Occupational health concerns, such as illness and diseases caused by occupational hazards or conditions have received a lot of media attention in recent years. With a resurgence in Black Lung disease and new concerns regarding the impact of Silicosis, or Stone Lung, on Australian workers, screening is more imperative than ever.
Learn more about some common occupational health concerns below. Medicals and health screening is available to diagnose or monitor these conditions. Concerned employees can also speak to one of our occupational medical examiners about any symptoms that may be presenting.
Occupation Related Diseases
Silicosis – caused by inhaling Quartz dust
Silicosis is a lung disease cause by prolonged or excessive exposure to crystalline silica dust, a quartz based dust. When inhaled, this dust slowly causes lung scarring (fibrosis) which can lead to a number of respiratory issues and reduces the lung’s capacity to function properly. The damaged caused by inhaling crystalline silica cannot be reversed, but a GP can help to manage the symptoms. Learn more about this debilitating disease and the risk factors and at risk industries here.
Pneumoconiosis – caused by inhaling Coal dust
Pneumoconiosis, or Black Lung, is a lung disease caused by prolonged or excessive exposure to coal dust. Once inhaled the coal dust becomes trapped and causes scarring to the lining of the lung, reducing the lung’s capacity to function. This damage cannot be reversed and can cause very severe and debilitating respiratory issues. Prevention is now considered a major priority by Governments around the world. In Queensland, Australia the Department of Natural Resources, Mining and Energy had enforced a mandatory health screening program for Coal Mine Workers to help identify the disease or risk factors early, and prevent further deterioration. To learn more about Pneumoconiosis and the Australian health programs in place to protect workers please visit our Pneumoconiosis page.
Asbestosis & Mesothelioma – caused by inhaling Asbestos
Asbestos has been a known hazardous material for some time, but it is still found in building materials, car brake pads and a number of other products. Asbestos particles become stuck within the lungs very easily and attribute to scarring on the lung lining. This scarring can reduce the Oxygen intake of the lungs, resulting in breathlessness, difficulty breathing and low blood oxygen levels which can affect the brain.
Most Australians won’t think of skin cancer as an occupational health issue. However, a lot of occupations require workers to work in the sun. This regular exposure can increase their risk of developing skin cancer. Sun safe work wear and sunscreen can help and should be utilised to their full extent. Despite this, these workers are still exposed to an increased amount of UV rays from day to day and should partake in regular skin checks. Learn more about the most at risk industries and what employers can do to help protect their employees here.
The respiratory system is particularly sensitive to foreign materials, so prolonged or excessive exposure to a range of materials and substances can cause lung damage, breathing difficulties and disease. If you work in or around dusty environments, with fumes or chemicals, or in earth moving occupations always use appropriate respiratory related safety equipment to limit or avoid inhaling these potentially harmful materials.