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Workplace Health Risks and How to Avoid Them

Fri, 11/09/2012 - 4:26pm | by Guest Contributor

Unless your job involves caring for kids (who tend to spread germs like wildfire), you’re probably not terribly concerned about health risks in the workplace.  But there are a lot more potential health issues at play than the possibility of catching a cold.  If there weren’t, workman’s compensation wouldn’t exist.  In truth, there are all kinds of hazards to your health that you may not even realize exist within the workplace.  So here are just a few that are common, as well as what you can do to avoid them.

1. Germs.  This is the one that nearly everyone is aware of, and yet, few people take the necessary steps to protect themselves in the event of germ contamination.  It’s not like you have to worry about an outbreak kind of situation, but that doesn’t mean a simple cold or flu can’t take out half the office in the space of a week.  If you don’t want to number among those stuck at home while the work piles up, simply make sure to take your daily vitamin (or vitamin C and zinc, at the very least) and keep some hand sanitizer on your desk to use after you’ve been shaking hands or sharing office supplies.

2. Allergens.  Although most office buildings undergo regular cleaning, you may have noticed a buildup of dust behind your monitor or under the printer (areas the cleaning staff might miss).  Or maybe the front desk and executive offices receive a weekly delivery of exotic blooms.  In short, there could be potential allergens lurking around the office, causing you to sneeze and itch, or even break out in hives.  If this is the case, or even if you’re not sure, check in with your physician to see about getting tested for allergies, the symptoms of which can often be alleviated through medication or other therapies.

3. Environmental pollutants.  Although products containing asbestos are only likely to be found in pretty old buildings these days, you may want to look into the materials used to build the structure you work in.  And it couldn’t hurt to keep a carbon monoxide sensor plugged in if your building uses central heating and air.  Environmental pollutants are not only common; they are often unknown to employees (even though the average person takes steps to combat them in the home).  So be aware of what could be in your environment, causing you and your coworkers harm, and see if your company will do something to address known issues.

4. Physical demands. If you work for UPS, for example, you might be well aware of the potential physical risks associated with the job.  But falling off a step-stool at an office building while grabbing supplies off a high shelf, suffering back pain because of a cheap office chair, or contending with repetitive-motion injuries is a different situation.  You don’t necessarily expect physical health issues when you work in a low-key office environment.  But as long as you know about possible problems, you can find ways to work around them and stay safe and healthy.

5. Stress.  This is a big one that many people ignore.  And yet, it is an ailment that affects nearly all adults in the workforce at some point.  Studies have shown that stress can lead to all kinds of ailments, from fatigue, sleeplessness, weight gain, and reduced immune function to ulcers, hypertension, and even life-threatening heart disease.  So talk to your doctor about finding wayward off stress in the workplace in order to remain healthy, happy, and functioning at peak performance levels.

Breana Orland writes for the Corboy and Demetrio, a personal injury law firm based in Chicago, Illinois.

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