There are many aspects of work that have a positive effect on health. Besides the security of a regular paycheque, work has many other benefits. It provides people with self-esteem. It gives a sense of organization by placing a time structure on each day and providing a set of goals and purposes. Talking to co-workers can be an important social contact for many people. This can provide a chance to share experiences and support each other. A person who is working may benefit from the personal status, identity and security of a job. Carrying out a job also requires physical and mental activity. These have been recognized as essential to a healthy life.
While the positive aspects of working seem obvious, many of the negative factors can be harder to see. It may take the help of someone with special training to detect some of the harmful features of the workplace.
Family doctors now receive more training in recognizing the workplace factors that might influence the health of their patients. As well, there are specialists called industrial hygienists. They have training in measuring workplace exposures. Another type of specialist that is becoming more important is the ergonomist. Ergonomists prevent workplace injuries by making sure that workstations are set up properly. There are doctors trained in recognizing and treating injuries and illnesses of the workplace. This speciality is called occupational medicine.
When you are feeling unwell and visit your doctor, you may be asked what sort of work you do. Your doctor will likely take your work into account when trying to decide the cause of your illness or how it should be managed - and so should you.
When thinking about the risks of your workplace, you need to consider more than just the traditional safety approach of hard hats, steel-toed boots and hearing protection. There are many more factors that require attention.
Every day, new forms of workplace exposure arise that may have possible hazards not thought of before. Some problems are subtle enough to be mistakenly ignored.
Negative factors in the workplace can be classified as chemical, physical, biological, ergonomic, psychosocial or some combination of these. The types of problems that may result are many. They include:
The impact of workplace exposures on health can be complex. Combinations of the above exposures may cause more serious problems. For example, a worker may be exposed to lead and also operate vibrating equipment. This person may have problems at lower levels of lead exposure than would be expected. The worker with a poorly designed workstation will have more aches and pains if also feeling the extra stress of a conflict with a supervisor.
Between the ages of 25 and 65, the average worker spends approximately one third of their time at work. This amounts to about 15 years of constant exposure to the positive and negative influences of the workplace.
Although government, health professions, unions and business all strive to provide a safe and healthy workplace, the worker also has a responsibility. As a worker, you may have insight into your job and how it affects your health. You can provide useful information to your doctor and in doing so achieve a quicker return to good health.
The most important thing is - If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to ask. Talk to your family doctor, union representative, supervisor or company nurse or doctor. There is a growing amount of special knowledge available today. This can help make sure your time at work is not only safe from injury but will also contribute to your continued good health.