen tanks may be necessary.
Mesothelioma is a malignant tumor typically found in lung tissue; however, it can spread to other organs. It’s caused by asbestos exposure and is usually accompanied by chest pain, coughing, and shortness of breath.
Employees working in construction or demolition naturally face the highest risks of developing mesothelioma. Many companies stopped using asbestos years ago, but materials with asbestos remain in millions of houses and buildings across the country. Employers in at-risk industries must follow the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines for asbestos exposure.
Care and Compensation
Under workers’ compensation laws, most companies legally have to provide employees with insurance benefits for work-related illnesses and injuries. Workers’ compensation can cover emergency care, long-term medical expenses, disability benefits, replacement of lost wages, and in the event of a fatality, death benefits. To provide the best possible care for your employees, business owners should review their workers’ comp policies annually.
Identifying and Minimizing Risks
When it comes to occupational hazards, awareness is key. Spend some time researching the industry-specific risks your employees face and what you can do to limit them. If you need assistance improving workplace safety, OSHA’s website has a trove of resources and concise explanations of industry rules and regulations.