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Clean air in the workplace

Work and the challenges it poses — namely those which affect our health — will be the focus when Occupational Safety and Health Week seminars start next month.

The agenda will include a discussion on the connection between respiratory diseases and the workplace. Leading the dialogue will be National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health member, Dr. Euclid Morris.

Giving the rationale for the seminars, Morris said: “There are many anecdotal complaints of upper respiratory symptoms that are suggestive of allergic type reactions and a lesser degree of more serious conditions, such as asthma. However the formal reporting of occupational disease in Barbados is rare and calculating an accurate prevalence is difficult if not impossible.”

Even with the lack of statistical data, however, Morris acknowledged that the workplace could not be ignored as a contributing factor to illness in some persons. He remarked that while the presence of symptoms such as sinus problems and wheezing were usually taken seriously, not enough attention was paid to prevention.

Environments which featured certain chemicals, dust and animal dander (e.g. fur, feathers, hair) could result in such symptoms in susceptible individuals; however, the NACOSH member stressed that testing would be required to determine if symptoms were work related.

“A clinical process involving medical examination and allergy testing, spirometry (a pulmonary test) and testing at the workplace … [to avoid respiratory diseases] good maintenance is always helpful, as well as attention to dust levels and careful handling of strong, volatile chemicals,” he said.

The medical practitioner also emphasised the point that: “If the medical condition is occupationally related, complete treatment is not possible without addressing workplace factors… Employers should seek professional help if there are any concerns and they should have an appropriate risk assessment performed,” he advised.

OSH Week will be observed from July 1 to 4.

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