The BLS stated around 5,333 cases of workplace-related illnesses and injuries were recorded in 2019 in the United States alone.
Industries like construction, fishing, metalwork, smelting, waste management, and roofing industries are known for causing severe injuries and illnesses due to the number of toxins, chemicals, and machinery used.
Mostworkplace hazards result in disabling injuries and death in severe cases. Did you know the transportation industry has a higher-than-average work-related death count, with around 2,100 deaths a year caused by exposure to hazardous materials, chemicals, slips, falls, and fires?
Some work illnesses can be life-threatening and tend to show little to no signs until it’s too late for treatment or surgery.
These are caused by asbestos-related materials, where either the owner or the worker remain negligent about using proper protective equipment.
Ridding the workplace of hazardous chemicals and substances leads to more healthy and productive employees, less absenteeism, and better overall working relationships between the workers and employers.
That said, let’s look at some occupational diseases that are life-threatening and don’t show any symptoms until it’s too late.
Occupational Pleural Mesothelioma.
Pleural mesothelioma is a rare, life-threatening lung disease that attacks the pleural layer( the membrane that lines the chest cavity and lungs) of the lungs. It is the most common type of cancer that results from occupational asbestos exposure.
While symptoms don’t appear until the 3rd or 4th stage, malignant pleural mesothelioma is terminal. However, with radiation and chemotherapy, symptoms can be managed.
The average life expectancy during the 3rd or 4th stage of pleural mesothelioma ranges between six to twelve months.
Furthermore, you probably won’t be diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma until the later stages of this disease, which means surgery is off the table.
Some symptoms include; fatigue, abdomen pain, chest tightness, breathing difficulties, shoulder pain, anemia, chronic cough, etc.
Asbestosis is a severe occupational lung disease that results from the absorption or inhalation of asbestos particles and dust.
However, long-term exposure to these dangerous particles can lead to shortness of breath and lung scarring. Symptoms range from severe to mild and typically don’t show up until ten to thirty years after asbestos exposure, making it hard to detect in its earlier stages.
Most workers developed asbestosis from the workplace before the US government started regulating the use of this mineral in the 1970s.
Nowadays, developing asbestosis is highly unlikely because the government controls its use at the workplace.
As mentioned above, the symptoms of asbestosis typically don’t appear until ten to thirty years after exposure. As far as symptoms are concerned, affected individuals will usually feel shortness of breath, chest tightness, pain, clubbing of the fingertips and toes, weight loss, dry cough, etc.
Treatment options typically include; immunization against pneumococcal pneumonia and influenza and antimicrobial therapy for respiratory infections.
Occupational Contact Dermatitis.
Occupational contact dermatitis is a skin disease that typically results from the contact of damaged skin with chemicals, detergents, or other known irritants.
It is one of the most common work-acquired diseases, with upwards of 35,000 recorded cases between 2010 and 2012.
Generally, aircraft workers, hairdressers, construction workers, healthcare workers, cosmetic manufacturers, carpenters, and coal miners, have a higher chance of developing contact dermatitis due to the nature of their work.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that contact dermatitis typically develops on the face and hands as they are the two most exposed parts of the human body.
Some common symptoms of contact dermatitis include; redness of the skin, flaky/cracked skin, oozing blisters, itching, burning sensation on the skin, dry/scaly skin, and more.
However, if you’re constantly exposed to the irritant causing the issue, your contact dermatitis will worsen over time.
If your contact dermatitis is in its severe stage, you will experience a host of other symptoms such as high-grade fever, skin discharge, serve pain, and out-of-control itching.
Treating this skin disease is relatively easy with antihistamines and steroid-based skin creams to eliminate symptoms and pain.
Occupational asthma is a common respiratory disease caused by exposure to known allergens or irritants at the workplace. That said, occupational asthma is very treatable. Meaning, you will start to feel better when the irritant or allergen triggering your asthma is removed from your workplace.
However, you might experience permanent damage to your lungs if you’re constantly exposed to the asthma-causing substance.
Furthermore, the metalworks, fertilizer manufacturing, construction, and bleaching industries have reported numerous cases of occupational asthma at the workplace.
As far as symptoms of occupational asthma go, they are similar to any other asthma type. Some of them are; nasal congestion, eye irritation, eye redness, shortness of breath, runny nose, wheezing, etc.
If you don’t treat your occupational asthma promptly, symptoms worsen over time.
On the other hand, symptoms will typically subside within a day or two of avoiding exposure to known asthma-inducing irritants.
Occupational Lead Poisoning.
Continuous exposure to lead-containing materials can result in lead poisoning after some time. In fact, occupational lead poisoning has been a common workplace illness, with the first few reported cases dating back to the 1800s.
Lead poisoning is an occupational illness that can cause irreversible damage to your body, such as amnesia, hearing loss, loss of eyesight, memory loss, vomiting, and in worse cases, death.
Typically, lead miners, foundry workers, jewelers, battery makers, pipefitters, insulation installers, and demolition workers are more prone tolead poisoning than others.
Furthermore, symptoms of lead poisoning probably won’t appear until it’s too late. These usually start as vomiting and lead to high-grade fever.
So, if you have a history of working around lead, contact your doctor and get some blood tests done.
To avoid lead poisoning,you should wear PPEs, washyour hands with lukewarm water and soap after handling lead-containing materials, and wear gas masks.
Protecting yourself against allergens, illnesses, and injuries should be your priority as a worker. You must be attentive towards following safety protocols set by your employer to ensure you’re safe.
In the end, prevention is always better than cure, but if you’ve been ignoring symptoms, it’s time to get yourself checked and start treatment to prevent long-term damages to your health.