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Occupational Respiratory Problems

A wide range of workers suffer from respiratory problems that occur as a direct result of their work environment. Workplaces from construction sites to bakeries may contaminate the air that workers breathe. Respiratory issues affect the productivity of workers, making occupational respiratory problems not only a safety concern, but a business problem. The most among these issues is work-related asthma, or occupational asthma. Occupational asthma’s symptoms include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and tightness in the chest. All sorts of airborne substances can lead to occupational asthma.

In order to mitigate the risk of occupational asthma, employers and employees alike must take preventative measures. Following OSHA guidelines to address hazardous work environments is the first step. The Occupational Safety and Health Act clearly spells out what businesses need to do to keep their workers free of harm. Make sure that your business adheres to these guidelines and don’t be afraid to supplement safety measures with your own rules.

The best way to ensure occupational health and safety is through proper training. Early and thorough safety training sessions and frequent refreshers are an essential piece to any workplace that may be hazardous to the health or safety of workers. Make sure your employees or coworkers are educated about the risks associated with the workplace, and are taking the necessary steps to prevent exposure to hazards.

Enforce the use of proper safety equipment such as masks and hoods to deter inhalation of hazardous substances. Make sure that employees are aware of the importance and the proper use of the equipment in the training mentioned above. Maintain the equipment and replace it when necessary. Also, keep up on maintenance of ventilation systems. Poor ventilation escalates the risk of occupational respiratory problems.

Reduce exposure as much as possible. Minimize the time spent in toxic environments to decrease the likelihood of occupational respiratory problems. Of course, this may be difficult given the field or job, but try to be as efficient as possible in the time you must be exposed so that you can get away from the hazard.

Should you begin to notice respiratory issues, do not wait to seek medical attention or advice. Catching the problem early will optimize the chances of recovery. If you work in an environment that is known to be linked to occupational respiratory problems, consider regular checkups to make sure your lungs are not being affected.

For some, the damage is already done. If this is unfortunately the case, take care of your respiratory issues. Take physician recommendations or medications and visit your doctor regularly so that the condition does not get worse. With careful monitoring and proactive habits, symptoms can be reduced and, in some cases, eliminated.

Finally, don’t smoke! Avoid tobacco smoke as much as possible, and make sure that it is not allowed in the workplace!

Courtesy of National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

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