Smoking and the Workplace
The adverse health-related effects of smoking are well known. But in the workplace, cigarette smoking exerts additional harmful effects you may not know about. November 16, 2000, is the Great American Smokeout, and a good time to take stock of your workplace smoking policies.
Cigarette smoke can combine with other chemicals in the workplace to produce greater health hazards than a worker would receive from either one of the substances alone. The most dramatic example of “combined” exposures involves smoking and asbestos. “Asbestos workers who smoke more than a pack a day have up to 90 times the chance of dying of lung cancer, compared with workers who neither smoke nor work with asbestos,” explains M. W., M.D., medical director of OccNet. OccNet is the occupational health service of the Health Alliance.
These things are a concern when workers smoke in an industrial setting:
- Chemicals in cigarette smoke are also commonly found in certain workplaces and can add to a worker’s total exposure to such chemicals, including acetone, lead, aldehydes, arsenic, methyl nitrate, benzene and many more substances.
- As a person holds and smokes a contaminated cigarette, toxic workplace chemicals may enter the body through the nose, mouth or skin. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends that cigarettes not be kept on a person in the work area and that employees who smoke should wash their hands first.
- The heat generated by burning tobacco can transform workplace chemicals into more toxic substances. An example of this heat-generated transformation is the conversion of chlorinated hydrocarbons into highly toxic phosgene gas.
- Workers who smoke have twice the accident rate as nonsmokers on the job. This may be due to loss of attention, or the fact that the worker’s hands are busy with the activity of smoking. There is the possibility that cigarettes cause coughing and eye irritation and that the higher carbon monoxide levels caused by smoking may lower alertness and reflexes.
- Smoking contributes to fire and explosions in occupational settings where flammable and explosive chemicals are used.
What can be done to decrease the harmful effects of smoking in the workplace? Prohibit smoking, promote stop-smoking and incentive programs, forbid tobacco in areas where one might be exposed to chemicals, keep tobacco out of areas where the presence of toxic substances is unknown, wash hands before smoking, and contact the Health Alliance about smoking cessation programs.
SOURCE: American Lung Association
Healthy Living Article List
|For Women||For Seniors||Fighting Cancer||Your Heart||Emergency 101|
|Work Smart||Bones, Muscles and Joints||Nutrition News||Advice From Our Docs|