Injury Vs. Disease
What is an injury?
An injury is generally something caused by a specific event or incident. The cause and effect relationships of the physical toll taken to the workers body can be discovered by looking at the physical evidence.
However, it is not always purely physical. On occasion, a psychological condition has been accepted as an injury. This can include burnout due to chronic overwork or for example, someone witnessing a traumatic incident or event which causes or contributes to a post traumatic stress disorder.
What is considered a disease?
A disease is a condition that develops over time due to activity or exposures that happen in the workplace. Some things we may refer to as injuries will be classified as a disease due to the time they take to become evident. One example is a back injury that shows itself over time due to consistent heavy lifting and carrying at work, which causes deterioration in a person’s spine, may be considered a disease. Also, a shoulder condition that gradually worsens over the span of a few years caused by repetition of work activities, is likely to be considered a disease.
As with an injury the disease can be physical and/or psychological, depending on the circumstances.
Common Examples of Injuries:
Muscular or skeletal injuries caused by a fall
Carpal tunnel syndrome
A pre-existing condition that has been aggravated by work. i.e.: Asthma
An earlier work related disability which recurs causing a later disability, i.e.: Back injury.
Tuberculosis and hepatitis for nurses, blood processors, and related professionals who are exposed to these diseases.
Disease of the heart and lungs for firemen who have four or more years of service.
Pneumococcus and silicosis for any occupation that involves direct contact with or exposure to coal dust.
Specific types of chemical poisoning (i.e.: lead, arsenic, mercury) for occupations that involve direct contact or exposure, or to the preparation or compounds.
Varying Degrees of Work Related Diseases
Because diseases develop over a period of time and have a large number of possible contributing factors, they can be very difficult to assess. Depending on the causal relationship to your disease based on your position and work detail, there are a few ways they can be labelled.
having a specific or a strong relation to occupation, generally with only one causal agent, and recognized as such
with multiple causal agents, where factors in the work environment may play a role, together with other risk factors, in the development of such diseases, which have a complex etiology
Some of the factors that are taken into the consideration when assessing workplace diseases are:
Strength of association.
An occupational disease is one where there is an obvious and real increase in disease in association with exposure to the risk.
Reports have generally similar results.
The exposure has a clearly defined pattern of disease or of diseases.
Appropriate time relationship.
The disease follows after exposure within the expected time frame.
The level of exposure matches the severity of disease.
The evidence leads to the conclusion that a sensible causal relationship exists between the disease and the job.
Diseases affecting working populations,
Where the disease may have developed outside of work and then been further aggravated on the job.
In the workplace the best line of defense is always prevention through elimination of risks. While this is not always possible there are always controls and measures to be taken to prevent injury and exposure.
When an injury or disease does develop it can be a complex process to identify which is the correct classification.
The deciding factor is often time. Generally, an injury has a direct link to a specific event whereas a disease is developed and worsened over a period of months or years.