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Working Environment Hazards

Viimati uuendatud: 15.10.2019

Working Environment Hazards

Keeping aside the legal notions about working environment hazards, the risk factors can be divided into two broad groups: dangerous and damaging working environment factors.

In certain conditions, the dangerous factors could cause a trauma or a sudden worsening of employees’ health. It might involve some sort of an unexpected event resulting in an injury.

In certain conditions, the damaging working environment factor could cause illnesses or the constant decrease in ability to work. In regard to this factor, we can usually talk about its’ long-term effect on employees’ health.

Thus, it could be concluded that dangerous working environment factors cause occupational accidents and damaging ones work-related illnesses.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act unites these two concepts under the term: working environment hazards. The difference mostly lies in the concept formation principle.

The aforementioned dangerous factors are classified under such physical hazards like the moving or sharp parts of machines and devices, insufficient lighting, falling or electrocution hazards and other similar factors. All these events are connected to some physical phenomenon, may it be power, electricity, etc.

Yet the hazards causing work-related illnesses instead of injuries can be sub-grouped a little further.

Some are mostly related to a manufacturing process and they are either used (chemical and biological hazards) or generated during work:

Others are connected to the unjust and irrational organization of work (physiologic and psychosocial hazards), including the following:

  • Long duration of the workday: probably everybody knows that we work 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week, and the most of us have Saturdays and Sundays off. Yet there are many people working straight for 12 hours, and sometimes even more. Working 12-hour shifts doesn’t usually create a problem, but health might start to weaken if one wishes to make even longer shifts. The main problem of long workdays is that, physiologically, humans weren’t meant to work long shifts – here, the daily required sleep time and other such aspects necessary to guarantee normal life and working capability start to play a role. Of course, it is hard to say if working 8 hours is the most optimal and working 16 hours already certainly bad, but it should be stressed that probably nobody can work endlessly.
  • Too intense work: the intensity could manifest itself either in the too fast work pace, physical load or constant mental pressure. Unfortunately, all the organism’s strength resources can quickly run out and health disorders are on the way.
  • Uneven alteration of work and resting times in the working mode: this does not always mean that employees don’t have free days between working days, but this might also be the problem. What is meant here is that people tend to forget to stand up from the workplace or machine and to stretch their back during the workday. This is tiresome both for the body and the mind. Small breaks during the workday are necessary for everybody – regardless of whether the person works on a computer, sows something, etc. It is equally important to emphasize the significance of daily, weekly and yearly rest. The human organism does require shorter and longer breaks on a regular basis and only daily breaks do not sufficiently preserve the work ability.
  • Prolonged forced body position: unfortunately, there is no time limit on how to measure working in a forced position. The employees themselves must subjectively assess when the working muscle is tired. If work is constantly done in the same position, it could result in fatigue; after a longer time, pain; and then all the remaining physical overload symptoms. The forced position can be sitting, standing or lying down (car repairers, welders in a tank, plumbers, etc.).
  • Overstrain of a group of muscles or organs: in this case, overstrain symptoms appear mostly in the strained body part or muscle. The mechanism itself follows a simple scheme: at first, the pain appears, followed by a chronic illness, and it  all ends with disability.

The working environment hazards’ realization conditions could be as follows:

  • For some reason, the hazard factor functions very intensely resulting in an acute illness, injury, etc. Classical example here is trauma. In the case of preconditions and favouring conditions, the results might also include allergic reactions and severe poisonings.
  • Hazard factor with modest intensity but with constant effect. This results in the accumulation of the unwanted effect and a chronic illness process. In this case, the illness symptoms are milder than in the previous case, yet more persistent and less subject to treatment. Most occupational diseases resemble the described process.
  • Combination of different low-intensity hazard factors. A specific illness does not appear, but stress develops in the organism. Stress is an emergency situation resulting from the effect of certain external factors on the organism. It is the organism’s defence reaction that mobilizes all means and resources to fight the hazard. If these suffice, the situation is resolved – if not, an illness process shall develop. Persisting stress situation during an extended time period wears the organism out – distress emerges, enabling the illness symptoms to appear as a result of already modestly intense factors.

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