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Competency 1 – Good Clinical Care:Be aware of sources of information on hazards of specific occupations

Objective:to be competent in the assessment and management of a case which has a significant occupational health component.

KNOWLEDGE:

BE AWARE OF SOURCES OF INFORMATION ON HAZARDS OF SPECIFIC OCCUPATIONS.

Hazard is defined as something with the potential to cause harm, such as a substance, a piece of equipment, a form of energy, a way of working or a feature of the environment.

Risk is defined as the likelihood of harm occurring in defined circumstances. This is usually divided into low, medium and high risk.

Consider the following two examples:

  • Attending a rock concert.
    Noise would be classed as a potential hazard to visitors and workers at the concert.
    If a person only attended one concert the risk of harm from the noise exposure would be classed as low. On the other hand, if a person worked as the ‘roadie’ for that concert and attended approximately three concerts per week on a regular basis, noise would now become a significant hazard and the risk of harm would be high.
  • Lead pipe.
    If you find a lead pipe and pick it up, it may be perceived as a potential hazard, but it actually poses no risk in its present form. However, if you grind up the pipe and inhale the dust, the lead now becomes a risk to your health.

When reflecting on an occupation it is important to systematically consider all possible hazards and evaluate the potential risk of harm to the individual following their exposure to that hazard.

Information about hazards can be obtained from a number of sources.

Sources of information would include:

  • Manufacturer’s safety data sheets. These can be obtained from the workplace and form part of the Control of Substances hazardous to Health (COSHH) risk assessment undertaken by the employers.
  • Literature searches can be undertaken by various bodies including the British Medical Association.
  • Medical/scientific journals and books: eg: Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
  • Personal Networks. Many sub-specialities within Occupational Medicine have formed their own professional associations (e.g. Medical Advisers to Local Authorities, Chemical Industries, NHS, Association of Local Authority Medical Advisors (ALAMA – normally accessed by occupational health professionals), Association of occupational physicians who provide occupational health services to NHS employers (ANHOPS – website can provide useful information that is accessed by all). Other useful freely available websites include doctors.net.uk websites.
  • The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was set up in 1974 following Health and Safety at work Act to provide advisory and enforcement roles in the industry. Included within the HSE is the Employment Medical Advisory Service (EMAS), which employs doctors and nurses to advise both employers and employees on health and safety issues. Contact details are available in the local phone book or via the website.
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