Consider that an employee within a company-sponsored (OSHA required) medical monitoring program for your industry has just had an annual work physical and now reports to have pulmonary stress, hearing damage, and elevated blood lead (Pb) concentrations that were not previously reported on the employee’s pre-employment exam. As a result, the human resources manager has asked you to help determine what work-related variables may have contributed to the employee’s impacted health. What variables would you need to consider from within the work system, and what questions would you need to ask the worker to consider from within the worker’s area of residence? How would you attempt to delineate the air quality impacts from the employee’s work system and home?
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If a worker were to report havin pulmonary stress, hearing damage, and elevated blood lead concentrations there would be a number of steps that would immediately need to be taken. First, a job hazard analysis would have to be conducted (if one has not been performed already) which would identify potential hazards associated with the day-to-day activities. If hazards such as lead exposure, or noise contributing to hearing loss are identified, then the controls shall be analyzed to determine their efficacy. Another way to be able to determine causal factors arising from the workplace as opposed to at home would be to look at the data from other employees working within the same environment as this person. Once these factors are analyzed, it cann be determined whether these harmful effects are in fact due to occupational exposure, and then it can be determined how to manage these hazards better. It could be an isolated incident (i.e. this particular worker does not don PPE correctly) or a systematic issue (i.e. ventilation throughout the facility is compromised, and the safety training program is not effective in hazard communication).