Occupational Health and Safety

Junior (College 3rd year) ・Healthcare&Medicine ・APA ・1 Sources

Workplace or occupational exposure is the unprotected contact with harmful substances or susceptibility to physical injuries while undertaking job roles and responsibilities. When an employee is exposed, they may sustain physical injuries or their body comes into contact with harmful chemical or biological substances. There are different types of hazards to which employees are exposed at the workplace. They include physical, chemical, ergonomic, and biological hazards. Some of the physical exposures at the workplace include falls, slips, vibrations, unguarded machinery, trips, working from great heights, and loud noises. Chemical hazards include vapors and fumes, as well as poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide. Biological hazards include contaminated human and animal blood, infected human and animal remains (Moeller, 2009). Ergonomic hazards include poor lighting, poor posture, and repetitive movements. Example of workplace exposure is the mining industry where miners and metallurgists are exposed to the poisonous metal lead. The miners are also exposed to dangerous fumes produced by some minerals.

Federal Legislation to Prevent Workplace Exposures

There are various protective legislations that have been developed to ensure workplace exposures are significantly minimized. In 1908, the Federal Workers' Compensation Act was established and it granted limited compensation benefits to some of the U.S. civil service employees for sustaining injuries during work. The 1936 Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act ensured occupational health and safety standards for employees of federal contractors. The 1969 Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act developed and enforced regulations to protect mine workers. The 1970 Occupational Safety and Health Act developed mandatory occupational safety and health standards to be followed by all employers. The 1976 and 2000 Toxic Substances Control Act requires industries to account for the chemical they use and inform employees with potential exposures while working with the chemicals (Moeller, 2009). The 1990 Pollution Prevention Act ensures pollution is reduced from the source, recycled, and disposed of after treatment. The 2000 Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act provides medical compensation for employees who have certain strains of cancer emanating from exposure to radiation at the workplace.

Identification of Health Problems

The identification of health hygiene at the workplace requires cooperation from all employers across the globe. Professionals from the field of occupational hygiene are responsible for addressing the full range of chemical, physical, and biological hazards at the workplace. The industrial hygienists also address musculoskeletal problems that are reported at various workplaces. To effectively handle workplace exposures, professionals from the field of occupational hygiene combine their skills with people from physical sciences, engineering, health sciences, and medicine. The industrial hygienists borrow knowledge from the field of toxicology and epidemiology (Moeller, 2009). They also develop measures to prevent the workplace exposures from taking place through preventive measures and curative measures for the affected. According to the 2009 National Safety Council (NSC) report, the employees between 35 and 44 years of age represent 28 percent of the injured. Employees between 25 and 34 years of age represent 24 percent while those between 45 and 54 years of age represent 21 percent of the injured. Small companies lack the capacity to identify occupational health hazards and the resources to fund workplace exposure control programs. The workplace exposure diseases and injuries include occupational lung diseases, cardiovascular diseases, musculoskeletal injuries, occupational cancers, and severe occupational injuries such as amputation and eye loss. Others include reproductive health disorders, dermatological conditions, neurotoxic disorders, psychological disorders, and noise-induced loss of hearing.

Physical and Chemical Factors

Some of the physical factors to workplace exposures include inadequate lighting, lifting and moving heavy objects, repetitive motions, forceful motions, static or awkward postures, and mechanical stresses. Other physical factors include loud noise, heat stress, and heat strain. The chemical factors include hazardous gases and fumes from blasting furnaces, biological agents from research laboratories, fumes from battery acids, contaminated water, harmful organic wastes, and poisonous fumes from coke ovens. Other chemical factors include leakage of lead, mercury, cadmium, trichloroethylene, and acetone from industrial systems and processes (Moeller, 2009).

Types and Sources of Workplace Exposures

There are various types of occupational exposure such as biological, chemical, ergonomic, and physical exposures. The sources of the workplace exposures include loud noise, vibrations, ionizing radiations, leakage of poisonous gases and materials, poisonous by-products, slippery floor, and poor ventilation. The contaminants include volatile organic compounds, toxic metals, silica, asbestos, and nanomaterial. Other sources include activities such metal fabrication, welding, brazing, and machining. These activities release metal dust and metal fumes. Some of the follow-up activities such as electroplating, painting, and cleaning releases paint and resin fumes which contaminate the surrounding air (Moeller, 2009). Gases released from combustion chambers and the cooling systems pollute the air and may lead to physical as well as chemical hazards to the employees.

Control of Occupational Exposures

To control occupational exposures at the workplace, routine monitoring should be conducted to assess any abnormal situations that may cause accidents. Slippery agents on the floor should be wiped clean and workers should be provided with safety boots while they are at work. Places which produces exhaust and poisonous fumes should be fitted with filters and sorbet collectors to ensure harmful substances are treated before being released to the environment (Moeller, 2009). Lifting and moving of heavy objects should be done using forklifts or pulleys to avoid physical injuries. Chemical wastes should be neutralized before being released to the environment to avoid inhalation or skin contact by the employee.


Moeller, D. W., & Moeller, D. W. (2009). Environmental health. Harvard University Press.

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