Joint estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the ILO have published a global monitoring report, that the majority of work-related deaths were linked to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
This report includes a study carried out between 2000 and 2016 worldwide. Up to 19 occupational risk factors are investigated, such as exposure to long working hours, exposure to air pollution, ergonomic risks and noise.
The Director General of the WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared that “it is shocking to see how many people literally die because of their work ” The report makes it explicit that non-communicable diseases accounted for 81% of deaths.
What is Occupational Health?
When we talk about occupational health we refer to the multidisciplinary activity that promotes and protects the health of workers. It is a discipline that aims to search for and control accidents and/or illnesses by reducing risk conditions.
The main objective is the reduction and/or elimination of risk factors in your workplace and specifically, in the position and the specific tasks performed by the worker.
Achieving these objectives is not an easy task and a multidisciplinary team must be involved with the intention of intervening in the protection and promotion of health.
Within these teams and according to the Ministry of Labor, Migration and Social Security, we find experts in occupational safety, industrial hygiene, Ergonomics, Applied Psychosociology and Occupational Medicine and Nursing. Did you know that it was on March 9, 1971 when the pillars of protection and promotion of workers’ health in terms of work accidents were developed?
Heat, dust, dangerous chemical products, noise, machine safety and stress are the main causes of occupational diseases and can also harm our health.
That is why people who work in worse conditions or under continuous pressure tend to be more likely to smoke, perform less physical activity and have an unhealthy diet. These factors directly influence the health of the individual and can even affect the productivity of the company itself.
The European Commission has developed different strategies to identify the key challenges and the actions that must be taken by companies to improve health and safety at work in a Strategic Framework of the European Union on health and safety at work 2021-2027.
The new European Framework addresses new forms of protection against the emerging jobs that we currently have, such as teleworking after the COVID-19 pandemic. It does not forget the traditional occupational health and safety risks such as occupational accidents or exposure to dangerous chemical products.
Over the next few years, the new European Framework will focus on:
- Manage and anticipate the change of the new world of work. It aims to ensure safe and healthy workplaces during the digital, ecological and demographic transition. It will emphasize an action guide for workers with mental health problems and their prevention.
- Improve prevention and work-related accidents . The Commission wants to update the EU rules on dangerous chemicals to fight cancer and respiratory and reproductive diseases.
- Anticipate potential future health threats . The learning obtained after the COVID-19 pandemic has caused us to learn lessons about emergency procedures and guidance and implementation of measures in the face of a health crisis. Focusing them in the workplace is a priority.
6 risks for safety and health at work
Building really healthy, safe and comfortable work spaces should be one of the objectives of any company. To do this, I am going to mention 6 risks that could affect your safety and health at work .
- Work overload . Having work overload has negative consequences since feeling pressured can cause stress, poor relations between workers and even demotivation. This can cause attention to decrease and therefore, there are more chances of suffering an accident at work.
- Excessive effort. It is linked to ergonomics and is the cause of the vast majority of injuries in workers. Knowing how to sit properly or lift objects will prevent one of the main causes of absenteeism from work. Safe and healthy spaces must be offered.
- Excess work pressure. Companies must create healthy work spaces where workers feel free to report problems related to harassment or violence without fear of retaliation and safety by the organization or company.
- Communication errors. It is of vital importance that employees have access to the necessary information to carry out their work safely with the relevant training.
- Solo work. Although on many occasions it may seem more productive. It is recommended that there be security circuits for the control of employees who must perform individual jobs to avoid mental health problems and also reduce the risk of hazards during their workday.
- Technological innovation. One of the most pioneering things in our current world can play against us. The use of smart devices or music players require a policy for their use and accident prevention. It is important to regulate and make employees aware of what its use implies during the working day, since we can avoid alarms or verbal warnings that announce imminent danger.
We spend more than 30% of our lives working and this requires companies to have protocols and action measures focused on promoting the health of their workers.
European and national policies focus on reducing the most recurrent risks that we have cited in this article with the intention of improving people’s quality of life and creating healthy work environments.
Promoting these environments will also depend on workers becoming aware of the risks that their job entails and on communicating their individual situations to the company in order to avoid a risk to the worker’s health but also to reduce work absenteeism.
Benavides, FG, & Clanchet, JD 2006. Emerging issues in occupational health: challenges and opportunities . Alternatives Foundation.European Comission. 2021. EU Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work 2021-2027 https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=151&langId=en
Gómez, IC 2007. Occupational health: a review in light of the new working conditions. Psychological Universities , 6 (1), 105-113.Ministry of Health. 2022. Public Health and the health of workers. https://www.sanidad.gob.es/ciudadanos/saludAmbLaboral/saludLaboral/saludTrab/home.htmWorld Health Organization. 2017. Health protection of workers. https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/protecting-workers’-health