22.2 Occupational Diseases
BELOW will be found a complete chart of those occupations which are, in themselves, especially hazardous, or which expose workers in them to unusual risks from disease; together with a list of the diseases.
Some occupations offer opportunities for the contraction of more than one disease; and the same disease may be contracted during more than one occupation.
Everyone is not able to choose his daily occupation, he inherits his work, so to speak, from parents; or he may be the victim of circumstances. But it behooves each one of us to select, as far as possible, such employment as will offer conditions best suited to health.
In this way only can the laborer hope to enter into the true enjoyment of his work.
Methods of Entry of . Industrial Poisons into the
The methods by which industrial poisons may enter the body are three: (1) Through the mouth and digestive system; (2) through the respiratory system; (3) through the skin.
The admission of poisonous material through the digestive, system follows usually through unwashed hands being brought into contact with the mouth in order to wipe away moisture from the lips, or because the food is touched with unclean hands or is allowed to lie open in contaminated workrooms. It must also be pointed out that poisonous gas, dust, or vapor may get into the mouth or nose, and falling upon the moist mucous membrane, be carried into the stomach with the saliva. Here it must be noted that only a few combinations of poisons are wholly insoluble, the most being easily soluble in water and especially so in the digestive fluids.
Methods of Combating Industrial Poisons.
The chief share in the prevention of industrial poisons falls to factory owners and managers of industries; in the first place, because upon them rests the responsibility of providing proper technical arrangements f or the removal of gases, vapors, and dust, and proper precautionary measures to avert danger in filling, emptying, and transporting the substances above named; in the second place, because upon them lies likewise the responsibility for providing suitable washing facilities and shower baths, work clothes, respirators, protective helmets, and other similar effective aids, where the formation of dangerous gases and dust in the workroom can not be prevented. We must not, however, overlook the fact that the hygienic protection of labor by preventive industrial devices is often practicable only in large and heavily capitalized establishments. Thus the majority of workers in the smaller factories, and especially in the hand work industries, must remain dependent upon less effective regulations. It is important to note concerning the preceding considerations that the interests of the industry and of the worker are one, because, in general, the development of an industry depends upon the well being of its employees, or at least the two are interdependent. The productivity of the employee conforms in general to the care which the employer has taken to protect his health. Accordingly we should wish that the management of the great chemical industry might present a model. It by no means proves to be such, however, even in isolated cases. Frequently workers become sick even in establishments that are well conducted hygienically, because of production by new methods, as a result of which new and unknown poisons develop. This danger might be avoided if, before the manufacture in large quantities, exhaustive experiments in regard to the physiological effects of all the yet unknown chemical constituents were made in a laboratory attached to the factory or in a public institution.
An important role in the prevention of industrial poisoning falls to the government factory inspectors in so far as the supervision and control of legal preventive measures are incumbent upon them. If, however, the work required of them is so great that there is danger of their visits to the factory being so far apart as to make the proprietor feel fairly safe from interference, their activity then needs supplementing through experienced workers who should be officially designated as assistants to the factory inspectors. For a number of industries the appointment of factory physicians is prescribed by law in Germany. It is their duty to make a physical examination of each new worker and to watch over the health of those exposed to danger by the industry. This very valuable provision yet needs development. Especially should the factory physician be made entirely independent of the factory owner, and he should receive a competence sufficient to enable him to study the relation between sickness and nature of employment, so that he might be placed in a situation of usefulness in prescribing rules of conduct.
It is true, however, that in many cases upon the conduct of the worker himself entirely depends his well being. Any watchful observer daily will note cases in which workers are poisoned by their indifference to the threatening danger. The enlightenment of the worker must therefore play an important part in overcoming the risks of industrial poisoning. It is useless here to argue whether the worker's own watchfulness, , or factory regulation is the more important. Instruction must come to the worker from many channels. This could begin conveniently in the higher classes of the public schools in connection with the instruction in natural sciences. Instruction in the conduct necessary to prevent industrial poisons, such instruction to be given by experienced physicians, should be emphasized in the continuation schools and especially in the technical schools. Much may also be done through the press, by public lectures, popular pamphlets, concise circulars of instruction, as well as by foremen and bosses.
Doctor Sommerfeld considers that the essential progress along these lines must be made, however, by means of the continuation schools of the various industries. It is usually a fruitless attempt to dissuade an adult laborer from exposing himself in his customary manner to a danger with which he is familiar and hence for which he has contempt. The youthful mind, however, is susceptible to enthusiastic and energetic instruction. The teacher of health for these young workers must be familiar not only with the scientific aspects of his subject, but with the technical methods of the industry.