A Guide To Occupational Health

Lectures by Dr. G.D. Bhatia
Compiled by Hemant Sheth
Published by Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd.
Pages: 68

he International Labour Organisation defines occupa-tional health as “the promotion and maintenance of the highest degree of physical, mental and social well-being of workers in all occupations by preventing departures from health, controlling risks and the adaptation of work to people, and people to their jobs.” A Guide To Occupational Health strives to achieve this.

Beginning with the history of the Occupational Health Centre in Godrej way back in 1946, the Guide focuses on the impressive array of facilities the Centre offers to Godrej employees and their families, such as regular health check-ups for employees working in hazardous areas, as well as for drivers and persons exposed to industrial X-ray radiation; a range of laboratory tests and X-ray facilities; nursing care; physiotherapy; management of accident cases and of acute emergencies at the workplace; post-illness examinations; and psychological and psychiatric advice to employees who are mentally disturbed, depressed or addicted. The Centre also boasts of a Well Baby Clinic, where vaccines such as triple antigen, oral polio, measles, etc., are administered to infants.

The Guide outlines the various common diseases/ailments most employees face, their curative, and to a small extent, their preventive aspects. Did you know that during the years 1993 to 1997, 16 staff members suffered from heart diseases, six of whom died, and that 98 workers suffered from heart diseases, 46 of whom died? The statistics improved during the years 1998 to 2001, when 18 staff members suffered from heart diseases of which three died and 87 workers suffered from heart diseases to which 36 of them succumbed. Heart disease has been the most common ailment in recent times. The Guide probes its causes, its preventions and, most importantly, its warning signs. One of the symptoms of heart disease is a fall in blood pressure. While the Guide mentions the causes of high blood pressure and why it should be treated, it doesn’t give any information on low blood pressure. We are all aware of the risk of heart attacks. We are also aware of the importance of brisk morning walks and good eating habits to prevent heart attacks. Yet, how many of us say that we don’t have the time to exercise or that overeating won’t kill us? The Guide inspires the reader to follow these simple and good habits daily.

Diabetes, skin care and its associated diseases, the effects of air pollutants on health and lungs, the effects of temperature on health, the impact of chemical fumes, heat stress, noise and hearing disability are among the other topics covered quite comprehensively in A Guide To Occupational Health. According to Government guidelines, certain diseases such as deafness, if caused at the workplace due to exposure to noise, are compensable. But how many organisations in India compensate their employees in such cases could be anyone’s guess. Just as Indian drivers flout traffic rules, organisations without any values flout certain Government rules, which are formed in the interest of workers. The scenario is different in developed countries, where guidelines are followed to the letter. For instance, in the U.S., the compensation for deafness is three months leave with full pay. Of course, before giving compensation, the employee is put through audio tests.

At the same time, workers also need to be honest. In accident cases, it was observed that employers were apathetic towards accidents because of the Employees State Insurance Scheme (ESIS) benefits up to 1980. The Guide says: “This scheme provided the injured persons with indefinite leave, with 100 per cent wages for any number of accidents he met with. During this period, because of lack of awareness and poor housekeeping, our employees took undue advantage of the above liberal rules, in our Godrej factory. There were 3,000 to 5,000 accidents reported per year. After an analysis and study of all cases, it was concluded that bad rules caused a high number of loss time accidents. Employees would obtain a permanent disability certificate from Government hospitals and the Company ended up paying high compensation to these employees. Thereafter, accident benefit rules were modified to control the lost time malingering accident cases.”

The problem of addiction and its psychological aspects are also covered in detail. The interesting point is that the Guide does not simply talk about addiction to alcohol or drugs such as cocaine, brown sugar, etc., but also addiction to simple, day-to-day habits like watching television, computers, net surfing, continuous travelling, overeating, gambling, and even addiction to greed for power as a result of which people start playing “dirty politics and stoop to low human values and ethics to enter, maintain and live in the world of politics. They spend most of the time listening to the grapevine, and charting their counter-plan action to bring down the opposition. They work till late at night and forget their workplace/social responsibilities. They eat, drink and live politics. This activity is strenuous and results in no positive gains.”

A Guide To Occupational Health caters not just to workers, but to all human beings across the board. The book is considerably livened up by interesting caricatures, quotations on safety and fillers. One cannot help but think of God when reading this Guide. What a marvellous creation He made in human beings! But, it is humans who are destroying themselves, whether by increasing pollution, or by bad eating habits or by not taking due precautions at the workplace, where we spend a great part of our lives and which we consider as second to home!

Rashna Ardesher

A lady in a faded gingham dress and her husband dressed in a homespun threadbare suit stepped off the train in Boston, and walked timidly without an appointment into the president of Harvard University’s outer office.

The secretary could tell in a moment that such backwoods country folk had no business at Harvard and probably didn’t even deserve to visit there.

“We want to see the president,” the man said softly. “He’ll be busy all day,” the secretary snapped.“We’ll wait,” the lady replied. For hours, the secretary ignored them, hoping that the couple would finally become discouraged and go away. They didn’t. And the secretary grew frustrated and finally decided to disturb the president, even though it was something she was always reluctant to do.

“Maybe if they just see you for a few minutes, they’ll leave,” she told him. He sighed in exasperation and nodded. Someone of his importance obviously didn’t have the time to spend with them, but he detested gingham and homespun suits cluttering his office. The president, stern-faced with dignity, strutted towards the couple. The lady told him, “We had a son who attended Harvard for one year. He loved Harvard, and was very happy here. But, about a year ago, he was killed in an accident, and my husband and I would like to erect a memorial to him somewhere on campus.”
The president wasn’t touched, he was shocked. “Madam,” he said gruffly, “we can’t put up a statue for every person who attended Harvard and died.

If we did, this place would look like a cemetery.”
“Oh, no” the lady explained quickly, “we don’t want to erect a statue. We thought we would donate a building to Harvard.” The president rolled his eyes. He glanced at the gingham dress and homespun suit, and then exclaimed, “A building! Do you have any earthly idea how much a building costs? We have over seven-and-a-half million dollars in the physical plant at Harvard!”

For a moment the lady was silent. The president was pleased. He could get rid of them now. The lady turned to her husband and said quietly, “Is that all it costs to start a university? Why don’t we just start our own?”Her husband nodded; the president’s face wilted in confusion and bewilderment.

Mr. and Mrs. Leland Stanford walked away, travelling to Palo Alto, CA, where they established the university that bears their name — the world-famous Stanford University. A memorial to a son that Harvard no longer cared about.

MORAL: “You can judge a man’s character by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”

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