Recognizing When A Job Is Affecting One’s Health

2013-02-15 | |
Last updated: 2014-11-25

For most people going to work is the only way to earn a living, but when is working doing more harm than good? Everyday some people must go to work knowing that their job poses long term health risks. Others also face risks due to employment but may be completely unaware of the risks that they face for developing a illness or disease.

The number of health conditions related to a working environment are many and range considerably in severity. In some cases, simply being stressed or overly tired can cause problems to your health but can be remedied just by changing the way that you approach your job. However the development of chronic illnesses such as asbestosis or dermatitis and some injuries can be so drastic that they force people to change and even give up their jobs in an attempt to improve their health. Because the effects on health can be so significant, some employers are finding themselves subject to compensation and other illness or injury claims.

The type of industry that you work in will often have risks and conditions that are specific to it. A few examples of this include shelf stacker’s or typists who have an increased chance of developing a repetitive strain injury (RSI) such as carpal tunnel due to the constant repetitive motions involved. A hairdresser or welder may develop skin problems known as contact dermatitis from the chemicals that they come into contact with. Both of these can be persistent once developed and flare up each time a worker is exposed to the same materials or activities.

Health Risks From Exposure

Similarly, there a large number of asbestos-related illnesses which often lead to extremely detrimental health issues. Although asbestos now has regulations (see here) to limit exposure it was and still is generally found within the building trade so roofers/ plumbers and shipbuilders are at greater risk of developing asbestos related health problems.

One example of an asbestos related condition is asbestosis which is caused by breathing in asbestos fibres that leads to scarring in the lungs. Symptoms for exposure do not generally show for at least 15 years so those exposed may not even be working with asbestos when they are diagnosed. The condition can affect life and in serious cases may require a person to quit or change their current job role in an attempt to improve their health.

Another common workplace breathing condition is C.O.P.D (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) which is a general term for an array of breathing problems which include chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive airways disease. Although C.O.P.D is widely linked to smoking, a large number of employers have been held accountable for not providing adequate personal protective equipment such as air filtering respirators to members of staff who were being exposed to potentially lethal substances. As with most breathing related conditions, the severity of the disease will dictate the extent of change needed in work to accommodate the illness.

Health Risks Due To Physical Strain

In addition to health risks due to exposure, workers often develop work related back injuries or strains due to the nature of tasks involved during their working day. For instance someone who works within the waste removal industry may find themselves suffering from back strain from having to lift heavy objects. Lifting an awkwardly shaped object may also cause muscles to tear or place pressure on the spine. In more serious cases, the discs within the back may ‘slip’ or ‘rupture’ causing the person affected to experience an overwhelming amount of pain and prevent them from working for several weeks.

For those who experience discomfort that is caused by the work they do, it may be a wise idea to speak to the employer and see if there is any options available such as reducing workload or moving to a different department. For workers with valuable skills, retaining the worker can be advantageous

Less Physically Demanding Work Can Also Cause Health Issues

Many people believe that working in an office or in a supermarket is safer than working on a construction site, and although it may be true in the sense that workers are less likely to fall off scaffolding or injure themselves with machinery, they can still develop chronic health problems due to the work that they are doing. As an example, people who use a computer for extended periods of time often find themselves at the mercy of health conditions such as the repetitive strain injuries mentioned earlier as well as back problems.

Repetitive strain injuries usually affect the hands, wrists and arms and can be extremely painful to those affected. RSI’s typically get worse over an extended period of time and can often be so severe that it becomes impossible to continue to work. However repetitive strain injuries are relatively easy to prevent, with simple changes in the way one sits at their desk or the use of ergonomic rests for keyboard and mouse preventing further problems.


Working always has its risks, but the key is being able to recognize when the job is doing more harm than good. The transition between jobs is not always easy one but may be worth it in the long run if it enables a person to improve their quality of life.

Author Bio; Adam Howard – Atrium Legal
Atrium Legal are Industrial Disease experts, helping workers everyday who’s health has been adversely affected by their job. This includes helping them claim Asbestos compensation when they have developed conditions such as mesothelioma or asbestosis.

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