The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported concern over the lack of studies focused on infectious diseases and potential outbreaks in workplaces nationwide, including Arizona. While strict standards and guidelines are in place to prevent incidents of work injury, authorities want to create more awareness of this threat. The studies were focused on particular industries such as public services, health care, laboratories and those that involve people working with animals, and they used data from articles in medical journals that were published from 2006 through 2015.
Authorities say those studies did not include predictions of potential future outbreaks. Reportedly, NIOSH reviewed all available data and published the conclusions about diseases that are emerging and re-emerging in several identified workplace clusters. The first sector includes those who work with people who could be ill, such as EMTs, teachers, correctional officers and police, all of whom are vulnerable to contracting influenza, measles and other viral respiratory infections. Airborne infections that include tuberculosis and HIV infections that could be transmitted through needlesticks or other puncture wounds also threaten health care workers.
Other at-risk industries are agriculture, poultry processing, slaughterhouses and rehabilitation centers for animals and marine mammals. Diseases that can transmit between animals and humans can infect these employees. Then there are food service workers who are threatened by salmonella and norovirus, and workers who are infected can pass it on to the public they serve. Workers in Arizona and other areas with hot and dry climates are at risk of contracting Valley Fever. This disease is known to affect construction workers and farm workers.
Preventing outbreaks or handling them when they occur is challenging, and employers need to work health authorities to learn about potential threats. Arizona workers might find comfort in knowing that the state-regulated workers’ compensation insurance program covers occupational diseases like any other work injury. Experienced legal counsel is available to assist with the navigation of benefits claims.