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4 steps to prevent occupational diseases and accidents

This article outlines the 4 key steps to prevent occupational diseases and accidents, including the main contributing factors to accidents.
Window cleaning at height
© G. Tjalvin

Recognition, prevention and treatment of both occupational diseases and accidents, as well as the improvement of recording and notification systems, are high priorities for improving the health of both individuals and the societies they live in. This can only be achieved by improving national safety and health management system competency.

Managers and workers need to think about how to eliminate, reduce and control risks.

4 key steps to reduce risk

1. Eliminate or minimize risks at the source

(Example: Window cleaning at height; window open inside/out, no leaning out for cleaning.)

2. Reduce risks through engineering controls or other physical safeguards

(Use specially coated self-cleaning glass, use movable lift/platform)

3. Provide safe working procedures

(Carry out a Safe Job Analysis, and describe safe work procedures)

4. Provide, wear and maintain personal protective equipment

(Harness, helmet)

Identifying high-risk occupations

Data on work-related accidents and diseases is essential for improving prevention. Having assessed the economic consequences and the types of accidents that most frequently occur at its workplace, a company can identify “high-risk” occupations or processes and devise better accident prevention strategies to minimize or eliminate future accidents at work.

Since most hazardous conditions at work are, in principle, preventable, efforts should be concentrated on prevention at the workplace, as this offers the most cost-effective strategy for their elimination and control.

The most prevalent environmental hazards

WHO concludes that mechanical factors, unshielded machinery, unsafe structures at the workplace and dangerous tools are the most prevalent environmental hazards in both industrialized and developing countries and these affect the health of a high proportion of the workforce.

There is a growing body of data showing that most accidents are preventable and that relatively simple measures in the work environment, working practices, safety systems and behavioural and management practices are able to reduce accident rates even in high-risk industries by 50% or more in a relatively short period of time.

Accident prevention programmes are an important and technically feasible part of occupational health services; they are shown to have high cost-effectiveness and yield rapid results.

The main contributing factors to occupational accidents

The British Safety Council suggested the following main contributing factors to occupational accidents;

  • The organisation lacks a health and safety policy, structure, work involvement and management system
  • Poor safety culture
  • Lack of knowledge and lack of awareness of information sources
  • Lack of, or poor, government policies, legislation, enforcement and advisory system
  • Lack of incentive-based compensation system
  • Lack of, or poor, occupational health services
  • Lack of research and proper statistics for priority-setting
  • Lack of effective training and education

If you’d like to learn more about occupational health in developing countries, check out the full online course from The University of Bergen, below.

© University of Bergen/Author: M. Bråtveit
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Occupational Health in Developing Countries

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