Occupational diseases are illnesses that arise from the direct or indirect performance of activities. They are divided into occupational diseases and occupational diseases. RSI is one of the main ones.
Does your company pay attention to the health of workers, how is it to assess their productivity and development? How does she deal with it? If this is an issue that goes unnoticed by HR, know that many occupational diseases can be avoided if this is carefully observed by the company.
The job market has been talking a lot about the well-being of workers and their health is the first factor related to happiness in the corporate world. After all, if something doesn’t go well, how can you perform at a high level? So let’s talk about how HR can act to identify and prevent this type of problem. Follow up!
What are occupational diseases and how do they arise
Occupational diseases are those that were acquired or caused, directly or indirectly, by the exercise of professional activity. That is, they arise through the actions that the worker performs every day or they can be caused indirectly by the conditions in which a person performs his work.
Because they are triggered directly or indirectly, these diseases are classified into two types, see below.
Occupational diseases – Mesopathies
They may seem synonymous, but occupational and professional diseases have different characteristics. The first are diseases that arise or worsen with work as an indirect cause .
This means that the activity that the person develops can aggravate a predisposition that he already had to a certain disease or is capable of intensifying the symptoms. Some examples of occupational diseases are asthma, varicose veins, allergies and psychological illnesses.
Occupational diseases – Technopathies
Professional diseases, on the other hand, are directly related to the profession exercised and, if they did not perform that activity, the professional would not have the disease. Examples are chemical poisoning (and its complications), and Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WRMD). We’ll talk more about them later on.
The impact of occupational diseases on companies
One of the major problems faced by organizations today is the high rate of absences of their employees, which we call absenteeism . These absences can be caused by problems related to job dissatisfaction, as well as personal issues and those related to the employee’s health.
As you may already be aware, absenteeism harms productivity and, consequently, the company’s revenue, after all, if there are fewer people working, there is less internal activity. In addition, with the lack of some, there is an overload of other professionals and an imbalance in the organizational climate.
Workers who feel pressured to deliver their productivity and to take care of that of others feed some negative chains for the company: the corporate stress that results in the burnout syndrome and the absenteeism, since the emotional impact on their health and it ends up getting sick and missing too.
Another negative point when a company has high rates of absenteeism due to occupational diseases is the image that the company conveys to customers. Have you ever thought about how a customer feels when he calls the company looking for a collaborator and he is almost never there because he has a medical certificate?
In addition to the insecurity of having their activities impaired, the client may wonder why workers are absent so much. Does the company value its professionals? Why are they often absent? These are questions that are certainly analyzed when this type of situation is perceived.
How the company can prevent occupational diseases
In general, investing in the well-being of employees is the first step to prevent occupational diseases from becoming a frequent problem in the company. Based on this understanding, it will be possible to think of actions directly aimed at their quality of life.
Investment, in this case, refers both to issues related to physical health and mental health, since, as you will see later, occupational diseases arise in workers of various types.
The role of HR
As it is a strategic sector that works with people management, HR must be attentive to the slightest signs that something is not going well with the health of workers. For this, they must guide leaders to observe the regularity of each professional, how the working hours are and if they are overloaded.
Actions to prevent harassment and psychological pressure are also measures that should be part of the routine of the Human Resources sector . Actions to promote the health and well-being of workers cannot be neglected, as well as medical and psychological business assistance whenever necessary.
Many professions have specific legislation to be carried out safely and this must be respected. In addition, promoting a culture of open dialogue is another essential point for employees to feel free to seek out the sector to help them resolve personal and professional conflicts.
The main occupational diseases
There are numerous types of occupational diseases and they present both psychologically and physically and appear in different parts of the body, such as hands, legs, lungs, eyes, among others. Check out the most common occupational diseases below.
We start with the diseases that have affected more and more people around the world, especially in the moment of crisis we are experiencing, such as depression, panic syndrome , anxiety and stress attacks. They are silent and can be difficult for people around them to notice.
For the worker himself, the diagnosis can take time to be made, as it is common to confuse it with a passing phase of sadness. But these illnesses are much more serious than a period of discouragement; they can even lead to the death of the professional.
Situations such as high demand for work, a lot of psychological pressure, harassment suffered internally, verbal aggression and the fear of losing work cause mental exhaustion that harms the worker’s health and leads to removal.
Depression, one of the most serious psychosocial diseases, was even seen as the disease of the century — despite having existed for hundreds of years — it is considered a public health problem. To prevent it, some measures must be observed carefully:
- alignment of job expectations. Many workers feel pressured with unattainable goals, so it is important to align the reality of delivery with favorable working conditions and the volume of demands;
- programs to repress verbal and psychological violence and harassment, both among leaders and employees, as well as among co-workers;
- promotion of a healthy organizational climate;
- control of workers’ journey so that there is no overload;
- psychological support for professionals who deal directly with stressful situations, such as telemarketers and police officers, and with the suffering of others, such as social workers and health professionals.
RSI and WMSD
Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) and Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WRMD) are occupational diseases much seen in the job market. They are caused by repetitive movements, poor posture, overload of physical effort and psychological pressure.
These problems directly affect the worker’s performance as they affect essential limbs such as hands, arms, shoulders and tendons. Depending on the severity of the disease, it can even cause temporary or permanent removal.
Invest in equipment that provides correct ergonomics , such as footrests and wrist rests; adapt the furniture; encouraging breaks and work exercises and reducing psychological pressure are good measures to avoid this type of disease.
These are the famous spine pains and herniated discs and are caused when there is repetitive or sudden strain on the spine. Back pain is among the main illnesses that most harm workers and, in 2017, it was the champion in the number of sick leave.
It is very common in people who work in the transport of loads, who need to lift weights frequently and in those who work many hours sitting and with the wrong posture. Other factors that also contribute to the onset of back pain are overweight, obesity and sedentary lifestyle.
Therefore, in addition to adequate ergonomics, product division and training for those who deal with loading and unloading, it is necessary to invest in programs that encourage food education and the practice of physical activities. Breaks are also very important to stretch the spine and relieve pressure.
Respiratory illnesses are common at work and asthma is among the main ones. What makes it an occupational disease is when workers inhale toxic products and particles that cause an allergic reaction for a prolonged period. It starts with coughing and shortness of breath and can even cause lung cancer.
Closed environments, with mold and where cotton, leather, silica, rubber and wood are handled are the most prone to the problem, in addition to civil construction. To prevent occupational asthma, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) is essential in professionals who work in such places.
Wear or loss of vision
Wear or loss of vision is also common in professionals who spend many hours in front of the computer; those who deal with hot inputs, such as fire, and who are daily exposed to chemical agents.
Cataract is one of the most common diseases found in steel and metallurgy professionals, as workers are subjected to high temperatures. To preserve them, the company must offer its own protective equipment and provide adequate conditions for them to develop their craft.
As well as exposure to agents that damage vision, excessive noise daily can lead to partial or total loss of hearing in workers. It is very common to appear in professionals who work in civil construction, in the operation of large machinery, in mining, in airports, activities related to parties, among others.
In addition, there are chemicals in which incorrect handling can also cause hearing disorders. It is essential that these people use specific hearing protectors and protective masks, in addition to working in places with isolation from noise sources.
Occupational diseases can arise even with the adoption of preventive measures by companies, as there are activities directly linked to them. But it is possible to avoid them or minimize the impacts and the number of occurrences by paying more attention to the health of employees, the most important resources of a company.