My job makes me sick

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Amber Metts
  • 49th Aerospace Medicine Squadron
The workplace can be an open door when it comes to occupational illnesses. Each day, you may be exposed to nuisance hazards which can escalate into larger health problems. As you look around your office or shop, think about the hazards which surround you.

How close are you to that generator running at full speed? Should you be wearing hearing protection?

How many hours a day do you spend crouched under a vehicle performing repetitive mechanic work?

How heavy is that bulky pallet you push, pull and lift all day long?

What flavor does the paint seeping through your respiratory protection remind you of?

If you can relate to questions such as these, chances are you work in an industrial shop where you could have the potential for occupational illnesses.

When most people think of the term "illness," they may envision a runny nose, high fever or repetitive cough. In the case of an occupational illness, these symptoms may be far from reality. Workers may encounter work related illnesses such as carpal tunnel, asthma, occupational cancer, headaches, hearing loss or possibly musculoskeletal disorders.

So let's get down to the nitty gritty. What exactly is an "occupational illness?" Simply stated, it is any illness that occurs as a result of occupational activities or work.

A worker's health can be compromised by a variety of occupational exposures categorized as chemical, biological, ergonomic, environmental, mechanical, physical and psychosocial.

These illnesses can be difficult to identify because they usually result from prolonged exposure to the same hazard. They are not immediate and they are often attributed to conditions outside the work area.

One of the primary missions of the 49th Aerospace Medicine Squadron is to protect Holloman's workers from known hazards.

The Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight assists shops in identifying hazards and implementing controls to keep workers safe and healthy. The Public Health Flight determines what type of medical surveillance and support a shop needs depending on the hazards identified. Flight Medicine evaluates workers from a medical perspective. This whole process requires a team effort between you, your supervisor and the 49th AMDS.

It is important for workers to pay attention to their body's warning signs so they know what to relay to their medical provider.

Repeatedly sore muscles after certain operations and headaches that clear after time away from the work center are examples of potential warning signs and symptoms.

Symptoms that seem to be escalated by work processes should immediately be identified and brought to the attention of a supervisor. It is important to document your symptoms and be seen by a flight doctor for them as soon as possible.

Workers are also reminded to follow their job safety training outlines and understand the information contained within their hazard communication programs. These two items are key for preventing occupational illnesses. Brushing symptoms off with an "it comes with the job" attitude can lead to more serious symptoms later down the road.

Remember, we are one team, one fight; we need you to help complete the mission!