What is Occupational Health?

A simple definition of health is as follows: "a state of physical, mental and spiritual well-being". Occupational health is a state of such well-being at the workplace. Occupational health comprises three main components. They include occupational illnesses, illnesses that can be affected by factors at the workplace and illnesses that are unlikely to be affected by the workplace. Examples of occupational illnesses include lead poisoning, asbestosis and noise-induced deafness. Illnesses that may be affected by workplace factors include asthma and some liver diseases, depending on exposures in the working environment. Although technically possible in some cases, many medical conditions are not usually affected by factors within most workplaces. These include lifestyle-associated and hereditary diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Health Determinants

What determines your health? Firstly, one’s genes or who you are play a very important role. A family history of certain illnesses enables us to predict one’s risk of certain diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure and cancers such as breast and cervical cancer. Secondly, one’s lifestyle and habits such as diet, exercise and smoking do, of, course change your risk for certain lifestyle-associated diseases. Health promotion takes care of this element. Thirdly, factors in the environment, including the work environment, can determine one’s health as well. We need to protect individuals, including the worker, from these adverse factors.

Occupational Health

Occupational Health involves predicting vulnerabilities, promoting good health and protecting the workforce. Exposure levels of many substances in the workplace can be much higher than those in general environment. Occupational health deserves more focus because ill-health effects may not manifest for a long period of time. The Health Risk Assessment identifies, evaluates and seek ways to control the impact of occupational risks on the worker; hence preventing illnesses that can be acquired through such direct workplace exposures. A responsible company goes beyond occupational health to promote general health and well-being.

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