Common Occupational Diseases (and How to Prevent Them)

There are various conditions in the workplace that can lead to diseases. Without proper attention given, this can put your health and work performance at risk. This is why both employers and employees must be aware of the safety and health procedures to protect the organization while at work against occupational diseases.


What are Occupational Diseases?


An occupational disease is described as health conditions or disorders often caused by work-related activities and the work environment. These diseases may range from mild to fatal.

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) provides its own definition of occupational diseases:

"An occupational disease is a health condition or disorder (e.g., cancer, musculoskeletal disorders, post-traumatic stress, etc.) that is caused by your work environment or activities related to your work. In general, health conditions or disorders that occur among a group of people with similar occupational exposures at a higher frequency than the rest of the population are considered to be occupational diseases."

Various factors can contribute to the development and worsening of an occupational disease.


What are the Common Causes of Occupational Diseases?

A workplace must provide an environment that is safe and comfortable for the workers. Since work environments differ from each other due to their businesses' nature, they should provide and implement specific guidelines to keep their employees safe and healthy.


The following are the common factors that cause common occupational diseases:

- Chemical agents that can be hazardous to the health

- Biological agents including fungi, animals, viruses, bacteria, plants and insects

- Physical factors such as noise, extreme temperature, radiation, magnetic fields, and more

- Psychological issues, particularly stress, harassment, bullying, violence, and not being recognized at work

- Ergonomic problems (workplace not adequately set up, poor design of equipment and tools, poor lighting, and repetitive movements)


Additional factors, such as the following, can determine how occupational diseases are developed:

- Variations in the biological factors

- Length of exposure

- Level of toxicity of the chemicals

- Amount of exposure

- Dosage of the chemicals that enter the body

- Process and route of entry in the body

- Removal of the chemical or substance from the body


Every company should have a clear and comprehensive manual or handbook to implement occupational safety health concerns. This is to make all the members of the organization of what they should be avoided or put into a stop.


#1 Sprains, Tears, and Strains 

These occupational diseases are often caused by excessive force, poor posture, repetitive tasks and other environmental factors. These can be painful and may significantly affect your work performance. gives comprehensive information that discusses the difference between joint strains and joint sprains. In one of its articles, it mentioned:

"A joint sprain is the overstretching or tearing of ligaments. Ligaments are the bands of tissue that connect two bones together in a joint. The most common location for a sprain is the ankle joint."


On the other hand, it described a joint strain as follows:

"A joint strain is the overstretching or tearing of muscles or tendons. Tendons are the dense fibrous cords of tissue that connect bones to muscles. The most common locations for a muscle strain are the hamstring muscle and the lower back."


Besides, muscle strains are also a common problem for workers in some workplaces. They can be painful and may limit the ability to move and perform work.


To prevent all these, the company should implement engineering and administrative controls to eliminate accidents and injuries. Every worker should also be aware of the importance of proper posture and how to avoid the effects of being sedentary.


#2 General Pain and Soreness

Workers can also experience various types of pains, such as headaches, neck pain, and other body parts. Jobs that require manual labour, as well as extended hours of standing and sitting, can also contribute to soreness and general pain in the body.

To avoid soreness and general pain, make sure to apply proper work ergonomics. For instance, use an ergonomic desk and standing desk to prevent chronic pain, inflammation, and other health issues.


#3 Occupational Hearing Loss

Occupational hearing loss happens due to loud noises and some other chemicals. A workplace where loud sounds of machines and equipment can contribute to hearing problems of the workers.

To solve this, the company needs to regulate the level of noise in the workplace. Have the employees wear protective gear and equipment to get rid of occupational hearing loss.


#4 Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs)

Musculoskeletal disorders refer to the injuries or issues of the nerves, tendons, muscles, joints, spinal discs, and cartilage. These include Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Repetitive Strain Injuries(RSI), hernia, back pain, and strains.

To prevent MSDs, employees can use ergonomic devices and accessories. For instance, an ergonomic vertical mouse can help a lot to prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.


#5 Back Pain

Back pain at work is often caused by tension, injury or strain. Poor posture and workplace ergonomics mainly contribute to this occupational disease. This type of pain can hamper productivity and efficiency. It is the common cause of frequent absenteeism and low quality of work results since workers can't work at their best.


To prevent this, make sure to work while keeping proper posture while sitting or standing. Since prolonged sitting can result in adverse health results, ergonomic experts' best advice is to alternate between sitting and standing. 

Use standing desks or desk converters because they can be adjusted to the proper height. This ergonomic equipment allows workers to prevent slouching and health issues such as forward head posture. An ergonomic chair can also provide benefits to prevent back pain and neck pain in the workplace.


#6 Occupational Contact Dermatitis

Occupational contact dermatitis refers to the skin condition that results from work-related exposures. Workers experience this disease when they are exposed to harmful substances and chemicals present in the workplace.


To avoid this type of occupational disease, make sure to be informed of the company's health hazards and the rules to prevent them. Always wear protective materials and equipment to protect the whole body from acquiring diseases.


Additional Tips to Prevent Common Occupational Diseases


  • Business owners and employers should develop an effective program and system to protect their employees from common occupational health issues.
  • Be aware of the hazards in the workplace
  • Avoid lifting heavy objects; use equipment to do heavy jobs
  • Implement training for employees on how to protect themselves from possible workplace hazards
  • Make sure to refer and work with health professionals and ergonomic experts for advice and tips to make the workplace safe

Various evaluation methods can be utilized to determine the degree of occupational health risks. There can be a risk of contaminants as well as physical demands. What's important is for the company to develop an effective measure to safeguard employees' health and safety.