Research

One in five Australian tradies exposed to high noise levels
Almost one in five Australian working men experienced noise above the recommended occupational limit on their most recent working day, new research led by Curtin University has found.

The research, published in the Occupational and Environment Medicine Journal, surveyed almost 5000 Australian workers to understand how many of them were exposed to workplace noise and chemicals that can damage hearing including some solvents, metals and gases.

Lead author Mrs Kate Lewkowski, an audiologist from the School of Public Health at Curtin University, said hearing loss affected more than half a billion people worldwide and continued to be a leading cause of disability in Australia. "Hearing loss can significantly reduce someone's quality of life as it can lead to social isolation and poor mental health," Mrs Lewkowski said.

"The findings also show that four out of five workers who exceeded the full noise exposure limit were also likely to be exposed to at least one ototoxic chemical in the workplace. This is an important finding as it demonstrates that most of those who work in hazardous noise environments may have an additional risk of hearing loss due to exposure to these chemicals."

The research also found that younger men who had trade qualifications and worked outside a major city were at higher risk of being exposed to excessive noise levels at work.
Read more: Lewkowski, K, et al.  'Exposure to noise and ototoxic chemicals in the Australian workforce [Abstract], Occupational and Environment Medicine Journal; Source: Curtin University news release.

Every year on shifts ups heart disease risk 1 per cent
Working shifts increases a person's chances of developing heart disease, with every year spent in this working pattern causing a 1 per cent rise in the risk, according to a new study. The research published in the journal Occupational Medicine is the largest ever study focusing on the risk of ischaemic heart disease in shift workers.

Researchers analysed 21 studies that pooled together 320,002 participants with 19,782 cases of ischaemic heart disease. Shift workers were found to be 13 per cent more likely to develop ischaemic heart disease compared with day time workers. The study revealed there was a 0.9 per cent increase in the chance of developing ischaemic heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease, with every year spent in this working pattern. The study authors have called for employers of shift workers to do more to protect their employees' health.

Study co-author Professor Weihong Chen said: "This is the largest study about shift work and ischaemic heart disease ever undertaken. This is also the first study to analyse the dose response relationship between shift work and ischaemic heart disease." She added: "The longer an employee spends working shifts, the higher their risk of developing ischaemic heart disease. Shift work is a timesaving work system, it can earn more profit but it can also cause harm to the health of employees, so employers should reduce shift work as much as possible. Employers should pay attention to staff members who are experiencing symptoms of heart problems as well as those with a family history of heart disease. Employers could provide health promotion, such as information on how to prevent and deal with ischaemic heart disease. Companies could also consider providing health checks to detect early signs of heart problems." Long-term night work has also been linked to diabetes, breast cancer and other health effects. In November 2018, a TUC analysis of official figures revealed the number of people working night shifts in the UK has increased by more than 150,000 over the past five years (Risks 873). The UK union council says the number working nights now stands at more than 3 million workers – or one in nine of the total workforce.
Read more: M Cheng and others. Shiftwork and ischaemic heart disease [Abstract], Occupational Medicine, 29 March 2019.Source: Risks 891

Working nights linked to greater risk of miscarriage
Another study has found that working two or more night shifts in a week may increase a pregnant woman's risk of miscarriage the following week by around a third. The prospective study published online in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine accessed payroll data on 22,744 pregnant women working in public services, mainly hospitals, in Denmark, and linked that with data from Danish national registers on births and admissions to hospital for miscarriage.

After week eight of pregnancy, women who had worked two or more night shifts the previous week had a 32 per cent higher risk of miscarriage compared with women who had not worked any night shifts that week. Further, the risk of miscarriage increased with the number of night shifts worked per week and also by numbers of consecutive night shifts. The authors note that about 14 per cent of women in Europe report working at night at least once a month. They conclude: "The study corroborates earlier findings that night work during pregnancy may confer an increased risk of miscarriage and it indicates a lowest observed threshold level of two night shifts per week. The new knowledge has relevance for working pregnant women as well as their employers, physicians and midwifes. Moreover, the results could have implications for national occupational health regulations."
Read more: Luise Moelenberg Begtrup and others. Night work and miscarriage: a Danish nationwide register-based cohort study [Full text], Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Online First 25 March 2019. DOI: 10.1136/oemed-2018-105592 Science Daily. Source: Risks 891

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