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An occupational disease is any chronic ailment that occurs as a result of work or occupationalactivity. It is an aspect of occupational safety and health. An occupational disease is typicallyidentified when it is shown that it is more prevalent in a given body of workers than in the generalpopulation, or in other worker populations. The first such disease to be recognized, squamous-cellcarcinoma of the scrotum, was identified in chimney sweep boys by Sir Percival Pott.Occupational hazards that are of a traumatic nature (such as falls by roofers) are not considered tobe occupational diseases.Under the law of workers’ compensation in many jurisdictions, there is a presumption that specificdisease are caused by the worker being in the work environment and the burden is on the employeror insurer to show that the disease came about from another cause. Diseases compensated bynational workers compensation authorities are often termed occupational diseases. However, manycountries do not offer compensations for certain diseases like musculoskeletal disorders caused bywork (e.g. in Norway). Therefore, the term work-related diseases is utilized to describe diseases ofoccupational origin. This term however would then include both compensable and non-compensablediseases that have occupational origins.An “occupational disease” is any disease contracted primarily as a result of an exposure to riskfactors arising from work activity. “Work-related diseases” have multiple causes, wherefactors in the work environment may play a role, together with other risk factors, in thedevelopment of such diseases.The WHO Global Plan of Action on Workers’ Health called for improving the diagnosis,reporting and registration of occupational diseases and building capacities for estimating theoccupational burden of diseasesWHO’s activities regarding occupational and work-related diseases include:· Carrying our estimates of the global burden of disease from major occupational risks, such asinjuries, airborne exposures, carcinogens, ergonomic stressors, noise and other specific risks.· Incorporating occupational diseases and their causes in the 11th revision of the InternationalStatistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems.· Working with ILO to develop diagnostic and exposure criteria for occupational diseases andto enable primary and secondary health care providers to detect and report such diseasesLung diseasesOccupational lung diseases include asbestosis among asbestos miners and those who work withfriable asbestos insulation, as well as black lung (coal worker’s pneumoconiosis) among coalminers, silicosis among miners and quarrying and tunnel operators and byssinosis among workers inparts of the cotton textile industry.Occupational asthma has a vast number of occupations at risk.Bad indoor air quality may predispose for diseases in the lungs as well as in other parts of the body.Skin diseasesOccupational skin diseases are ranked among the top five occupational diseases in manycountries.1Occupational skin diseases and conditions are generally caused by chemicals and having wet handsfor long periods while at work. Eczema is by far the most common, but urticaria, sunburn and skincancer are also of concern.2Contact dermatitis due to irritation is inflammation of the skin which results from a contact with anirritant.3 It has been observed that this type of dermatitis does not require prior sensitization ofthe immune system. There have been studies to support that past or present atopic dermatitis is arisk factor for this type of dermatitis.4 Common irritants include detergents, acids, alkalies, oils,organic solvents and reducing agents.5The acute form of this dermatitis develops on exposure of the skin to a strong irritant or causticchemical. This exposure can occur as a result of accident at a workplace. The irritant reaction startsto increase in its intensity within minutes to hours of exposure to the irritant and reaches its peakquickly. After the reaction has reached its peak level, it starts to heal. This process is known asdecrescendo phenomenon.6 The most frequent potent irritants leading to this type of dermatitis areacids and alkaline solutions.7 The symptoms include redness and swelling of the skin along with theformation of blisters.The chronic form occurs as a result of repeated exposure of the skin to weak irritants over longperiods of time.8Clinical manifestations of the contact dermatitis are also modified by external factors such asenvironmental factors (mechanical pressure, temperature, and humidity) and predisposingcharacteristics of the individual (age, sex, ethnic origin, preexisting skin disease, atopic skindiathesis, and anatomic region exposed.Another occupational skin disease is Glove related hand urticaria. It has been reported as anoccupational problem among the health care workers. This type of hand urticaria is believed to becaused by repeated wearing and removal of the gloves. The reaction is caused by the latex or thenitrile present in the glovesHigh-risk occupations include.· Hairdressing· Catering· Healthcare· Printing· Metal machining· Motor vehicle repair· ConstructionOther diseases of concern· Overuse syndrome among persons who perform repetitive or forceful movements in constrictivepostures· Carpal tunnel syndrome among persons who work in the poultry industry and informationtechnology· Computer vision syndrome among persons using information technology for hours· Lead poisoning affecting workers in many industries that processed or employed lead or leadcompoundsHistoricalDonald Hunter in his classic history of occupational diseases discusses many example ofoccupational diseases.11 They include:· Phossy jaw among the London match girls· Radiation sickness among some persons who had been working in the nuclear industry· Radium jaw among the Radium Girls· Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin of the scrotum among chimney sweeps (see Chimneysweeps’ carcinoma)PreventionPrevention measures include avoidance of the irritant through its removal from the workplace or throughtechnical shielding by the use of potent irritants in closed systems or automation, irritant replacementor removal and personal protection of the workers.In order to better prevent and control occupational disease, most countries revise and update their related laws,most of them greatly increasing the penalties in case of breaches of the occupational disease laws.Occupational disease prevention, in general legally regulated, is part of good supply chain management andenables companies to design and ensure supply chain social compliance schemes as well as monitor theirimplementation to identify and prevent occupational disease hazards.Steps for the prevention of occupational diseasesMany governments and employers’ and workers’ organizations are placing now greater emphasis on theprevention of occupational diseases. Even so, prevention is not receiving the priority warranted by the scaleand severity of the occupational disease epidemic. Concerted efforts are needed at international and nationallevels to tackle the “invisibility” of occupational diseases and to correct this Decent Work deficit. Effectiveprevention of occupational diseases requires the continuous improvement of national OSH systems, inspectionand prevention programs and compensation systems in all ILO member States, preferably as a collaborativeeffort of government and employers’ and workers’ organizations. This should feed into awareness andadvocacy programs, including global and national campaigns, for an improved understanding of the magnitudeof the problem and the need for urgent action by all stakeholders, including decision-makers, high-levelofficials of government authorities, social security institutions, employers and workers and their organizations,labour inspectors and OSH professionals. Greater efforts are also required to compile relevant data to improvepreventive strategies for occupational diseases. Their effective prevention requires collaboration at the nationallevel between OSH institutions and employment compensation schemes within social security systems. Wherepreventive capacity is weak, especially in developing countries, the ILO has the tools and the experience tohelp forge a response. Where we know the risks, we can act. Where we need to know more about risks, we canimprove our competences. A good national OSH system is critical for the effective implementation of nationalpolicies and programs to strengthen the prevention of occupational diseases; it should include: ¢ laws andregulations and, where appropriate, collective agreements incorporating the prevention of occupationaldiseases; ¢ law compliance mechanisms, including effective OSH inspection systems; ¢ cooperation betweenmanagement and workers and their representatives in the implementation of OSH measures; ¢ provision ofoccupational health services; ¢ adequate mechanisms for the collection and analysis of data on occupationaldiseases; ¢ OSH information and training; and ¢ collaboration between ministries of labour, ministries of healthand social security schemes covering occupational injuries and diseases.(9)