While OSHA guidelines exist, the health risks of working in an unhealthy work environment are rampant and well-documented.
People who work in unhealthy work placements often report feeling more tired, stressed, and having difficulty concentrating. It also leads to headaches, sleep disorders, and an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.
As per the CDC, over one-third of all employees in the United States face workplace risks that negatively affect their health. These statistics are undeniably alarming. But they can be reduced by taking steps such as removing hazardous materials, creating a safe workplace environment, practicing good hygiene, and training others on how to create a healthy work culture.
Importance of a Healthy Work Environment
A healthy and safe work environment translates to higher employee productivity and less absenteeism. For this reason, organizations should train the workforce on safety protocols and procedures. On-the-job training alongside learning and development initiatives is a proven way to ensure workers comply with safety standards and guidelines. Offering opportunities to enroll in online programs that teach the significance of occupational and industrial safety protocol will prove worthwhile. Such online programs focus on prevention efforts such as disease surveillance, occupational safety, environmental health, and food safety issues. For instance, the MSPH degree provides individuals with a thorough knowledge of occupational health and safety in the workplace.
Now, let us look at the potential health risks of working in unhealthy environments:
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, or CTS, is a common disorder resulting from repetitive stress on the hands and wrists, irritating the median nerve. It affects more than half of all workers who constantly work on the computer for long hours. The symptoms include:
- Numbness in the hands and wrist
- Weakness or loss of grip strength
- Pain in the forearm or elbow
- Difficulty with fine movements like typing or writing
People who experience this condition may also have arm pain that radiates down into their hands. It can also cause headaches that occur more frequently than normal or trouble sleeping due to pain when resting at night.
Symptoms may be relieved by resting your arms on something solid, such as a table edge or chair armrest.
Back injuries are another common health risk associated with unhealthy work environments where long hours are spent sitting at a desk. Back injuries may also result from improper lifting techniques or repeatedly bending over to items, leading to muscle strains.
The symptoms of back injury include pain, numbness, and weakness.
Back pain is often a warning sign that you need to take action to prevent further damage to your spine. If you feel this pain after working at your desk for extended periods, take immediate action. See if you can change how you are sitting, so it does not cause further strain on your muscles and ligaments.
Illnesses from Toxic Substances and Chemicals
The International Agency for Research on Cancer labels several compounds as carcinogenic. Many of these are found in our homes, workplaces, and daily lives. Examples include formaldehyde, asbestos, benzene, and lead poisoning.
These chemicals can cause cancer by damaging DNA leading to mutations that predispose you to develop certain cancers later in life—or even before birth. For example: If you work with formaldehyde for a prolonged period without wearing proper protective gear or masking your face/nose, you may be at risk for leukemia.
It is a condition where the blood pressure becomes higher than normal. It increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. It can also increase your chances of developing kidney disease, heart failure, and diabetes. The main causes of hypertension are chronic stress and long sitting hours at the workplace.
Symptoms of hypertension include:
- A quick pulse (heart beats faster than sixty-two beats per minute)
- Dizziness or lightheadedness when you stand up after sitting/lying down for extended periods
Treatment for hypertension includes lifestyle changes such as exercising regularly. Maintaining a healthy diet and controlling your stress through therapy sessions also helps.
Fatigue can affect all of us, but it is especially common in those who work in unhealthy environments. Fatigue can lead to poor concentration and even accidents. When you are tired, your brain cannot process information as efficiently, which means you may make more mistakes at work.
It is not just about getting enough rest since many other factors contribute to fatigue at work. Lack of sleep, exercise, and poor diet can also play a role in causing fatigue.
Digestion is a complex process that involves the breakdown of food, absorption of nutrients, and elimination of waste from your body. You need to have proper digestion to maintain good health. When your digestive system does not work properly due to an unhealthy environment (such as toxic fumes), it can cause digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome. And this can lead to more serious health problems, such as ulcers or colon cancer, if left untreated.
Injuries from Accidents
The risk of workplace injuries is high in unhealthier environments, especially those that lack safety equipment and proper lighting.
Slippery floors and poor lighting are common causes of workplace injuries. They can cause cuts, burns, or broken bones. Injuries resulting from these conditions may take months to heal and leave you with a long-term disability if left untreated.
Mental Health Risks
Mental health issues are common in people who work in unhealthy environments. They can lead to long-term health problems, including depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse.
The first step to boosting your mental health is reducing stress and anxiety. A proven way to do this is by taking breaks, doing activities you enjoy, getting enough sleep, and eating properly. You can also try some techniques, such as meditation or yoga, to help you relax and unwind.
If you are emotionally distressed due to poor working conditions at your job, talk to your doctor or therapist about it right away.
Occupational health and safety issues are rising in today’s time. However, organizations are consistently taking initiatives to curb the effects and limit workplace hazards. Employee training and development programs are crucial to reduce occupational health issues, such as stress, back injuries, digestive problems, etc.