Current Research and Practice
Chapter 2: Work and Physical Health
OVERVIEW An estimated 350 000 deaths, 270 million non-fatal physical accidents and 160 million work-related diseases occur in workplaces each year (International Labour Organization, 2007). Work-related injuries, diseases and fatal accidents are more prevalent in developing countries where larger numbers of workers are employed in hazardous primary labour-intensive industries such as manufacturing, agriculture, commercial fishing, mining, logging and construction. Mechanization and safety standards ensure these industries are less hazardous in developed countries although they still account for a large proportion of severe injuries and fatalities. This chapter briefly describes the common physical health outcomes associated with paid employment and reviews the associations between psychosocial work conditions and physical health outcomes. We also discuss current trends in the organization of work and the corresponding implications for improving employee health outcomes. OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY Prior to the 1900s employee health and safety was not a government mandated concern. During this time employees were generally considered to be expendable and injuries were perceived to be the fault of the employee (Turner et al., 2005). However, a general shift away from an employer-centric work focus resulted in the development of formal employee health and safety policies. Each industrialized nation has subsequently developed formal occupational health and safety legislation resulting in significant improvements in working conditions, particularly in relation to the physical work environment. However, recent rapid changes in the nature of work have evoked suggestions that workplaces are again becoming hazardous environments (Danna and Griffin, 1999). Employment changes such as increasing work hours,...
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