Thursday, 15 November 2012

Doctors highlight occupational health hazards among workers

LANI ROSE R DIZON

DOHA VARIOUS occupational health hazards among workers, including exposure to electromagnetic fields, mercury, infectious diseases, as well as stress at workplace, were highlighted at the 1st Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) Occupational Health and Safety Symposium on Wednesday.

The event was attended by over 300 healthcare providers and staffs from different healthcare institutions in the country.

Speaking at the event, Dr Hassan Elfar, professor of occupational medicine from the Supreme Council of Health, said that globally around two million healthcare workers experience percutaneous exposure to infectious diseases each year.

Citing a World Health Organization (WHO) report, he said that 37.6 percent of Hepatitis B, 39 percent of Hepatitis C, and 4.4 percent of HIV/AIDS cases in healthcare workers around the world were due to needle stick injuries.

Moreover, the study states that infection with Hepatitis B virus is 95 percent preventable with immunisation but only less than 20 percent of health workers in some regions of the world have received all three doses needed for immunity.

Elfar also said, “Healthcare facilities around the world employ over 59 million workers who are exposed to a complex variety of health and safety hazards everyday.

Healthcare workers need protection from these workplace hazards.” He went on to reiterate the WHO Global plan of Action on workers’ health which urges all member states to develop national programmes for health workers.

Speaking on the most common cases in the country, Dr Huda al Noimi, director of the Occupational Health and Safety at HMC, said, “Nowadays, headaches, neck, shoulder, and back pains, as well as stress-related illnesses are most commonly seen in hospitals.

And most of the patients are working with computers for long periods of time. If left untreated, such cases could lead to distortion of the bones which require surgery.” Professor David Koh, chair of Occupational Health and Medicine at the Universiti Brunei Darussalam and a renowned international expert in the field, spoke about assessing occupational health exposures.

Speaking about ways to boost occupational health and safety in Qatar, he said, “With all the new projects coming to Qatar, the best time to focus on health and safety is now. You assess health and safety risk before these industries are set up and you can put in preventive measures even at the development stage. It makes a lot more sense and it’s costeffective.

For the moment, it’s necessary to increase awareness and let people know the importance of occupational health and safety.”

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