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Monday, 04 April 2011 22:01

Systematization of Occupational Hazards by Occupation

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At present, there is no handbook, manual or other single source which contains the essential data on the various occupational hazards which exist in specific occupations. The variety of the occupations is so great that not even experienced specialists—safety engineers, industrial hygienists, industrial physicians, consultants and researchers—can be familiar with all the hazards existing in each specific occupation. Therefore, occupational safety and health (OSH) experts must search information in the very extensive relevant professional literature and databases and, sometimes, have to scan scores of technical documents. Such searches are complicated, tedious, time-consuming and require access to specialized information sources. Usually, they are beyond the ability and resources of an OSH field worker (industrial hygienist, safety officer, inspector, occupational physician, sanitarian or instructor), and much beyond the possibilities of a non-professional (plant manager, safety committee member or employees’ representative). As a result, quite frequently an OSH worker comes to the workplace without adequate preliminary technical preparation.

This was realized many years ago. An early attempt to create a practical list of hazards according to occupations was undertaken by A.D. Brandt in his 1946 book Industrial Health Engineering. Brandt presented a compilation of about 1,300 various occupations with the relevant occupational hazards in each occupation. The total number of hazards listed was roughly 150, most of them chemical hazards. Since Brandt’s pioneering effort, no systematic work was carried out on the subject, except for a few partial lists related to limited aspects of occupational hazards. However, there were some other efforts in this field, such as the 1964 book Accident Research: Methods and Approaches, by W. Haddon, E.A. Suchman and D. Klein, which attempted to classify the various types of accidents; a “table of health hazards listed by occupation”, which appeared in the 1973 book Work Is Dangerous to Your Health, by J.M. Stellman and S.M. Daum; a set of partial lists of “potential occupational exposures” published in 1977 in the comprehensive National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) monograph Occupational Diseases: A Guide to their Recognition; and a list of about 1,000 various potential health hazards that might exist in about 2,000 different occupations, which was compiled in 1973 by the School of Medicine of Tel-Aviv University.

All of the projects mentioned above suffer from a number of shortcomings: they are not up-to-date; the lists are only partial and refer to specific aspects rather than to the entire OSH field; and they deal mostly with the chronic occupational hygiene aspect, neglecting largely the safety and acute aspects of the problem. Moreover, none of those lists is in a concise, practical form, such as a pocket-size and easy-to-use manual, or separate single cards that could be used directly in the field.

A compilation of 100 “hazard cards”, in Hebrew, was recently prepared for the Israeli Ministry of Health and deals with the various hazards to which this ministry’s employees (mostly hospital staff and field workers) are exposed. In preparing this compilation, different United Nations and International Labour Organization (ILO) documents related to the classification of occupations and economic activities were used, as were various documents issued by the Commission of the European Communities (CEC) within the framework of its International Programme on Chemical Safety.

The experience gained during the above work gave rise to the idea of starting a project of International Safety Datasheets on Occupations that has been subsequently endorsed by the ILO’s International Occupational Safety and Health Information Centre (CIS) and is currently in progress. For this chapter of the Encyclopaedia, a number of such datasheets has been selected, in order to demonstrate a systematic approach that would be widely applicable and not confined to any specific professional domain. From this point of view, the selection was based on two main criteria: broad diversity of selected occupations with regard to the types of activities involved and their relative risk and the “cross-boundary” character of each occupation, i.e. its presence in many fields of economy.

Methodological Aspects

A consistent conceptual and procedural framework has been elaborated and used in the preparation of the datasheets. It is organized around a checklist, or matrix, serving as a guideline for a systematic and comprehensive analysis of the hazards existing in a given occupation. While helping to reveal and evaluate different hazards that may be present in the occupation, this checklist has an additional function of serving as a template, according to which a hazard datasheet is actually compiled (see table 1).

The use of such a standard and well-itemized template provides a uniform datasheet structure, assuring quick familiarization and easy orientation by a user. Another important consideration is the use of standard phrases and expressions across the whole range of occupations, the advantage being an instant recognition of similar hazards present in different occupations.

The checklist (template), together with a set of standard phrases and key-words, will serve in the future as a basis for developing a Guide for Compilers of Hazard Datasheets, with a purpose similar to that of the Compiler’s Guide for the Preparation of International Chemical Safety Cards (a joint project of the CEC, the ILO, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)).

The datasheet structure contains the following sections, according to the template:

  • Name of occupation: the title taken either from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) or from the International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO)
  • Synonyms: taken from DOT and/or other sources, typically an English-language thesaurus
  • Definition and/or description: mostly quoted or adapted from DOT or ISCO. Some definitions quoted from DOT contain abbreviated designations of different industries, according to the “Industry Index” (DOT, Vol. 2). “Professional and kindred occupations” (“Occupations requiring extensive study or experience in professions, technical services, sciences, art, and related types of work”) are designated “Profess. & kin.”; occupations that are “not elsewhere classified” are designated “n.e.c.”; most of the other abbreviations are self-explanatory.
  • Related and specific occupations: compiled on the basis of DOT, ISCO, discussions with experts and personal knowledge
  • Tasks: compiled from various sources, including the Revised Handbook for Analyzing Jobs (RHAJ), DOT, ISCO, suggestions by experts, etc., and arranged alphabetically
  • Primary equipment used and Industries where this occupation is common: The lists of tools, machines and industries were compiled on the basis of discussions with field workers and experts, as well as information found in various technical job descriptions; personal expert knowledge was also extensively used.
  • Hazards: The lists of hazards of various types were compiled following thorough examination of numerous information resources, including: previous lists of occupational hazards compiled by various researchers; job descriptions of DOT and ISCO; technical documents issued by national OSH organizations, such as INRS (France), HSE (United Kingdom), NIOSH (US), IIOSH (Israel), etc.; professional literature, including the ILO Encyclopaedia of Occupational Health and Safety; computerized databases (e.g., CISDOC, NIOSHTIC, HSELINE and TOXLINE); interviews with field workers and OSH professionals, as well as personal knowledge and expert evaluation.
  • Notes: any additional important and relevant information not included elsewhere, such as information on synergistic effects and warnings about some high-risk situations
  • Appendices: auxiliary and supplementary data, such as lists of substances used in a given occupation, etc.


Following its compilation, each hazard datasheet was subjected to peer reviewing and comments by at least two competent specialists.



Table 1. Checklist (template)



Job profile

Definition and/or description


Related and specific occupations




Primary equipment used


Industries in which this occupation is common



Accident hazards


Mechanical and general

– Machinery accidents

– Transport accidents

– Falls of persons (e.g., slips, trips on the level, from heights, from a moving vehicle, etc.)

– Falls of heavy objects, materials, wall collapses, etc.

– Stabs, cuts, amputations

– Striking against or struck by objects (bone fracture, bruises)

– Stepping on objects

– Being caught in or between objects, including crushing and tearing accidents

– Pressure vessels, vacuum vessels (bursting, mechanical explosions or implosions)

– Burns and scalds (by hot or cold fluids or surfaces)

– Penetration of foreign particles into eyes

– Swallowing of bulky or sharp-edged non-poisonous solids

– Drowning

– Acute injuries caused by animals (e.g., bites, scratches, kicks, squeezing and trampling, stings, rammings, etc.)

– Overexertion or overstrenuous movements

Chemical accidents

– All acute injuries and effects related to accidental release, spillage, inhalation, swallowing of, or contact with, chemical agents (except fire or explosions)

Electrical accidents

– All injuries and effects related to electric current and static electricity

Fires and chemical explosions
Radiation accidents

– Injuries involving accidental exposure to high doses of ionizing and non-ionizing radiation, including laser beams and strong light, UV, etc.

Physical hazards


– Ionizing radiation (including, e.g., x rays, alpha-, beta- and gamma radiation, neutron and particle beams, radon, etc.)

– Non-ionizing radiation (including the whole spectrum of electromagnetic non-ionizing radiation, e.g., visible light, UV and IR, laser beams, RF, MW, etc.); electric and magnetic fields

– Vibration (affecting whole body; vibration-related hazards affecting specific organs appear under “Ergonomic and social factors”)

– Noise (including also ultra- and infrasound)

– Exposure to weather, extreme heat or cold, reduced or increased barometric pressure (including heat stroke, sun stroke, heat stress, cold stress, frostbite, etc.)

Chemical hazards*


* Hazards related to non-accidental exposure to chemicals

Direct/immediate effects:

– Irritation of mucous membranes, eyes and respiratory system

– Effects on the nervous system (headaches, reduced alertness, intoxication, etc.)

– Gastrointestinal disturbances

– Skin effects (itching, erythema, blistering, etc.)

– Effects of “routine” exposure on ultrasensitive persons; effect of combination of “routine” factors, e.g., non-accidental formation of phosgene when smoking in presence of organochlorine compounds

– Asphyxia

Delayed, chronic or long-term effects:

– Chronic systemic poisoning

– Other systemic effects (e.g., hematopoietic, on the gastro-intestinal, urogenital nervous systems, etc.)

– Skin effects (dermatoses, skin sensitization and allergies, etc.)

– Eye effects (cataracts, impaired vision, corrosive damage, etc.)

– Inhalation effects (lung oedema, chemical pneumonitis, pneumoconiosis, asthmatic reactions, etc.)

– Ingestion effects (sore throat, abdominal pain and/or cramps, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, reduced consciousness, coma, etc.)

– Chemical allergies not included above

– Effects on reproductive system, pregnancy (spontaneous abortion, embryo- and foetotoxicity), birth defects

– Carcinogenesis and mutagenesis

Biological hazards


– Microorganisms and their toxic products

– Poisonous and allergenic plants

– Exposure to animals which can lead to diseases and allergies (from hair, furs, etc.)

Ergonomic and social factors


Hazards related to working postures, man-machine interactions, lifting, mental or physical stress, nuisance and discomfort (e.g., sick building syndrome, poor illumination, air pollution from sources not related to workplace, human relations, violence, biorhythms, bad smells, vibration affecting specific body organ, e.g., carpal tunnel syndrome, etc.)




– Special alerts

– Statistical data (e.g., “increased risk of ...”; “excess mortality...”, etc.)

– Synergistic effects

– Special circumstances or combinations of factors

– Any important relevant information not included elsewhere



List of chemicals, etc.



Additional Info

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