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Occupational Health is defined by the Joint Committee of International Labour
Office and the World Health Organisation as “the promotion and maintenance of
the highest degree of physical, mental being of workers in all occupations and
places of employment.1 While occupational hazard is defined as a work material
substance, process or situation that predisposes to disease or accident, or can
directly cause disease or accident to workers in the work place, and even years
after the workers might have left the workplace.2
Occupational Health comprises of two main disciplines – occupational medicine
and occupational hygiene. Occupational medicine primarily concerns man and
the influence of work on his wealth while occupational hygiene concerns the
measurement, assessment and control of man’s working environment.
Developing countries of the world live in poverty and disease circle.
Industrialization in the 50’s/60’s came as a welcoming process of breaking this
circle of poverty and disease, thus the peasants who were subsistence farmers,
and knows little about modern methods or production became readily available
work force for the industries; exposing them to diseases of various occupations
and hazards there in.
The provision of occupational health services is as a result of realization on the
part of managements that a healthy worker is a productive worker.
Since the introduction of the health and safety work Act 1974, occupational
health hazards and work place environment has received the attention of the
managements and efforts to minimize hazards put in place.
The health and welfare of the working force in developing countries should be
easy to attain as the problems are already well known in most cases. However,
this is not the case; due to lack of compliance with statutory requirement by
managements and also lack of interest in the health of workers by their own
trade unions as they only always struggle for increase in wages. Most industries
take advantage of this and refuse to comply with rules and regulations to protect
the workers from occupational health hazards.
As countries undergo industrialization, the need for the health care of workers on
whom industrialization depends becomes important.8 There were increase
awareness by the public of workplace hazards and of the health risks that may
be associated with them. There was also need for the better enlightenment of
the employers of labour on the need for occupational health and safety. A worker
may be exposed to five different types of hazards depending upon his
occupation. These are the physical, chemical, biological, mechanical and
psychological hazards. Occupational hazard is a worldwide problem affecting
both developed and developing countries. As a result of technological advances
in industrial hygiene, many toxic factors both physical and chemical that were
highly prevalent in the early part of the industrial revolution have been to a large
extent controlled in the advanced countries. However developing countries and
countries in transition face the traditional industrial hazards in addition to
widespread level of malnutrition, poverty and disease be devilling the area.9
Also the workers are susceptible to the development of occupational diseases.
These occupational diseases are regarded as disease arising in the course of
employment.9 These are classified into diseases due to physical agents such as
heat pyrexia, heat exhaustion, occupational deafness etc, biological agents, such
as brucellosis, anthrax and actinomycoses, and chemical agents, such as
silicoses, anthracosis. Also organic vegetable dusts such as Bagassossis and
byssinosis are also included here. They are irreversible fibrotic lung condition
know as pneumoconiosis.
Occupational diseases could also result from the toxic effect of metals and their
compounds such as lead and mercuric poisoning.
Other diseases of psychological origin such as hypertension and industrial
neurosis plus diseases such as occupational cancers and occupational dermatitis
can also occur.10
Occupational problems can also be inform of physical injury, such as a cut,
fracture, sprain and amputation that can result from a work accident or from
exposure in the working environment. Work accident or occupational accident
constitutes an important cause of sickness absence in industries particularly in
developing countries.10 Certain occupations like mining, agriculture, building and
construction are inherently more accident prone than others.
While part of this is due to the intrinsic dangers of the work, there is little doubt
that lack of safety practices is characteristic of some sectors. This is particularly
marked in the construction industry where neglect of safety precaution is
responsible for many serious injuries. Occupational accidents occur in both
developed and developing countries. They arise from a conjunction of hazards
and an unsuspecting person. The cause of accidents can therefore be as a result
of human or environment factors. The human factors include the physical
capabilities of the worker, which may not meet his job requirements.
Physiological factors such as age, sex working hours, experience and
psychological problems have effects on accident. The environmental factors that
can cause accident are faulty machine, poor illumination, and noise.10 The effect
of occupational accidents has been tremendous among workers world wide. It
has caused the loss of several lives, caused several disabling injuries and has
been responsible for a lot of sickness and absence from work. There is therefore
need to pay attention to prevention of occupational accident through safety
practices. Successful accident prevention requires some fundamental activities
which include adequate pre-placement examination, a study of all working areas
to detect and eliminate or control physical or environmental hazards which
contribute to accidents, a study of all operating methods and practices,
education, instruction, training and discipline to minimize human factors which
contribute to accidents. The identification of predisposing factors in the cause of
accidents is absolutely fundamental to effective safety prevention measures. Also
analysis and thorough investigation of every accident, which results in a disabling
injury, produce information, which leads to counter measures that prevent or
reduce the number of accidents.
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