Research

Statement on occupational burden of non-cancerous lung diseases 
More than 1 in 10 people with a range of non-cancerous lung diseases may be sick as a result of inhaling vapors, gas, dust or fumes at work, according to a joint American Thoracic Society and the European Respiratory Society statement published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

In the statement 13 clinical and research experts from the two respiratory societies analyzed scores of studies of the connections between occupational hazards and lung disease. The studies were conducted around the world over more than two decades.

Paul D. Blanc, MD, MSPH, chief of the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the University of California San Francisco, joint lead of the group said, "The role of occupational factors in most lung disease is under-recognized. Failure to appreciate the importance of work-related factors in such conditions impedes diagnosis, treatment and, most importantly of all, prevention of further disease."

The authors included a range of respiratory conditions, but did not study or include cancer of the lung and pleura, the membrane surrounding the lungs, asbestosis, silicosis and coal workers' pneumoconiosis (black lung), because those conditions are entirely work-related.

Specifically, the authors estimated the occupational burden of the following lung diseases:

  • Asthma, 16 percent
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) 14 percent
  • Chronic bronchitis, 13 percent
  • Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, 26 percent
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis, 19 percent
  • Sarcoidosis and other granulomatous disease, 30 percent
  • Pulmonary alveolar proteinosis, 29 percent
  • Community-acquired pneumonia (in working-age adults), 10 percent
  • Tuberculosis (in silica dust-exposed workers), 2 percent.

Read more: Medical Life Sciences News  Blanc, P.D. et al. (2019) The Occupational Burden of Nonmalignant Respiratory Diseases. An Official American Thoracic Society and European Respiratory Society Statement. [Full text] American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

New-workers more at risk in some industries
In a major review, Canadian and Australian researchers have found new workers are significantly more likely to sustain acute injuries like cuts, burns and sprains, signalling a need for specific workplace policies and reduced turnover.

In the review of studies spanning more than two decades, the researchers from Canada's Institute for Work and Health and other institutions, including Australia's Monash University, found those who had worked less than one year at a particular company or in a particular role were more prone than others to injuries from falls, manual handling, contact with objects and bodily reactions or exertions.

The findings demonstrate employers needed to develop workplace policies for new employees focusing on decreasing hazard exposure and increasing hazard awareness and worker empowerment, to reduce the mechanisms underlying the acute-injury risk among them. The results also emphasise the importance of reducing job turnover.

The researchers said the gap between the injury rates of new workers and more experienced workers has not changed, despite injury rates in many jurisdictions falling in recent years. They attribute new worker injury vulnerability to lack of familiarity with job tasks, inability to handle unexpected events, difficulty accurately appraising hazards, increased exposures to hazardous conditions and lower awareness of workplace safety policies and protections. These factors contribute to the greater risks to new workers 
Read more: Frederick Curtis Breslin, et al, Are new workers at elevated risk for work injury? A systematic review. [Abstract] Occupational and Environmental Medicine, online first May 2019, doi: 10.1136/oemed-2018-105639. Source: OHS Alert

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