When we think about the hazards at work, we usually consider activities that which may end up in accidents, i.e. high altitude or underground work. However, these are not the only hazards. Over 36 percent of Poles experience a negative impact of work on their health.
Most of us complain of work-related stress and fatigue, often accompanied by noise or allergic substances causing occupational diseases. This is why all employers are obliged to study and measure the factors hazardous to health and organise workstations in such a way as to limit or eliminate them.
Most dangerous occupations
Annually, inspectors examine the circumstances and causes of approximately 3 thousand accidents at work, which are usually caused by inadequate behaviour of the employees and poor operational organisation.
The health and safety regulations list some of the following particularly dangerous occupations: construction work, work in hazardous closed spaces, work with hazardous materials and work at high altitudes.
Accidents usually involve falls from high places, slips, loss of control over machines or loads.
According to the data of the National Labour Inspectorate, most accidents at work involve construction workers and drivers, whereas fatalities usually occur among assistance workers in mining and construction.
Hazards: accidents and more
The National Labour Inspectorate distinguishes the following hazards at work:
- harmful factors; their impact may lead to occupational diseases (the list of diseases is included in the resolution of the Minister of Health);
- onerous factors; may cause poor disposition or excessive fatigue, but they do not lead to permanent health deterioration;
- hazardous factors; may lead to accidents at work.
Harmful factors include the following: physical factors (e.g. noise, mechanical vibrations, electromagnetic fields and radiation); chemical factors (e.g. toxic, irritating, allergic, carcinogenic substances); biological factors (bacteria, viruses, fungi), e.g. in agriculture, in health care units, etc.
Onerous factors, i.e. psychophysical factors, may deteriorate employee’s physical and mental abilities. They include physical fatigue and mental burden.
Physical burden usually results from improper position of the body during work, too many tasks to be carried out, or excessive mass of the carried objects. The cause is usually poor organisation of the work or workstation, which fails to recognise the rules of ergonomics and health and safety regulations. Mental burden, in turn, usually occurs during headwork. Its intensification depends mainly on the nature of the activities performed.
Common stress at work
The most common mental factor is stress. If it is extensive, it may cause fatigue, difficulties in concentration and rational thinking, insomnia, or diseases. Its result is reduced working effectiveness and worsened relations with people around.
The National Labour Inspectorate reminds that in evaluating mental burden it is important to recognise the monotony of the work, which results from e.g. the monotony of the working process, the need to be constantly focussed and refrain from thinking about issues not associated with work, as well as simple work which reduces the need to reflect on what you are doing.
In Poland, only 15 percent of businesses take action to reduce occupational stress, whereas in Sweden this is 68 percent.