Posts Tagged ‘medical conditions’

Bagpiper’s Fungus, Cheesewasher’s Lung & other obsolete occupational maladies

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

Did you ever hear of rose gardener’s disease, nun’s chastity of fiddler’s neck?
All apparent names for occupational maladies of yesteryear. Watch this fascinating short video clip charting 10 strange occupational hazards.
Some of these conditions are associated with professions that are confined to the dustbins of history – becoming a loblolly boy isn’t a career path for young boys anymore. And some of these conditions may still exist, they are likely just rebranded. Others may have just adapted to modern tastes – cheesemaker’s lung may be largely a hazard of the past, but unfortunately, Popcorn Lung is not.

Extraterrestrial Exposures: Astronaut Medical Oddities

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

Every profession has its unique occupational risks and hazards, and some also have widely recognized work-related health risks associated with the profession. For example, the mining profession is associated with black lung disease; poultry and other food processing workers are at high risk for repetitive stress injuries, and so on. Or see Alice’s Mad Hatter and Work-Related Illness for an interesting historical perspective. Even seemingly safe professions such as musicians have work-related health risks.
Some workers we had never really considered from this perspective are astronauts. It’s not that we didn’t think they took risks – how could you possibly watch a metal cylinder being hurled into the farthest reaches of space and not think of the risks? But beyond curiosity about what they ate and how they handled bodily functions (oh come on, everyone wonders about that), we hadn’t given much thought to the more mundane day-to-day health hazards that astronauts face, and we feel safe in saying that most of you probably haven’t either.
We think that is about to change. The intriguingly titled Blindness, Bone Loss, and Space Farts: Astronaut Medical Oddities offers a fascinating glimpse into the “curious, bizarre, and potentially dangerous ways that space affects the human body and mind.”
Adam Mann of Wired Science says that, “Though astronauts have been flying above the Earth for more than half a century, researchers are still working to understand the medical toll that space takes on travelers’ bodies and minds. Astronauts must deal with a highly stressful environment, as well as weakening bones and muscles and the ever-present dangers of radiation. If people are ever to venture far from our home planet, such obstacles will need to be overcome.”
We aren’t going to go into much more detail about the article, beyond piquing your interest with these few teasers: “flying space barf” “foot molting” and “bugs in space.”
Pay attention people, because these are the looming exposures for commuting workers – and the future may not be as far away as you think.

Fear of Talking: The Narcoleptic Dispatcher

Monday, December 7th, 2009

Kenya Madden was hired as a police dispatcher for the Village of Hillsboro, Illinois, in July 2007. During the 10 week training period, she informed the trainer that she had narcolepsy, a disorder which causes people to fall asleep at unplanned moments. Some weeks later, she also informed her supervisor of her condition. The supervisor reacted with alarm. He had visions of Madden falling asleep in the middle of an urgent dispatch. He asked for Madden’s resignation. When she refused, he terminated her.
Madden filed suit under the ADA, alleging discrimination based upon (the perception) of a disability. This week, the case settled out of court for $10,001. Interesting number, interesting case.
There is no question that Madden’s supervisor mishandled the situation. With visions of disaster spinning in his head like demonic sugarplum fairies, he hastily put an end to the employment relationship. He did not ask for any details about the condition: how long she had experienced it; the degree to which medication controlled it; the last time she had an episode. He did not request permission to speak to Madden’s doctor. He reacted out of a fear totally out of proportion to the situation.
But Madden is not without fault. If her condition was under control, why did she feel obligated to disclose it twice (to the trainer and the supervisor)? If no accommodation was needed – and none was – then why did she bring up the issue?
We can read several things into the modest settlement: while the Village of Hillsboro mishandled the situation and violated the ADA, their actions appear to based upon the limited information provided by Madden: she could have attempted to reassure her supervisor by explaining the successful medical treatment she was receiving. She apparently was silent on the issue. A more gratuitous termination would have resulted in a six or seven figure settlement. Instead, Madden receives $10,000 for her trouble, with an extra dollar tossed in for good measure. That’s a pretty clear indication that while Madden was wronged, she may have had some responsibility for the situation.
This case illustrates a common problem in the way people perceive disability. We tend to jump to conclusions. “Narcolepsy” in a dispatcher sounds like an invitation to catastrophe.But it ain’t necessarily so. Try asking a few questions to determine just how big the risk is. Talk is cheap and talk, in situations like this, is definitely the way to go.