What is your occupational risk

Dangers and risks at work

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When thinking about the world of work, you may also have mixed feelings: On the one hand, you are certainly looking forward to finally making your own money. Money with which you can afford things that were simply not affordable until now. The new experiences and opportunities are also appealing. On the other hand, starting your career soon also means stress. Because you have to get used to a new environment, colleagues and tasks and prove your skills.

What is often overlooked, however, are the dangers that exist in some professions. We don't want to scare you with this article, but we want to inform you explicitly about possible dangers and risks in professional life, introduce you to the most typical occupational diseases at the moment and explain how you can work more safely in general.

The world of work can also become a danger zone

A current example shows that even the most harmonious, quiet and supposedly safest office environment can become a danger zone for all employees in a company. The coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), the spread of which is described by the Robert Koch Institute as a "worldwide and in Germany [...] very dynamic and serious situation", has already claimed numerous victims. Many of those infected do not even notice the symptoms, while others become seriously ill or even succumb to the consequences of the virus.

As with many other viruses, the main route of transmission is believed to be droplet infection. If you shake hands with others, come into physical contact differently, or if you are too close to each other while speaking, the virus can be transmitted. In everyday office life you are often together with several colleagues in a confined space. You open the same doors, use the same things in the kitchen to make yourself a coffee or something to eat. The chance of being infected by someone who is already infected is extremely high.

In emergency cases, such as the current one, companies quickly take security measures and send employees to the home office, set strict hygiene rules and avoid too close contact. But by then it is often too late. After all, the workplace is a place where the spread of diseases takes place just as quickly as in public transport or facilities such as swimming pools, libraries or schools.

But the spread of viruses is just one example of the world of work as a danger zone. The health risks are varied and individual from job to job. At best, of course, you will never see yourself exposed to any of them. In order to minimize the risk, you should try to make yourself aware of how you can prevent fundamental risks through correct behavior in everyday work even before you start your career.

Prevent dangers and risks through correct behavior

Safer work

However, there are some basic tips that you should keep in mind in order to work more safely:

You should only take on tasks in which you have been instructed in advance by a responsible person. Activities that you are unsure about should be avoided - or inform yourself accordingly. In no case should you make the mistake of not wanting to ask because you feel uncomfortable or even embarrassed. The famous saying of the Chinese philosopher Confucius "He who asks is a fool for a minute. He who does not ask is a fool for his entire life" is one hundred percent true here. If you notice that the amount of information is overwhelming, for example at the beginning of a new activity, then ask to have the instructions repeated again in a slower form. The same applies here: Do not show any false restraint or shyness!

In some professions it is important that you stay strictly in your work area. Especially in the industrial sector and when working with machines, other work areas can present specific dangers for which you may not have been prepared. Therefore, move in these areas only with trained and responsible employees.

Personal protective equipment is necessary for many work tasks. These include, for example, safety gloves or a hard hat. Even with smaller and quicker tasks, the protective clothing must then always be worn during the activity. Find out where you can safely store your protective equipment, how exactly it should be used and cared for, and where you can get new, faultless materials available in the event of damage.

There are appropriate rules of conduct or emergency plans for certain hazardous situations at the workplace, such as a fire hazard and a fire alarm. You should be familiar with these rules and measures, which are often individually set by the company, and adhere to them in an emergency. It is often important that all employees do the same in order to minimize certain risks. If there is an accident or an unforeseen, possibly dangerous-looking event, you should immediately inform a supervisor, experienced employee or even a safety officer.

If you notice any signs that you feel uncomfortable and if they do not go away again shortly, you should consult a doctor or occupational health staff as soon as possible. Headache and dizziness, but also skin irritation, redness or itching of the eyes, throat and nose can indicate work-related illnesses. Counteract these as early as possible.

Never consume alcohol or other addictive substances or medicines that could endanger the safety of other employees while working. This is not only extremely dangerous for everyone involved, it is also prohibited by law and therefore punishable.

Always remember to follow all hints and instructions that circulate around safety in the workplace. By the way, taking breaks is also a part of this. Because overexertion or fatigue can lead to your work being less concentrated and thus significantly increasing the risk potential.

Develop a sense of responsibility

In addition to following the measures mentioned above, with which the risk of risk at work can be minimized, you should also develop a sense of responsibility on your own.

First of all, this means that you deal with issues relating to the safety and health of yourself and your employees and that you act accordingly. Always be aware that careless behavior is not only endangering your own health, but sometimes that of everyone else as well. Only if everyone acts as directed can the preservation of everyone's health be increased to the maximum. If an accident does occur, at least nobody has to live with the guilt.

Furthermore, dealing with possible complications that could limit the ability to work is part of a professional sense of responsibility. As stuffy as it sounds, you also have a responsibility to your own future. You still cannot imagine why and when you will never be able to work anymore - apart from aging too old, of course. But in many professions there is a certain risk that unforeseeable events lead to the fact that one can suddenly no longer carry out the usual activities. Or even completely prevented from exercising a profession.

With occupational disability insurance, you can prevent the risk of premature retirement from working life. This is particularly useful in professions with a high density of danger. You should therefore inform yourself well on this topic and then consider whether such insurance makes sense for your future work. Incidentally, it can be just as useful for office workers as it is for craftsmen. Even if the former may not be as physically endangered as roofers or extreme athletes.

Know your rights

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, you have certain rights (but also obligations) with regard to safety at your workplace. In addition to the right to receive comprehensive information about your work and safety, you also have the right to participate. Your employer must instruct you in all important things, keep you up to date and include critical points in decisions or at least let you vote and have a say.

In addition, the employer must provide the necessary protective equipment at his own expense. At least if the dangers cannot be avoided through collective technical protective measures or work organization measures.

As an employee, you, in turn, are obliged to apply the prescribed protective measures in accordance with the instructions of the employer and to behave in such a way that a hazard is avoided. The protective equipment must therefore also be used correctly - otherwise you can get into legal trouble not only in health, but also in an emergency.

Examples: Different activities and their dangers

Almost every activity involves certain risks and various dangers. To list all the dangers of the world of work is an almost impossible undertaking. Instead, we want to use a few selected professions to show how different and individual the various dangers in the job can be.

First, three professions that many people think of in the context of dangerous activities:

  • Firefighters: In some places, firefighters risk their lives every day to protect the lives of others. As soon as there is a fire somewhere, the fire department is there to do what must be done to save lives. They also climb to dizzying heights to save escaped pets - and not just in films.
  • Pilots: It's not a cliché that pilots do dangerous jobs. Above all, they are responsible for their own lives and the lives of countless passengers. In 2011, the Federal Statistical Office calculated the number of injuries or deaths per billion person-kilometers as a measure for five modes of transport and came to a value of just 0.3 injuries and 0.003 deaths for aircraft (comparison of cars: 276 injured and 2 , 9 deaths per billion passenger kilometers).
    If, on the other hand, you ask how many people die per hour of travel, airplanes are no longer so good. A transport safety report by the European Transport Safety Council from 2003 reads: For every 100 million hours of travel, there are 16 deaths on an airplane. In the car there are 25 deaths, so just 9 more deaths. If a real occupational accident occurs while working as a pilot, it often ends fatally.
  • Window cleaners, scaffolders and roofers: Among the most dangerous jobs of all are all those that have to work at high heights - above all the work of window cleaners and building cleaners. Even in the worst wind and weather, they clean the facades of huge skyscrapers, for example, and have to rely solely on the security technology. If this fails once, falls can have fatal consequences.
    Even for roofers and scaffolders, falls from great heights are not without risk. They happen here even more often because extensive securing is not possible due to the necessary freedom of movement.

But activities that you may not immediately think about can also become dangerous:

  • Clerical activities: Any office work carries the risk of permanently developing poor posture due to inadequately ergonomically equipped (computer) workstations. This can lead to back, neck and shoulder tension or even chronic pain. In addition, there is a heavy burden on the eyes when there is too much work on the screen.
    The lack of exercise resulting from sitting activities and a static posture are not good for the entire organism. In addition to the spine, back, neck and shoulders, the digestive system is also often affected, which can stall. In addition, the energy expenditure is automatically reduced, so that in combination with malnutrition, further complaints and diseases can occur. Ultimately, according to a study by the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, obesity and high blood pressure can even increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease due to a lack of exercise.
  • Cleaning activities: Everyday dangers lurk even in the cleaning industry. Because there are toxic chemicals in many cleaning products. Anyone who does not pay attention to protection against skin contact or who uses respiratory masks carelessly is endangering the skin and internal organs.
    In addition, sharp and pointed objects often end up in waste, which can cut oneself and, in the worst case, cause more serious injuries. Worst of all, the waste is contaminated in some way.
  • Nursing activities: In addition to the emotional strain that many people retire from nursing professions, there are also some other dangers lurking here. There is a risk of coming into contact with contaminated blood or body fluids. In addition, it is often difficult to lift, which can lead to back problems. The risk of slipping and falling is not insignificant, especially in stressful times. And ultimately, unfortunately, nurses are repeatedly exposed to physical violence and verbal abuse.

What risks does "Work 4.0" entail

In the course of work 4.0, i.e. an increasingly digital working world, the risk of physical strain due to the one-sided posture described and the many cases of static sitting is of course particularly high. More and more tasks can be done from your desk. Robots are increasingly taking over physical work. Above all, the risk of psychological stress increases with the growth of Work 4.0.

In the area of ​​knowledge work in particular, various causes for excessive demands and stress with the result of restlessness or even the development of burnout and depression can be identified:

  • constant availability
  • Simultaneous completion of different tasks
  • high complexity of work
  • time pressure
  • Delimitation
  • Information overload
  • few personal contacts
  • not infrequently occurring deficiencies in software and hardware that cannot be rectified immediately
  • increased pressure to perform in new forms of work organization such as crowdworking

Dependencies or even addictive behavior when using mobile devices such as cell phones or tablets are also dangers of Work 4.0 that should not be underestimated. Many people also generally fear working with robots. A pessimistic attitude towards the "intelligent" machines or the feeling of competitive pressure are partly responsible for this.

The five most common occupational diseases

Every year the BAuA, the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, evaluates the numbers of occupational accidents and diseases in Germany. The results reflect the current status of safety and health at work. In the latest BAuA report from 2019, the following occupational diseases can be found in the first five places:

  1. Skin disorders
  2. Noise deafness
  3. Skin cancer from UV radiation
  4. Damage to the lumbar spine
  5. Lung and throat cancer

To Skin disorders it often occurs in jobs where there is skin contact with chemical substances such as oils, varnishes and cleaning agents. But even working in damp environments, where the skin only comes into contact with water, increases the susceptibility of the skin to infections, fungal diseases or even eczema. Gloves and inner gloves as well as the consistent application of a skin protection plan are important.

Noise deafness is not uncommon in the handicraft. Depending on the workplace, it is essential to use disposable earplugs, earmuffs or individually adapted hearing protection (otoplastic). Comprehensive technical and organizational measures to reduce noise are also important.

To Skin cancer from UV radiation on the other hand, it usually comes from being unprotected while working outdoors. Sunscreens are an important measure, but should be the final solution. Before doing this, it is important that employers take technical measures, such as shading with awning. Organizational options, such as relocating work in times of low solar radiation, are also necessary.

Back problems can arise from simple office work, but also from heavy lifting, carrying and loading. Ergonomics in the workplace is therefore just as important as the use of useful aids such as lifting, carrying and transport aids (lifting straps, suction lifters, clamp handles, stair trolleys, trolleys, lifting tables, etc.) when handling heavy loads.

The danger of Lung and throat cancer Illness is particularly high for all those who come into contact with asbestos and dust in everyday working life. The largest deposits of asbestos are found in buildings that were built up until the mid-1990s. In terms of dust, mineral dusts (quartz dusts) and wood dusts are particularly dangerous. Strictly defined and observed protective measures, such as the use of low-dust products, e.g. B. Mortar in pellet form as well as that of power tools with suction and the use of personal respiratory protection equipment are essential.

General potential hazards that must always be observed

Finally, we want to give you some very general dangerous situations or potential dangers that you should pay attention to in all activities.

  • Stress: One of the greatest dangers in any job is stress. Stress can not only make you mentally ill, it affects your general health and, in addition to heart and circulatory problems such as high blood pressure or dizziness, rapid heartbeat, it can also promote gastrointestinal diseases such as diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel or heartburn. Therefore, always take enough breaks and never overwork.
  • Noise: Make sure that you are not exposed to high levels of noise for long periods of time. Often, after a while, you won't notice any noises that are too loud. Try to remain sensitive here, because damage to the hearing is irreparable.
  • Slipping and tripping: One of the most common causes of accidents at work is easy slipping and tripping. Always pay attention to unclean workplaces or dirty and damaged floors as well as cables or lines that are lying around openly.
  • Machine operation: When operating machines, accidents can quickly occur due to a lack of maintenance, a lack of protection or a lack of training. Short circuits can also lead to burns or large fires. Here you should keep your distance from visible defects or let experts do the work.
  • Chemicals: Commercially available cleaning products, but also paints, cosmetics and dust can cause skin allergies, cancer, chronic asthma and much more. Always try to avoid direct contact with the skin and mucous membranes by wearing good protective clothing.
  • Routine: This point may seem surprising at first, but in fact routine is an important aspect in avoiding accidents. On the one hand, routine helps in a wide variety of work processes so that you can do them faster and more efficiently. On the other hand, they can mean that you pay less attention to necessary safety measures. So always stay vigilant during dangerous activities or develop a routine for yourself to always keep an eye on all safety requirements.

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