According to the dictionary, occupational hazard means a risk accepted as a consequence of a particular occupation. These hazards include chemical, biological, psychosocial and physical hazards which could cause harmful adverse effects. All occupation has its own hazards, whether you’re a kindergarten teacher or a mechanic at the local garage.
Take for example your friendly neighbourhood or community pharmacist. A pharmacy seems like a safe place to work at but it has its hazards as well such as:
Box: Pharmacy hazards
Biological – Being in contact with the public puts them at risk of infection.
Chemical – Interaction with different kinds of chemicals puts a pharmacist at risk.
Ergonomic – Frequent use of the computer can cause eye, neck and shoulder strain. Slippery floors can cause falls and heavy lifting can strain their backs.
Psychosocial – Working long hours with an excessive workload can cause stress. Clients or even fellow colleagues may subject the pharmacist to abuse or even violence.
No occupation is spared from hazards. Hairdressers are exposed to a myriad of harmful chemicals daily which can cause occupational asthma. Occupational asthma is a lung disorder where the harmful substances at an individual’s workplace causes the airways of the lungs to become swollen and narrow which can cause wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and coughing.
In the office
Long hours spent in front of the computer, a creaky and uncomfortable office chair, terrible ventilation and colleagues who are perpetually sick. Is this how your workplace sounds like? Contrary to belief, working in an office isn’t the safest option even though you’re just sitting down for eight hours a day.
Common complaints of office workers include sore wrists along with back and neck pain. These problems mainly stem from how their bodies are angled while working. Imagine your body angled unnaturally for eight hours and you won’t be so surprised that your back aches after work. Back pain can be caused by poor posture, obesity and stress, all of which are consequences of inefficient office ergonomics and also leading a sedentary lifestyle.
At your desk, make sure that your body is positioned to face your monitor and keyboard centrally. Sit straight up with your feet flat on the floor and if you’re on the shorter side, use a footrest. Your thighs should be horizontal with your knees and level with your hips.
Sure, that mountain of paperwork isn’t going to do itself but set an alarm on your phone or desktop to go off every hour for you to get up and stretch your legs. Walk to the water cooler, take a bathroom break or anything as long as you move your body.
Your computer could also cause you more grief namely, eye strain and wrist pain. For eye strain, ensure that your monitor’s brightness is adjusted accordingly where its brightness and contrast levels suit the lighting conditions in the room. If your seat is near a window, request for a shade or blind to reduce screen glare. Font size that’s too small will also lead to eye strain in addition to altering your posture because you’re more likely to squint and then hunch forward to read the text.
Quote: It is pertinent for each workplace to have its own protocol in managing their own workplace hazards no matter the industry.
Typing for long periods of time with improper wrist posture could cause repetitive strain injuries where the tissue surrounding the joints becomes inflamed. If this isn’t rectified, stress fractures may form as well. If it’s ‘paperwork day’ and you know you’ll be stuck at your desk typing for hours, get comfortable in your ergonomic chair and ensure that your wrists are properly supported with foam or gel supports.
Working from home
Working remotely has its perks such as saving on transport costs and a better work-life balance. However, your home will become a workplace and this comes with its own hazards. Although it is your own home, risks of falls and electrical mishandling can happen as well. Furthermore, people who work from home are usually alone and if anything were to happen, it is important to have emergency measures in place.
Have a first aid kit with the basic supplies like bandaids, gauze pads, wound cleaning agent, latex gloves and others. Additionally, if you work on the computer for long hours, this makes you no different than an office worker, sitting for hours on end. Adjust your workstation to ensure that you’re comfortable to prevent problems such as back, neck, and shoulder pains.
Thus, it is pertinent for each workplace to have its own protocol in managing their own workplace hazards no matter the industry. You are also responsible for your own safety and wellbeing at your workplace. Follow protocols that have been set up and if you find that they are lacking, speak to your Human Resource department and suggest better options or newer approaches.
References: Medical News Today; Medline Plus; World Health Organization (WHO)