The intent of the fourth edition of
the International Labour Organization's Encyclopaedia of Occupational
Health and Safety is to present a panoramic view of the basic available
information in the field. But what comprises the "field"?
Let us consider an example.
How might a group of various experts approach health and safety
issues that relate to long-term use of visual display units (VDUs),
the now familiar computer screens? A physician, charged with the
occupational health service for a group of VDU workers, might tend
to schedule medical exams to look for signs and symptoms of physical
illness. Eye examinations would be one logical component. VDU-specific
eyeglasses might be one solution. The epidemiologist, on the other
hand, would confront the problem statistically. She would want to
gather data on the results of the examinations of a group of VDU
workers and compare them to workers who did not engage in VDU work,
in order to determine the relative risks of the job for various
health outcomes. The occupational hygienist would focus on the environment
and might measure the lighting levels or test for particular contaminants.
The ergonomist could orient towards the design of the equipment
itself and study the physical interactions between the machine and
the worker. The psychologist would look towards organizational factors-the
social structure in the workplace-concentrating on issues such as
job demands, job control and electronic performance monitoring,
while the basic researcher might be more interested in experiments
on the biological mechanisms that could ultimately explain any effects
observed. The educator might develop training materials for helping
workers function optimally on the job. The trade unionist and the
employer may be interested in the application of principles of occupational
health to conditions of employment and contractual agreements. Finally,
the lawyer and the government regulator might be considering still
other pragmatic issues, such as compensation for injuries, or "proving"
possible health effects for establishing workplace regulation.
Each of these approaches is a valid and important aspect of occupational
health and safety and each complements the other. No one profession
holds the key to understanding and solving the problems of work-related
hazards. The "field" of occupational safety and health
is truly multidisciplinary.
Multidisciplinarity is challenging to the encyclopaedia editor.
Facts may be neutral, but the way in which they are comprehended,
interpreted and applied is culture bound, where by culture we mean
the integrated pattern of human belief, behaviour and knowledge.
In technical fields, culture will be a reflection of the basic discipline
of training, as well as of personal philosophy. Not only will what
you are-a lawyer, hygienist, trade unionist or physician-guide your
thinking, but who you are-whether you are a representative of government,
labour or management, for example-will inevitably influence your
perceptions of the universe, its demands, its effects. Where you
developed your expertise will also matter, since the philosophical
and practical underpinnings of science and medicine, too, are culture
bound and hence not the same throughout the world. At the very least
you will be bound by the realities of available resources and this
will inevitably alter your perspective. A seasoned professional
attempts to minimize such biases, but one look at the real world
shows how pervasive they are.
The problems of multidisciplinarity have not been solved in this
Encyclopaedia, and probably will never completely be solved anywhere,
but a pragmatic approach has been developed here. The Encyclopaedia
has been developed in parts, sections and chapters which correspond
to the various disciplines that comprise occupational health and
safety. It has been designed to provide the general user with background
information on the major disciplines of occupational health and
safety in an understandable manner that will, at the same time,
be considered rigorous by professionals in those fields. We have
attempted to provide sufficient depth and breadth of coverage to
permit workers in one area to appreciate and be stimulated by the
ideas and approaches of other disciplines in occupational health
and safety. We have endeavoured to make the descriptions of hazard
recognition and control as straightforward as possible, with a minimum
The overall structures is:
The Body and Health Care take a medical approach and provides information
on disease, its detection and prevention, and occupational health
services and health promotional activities.
Prevention, Management and Policy covers legal, ethical and social
policy aspects of the field, as well as educational and informational
and institutional resources.
Tools and Approaches provides insight into the disciplines which
comprise the study and application of occupational health and safety:
engineering, ergonomics, occupational hygiene, epidemiology and
statistics and laboratory research.
Hazards spans the range of chemical, physical and social hazards,
accidents and safety management methods that may be encountered
around the world. The nature of the hazard is detailed, together
with technical information on its recognition, evaluation and control.
Chemicals presents basic data on use in industry and chemical, physical
and toxicological properties information on more than 2,000 chemicals
categorized by chemical family.
Industries and Occupations takes a "how things work" and
"how to control hazards" approach to all the major industries.
The hazards associated with a variety of occupations which span
several industrial sectors are presented in a hazard card format.
Indexes and Guides provides a how-to-use the Encyclopaedia guide;
lists of tables and figures and collaborating institutions; and
indexes of chemical substances, cross-references, subjects and authors
Several thousand internationally recognized experts have been called
upon to be writers and reviewers of this Encyclopaedia. They have
been drawn from virtually all the major institutions around the
world and we have attempted to assure that international perspectives
are represented because such perspectives are not the same everywhere
and it is the responsibility of the International Labour Organization
to promote the free interchange of different conceptualizations.
Further, problems and solutions vary around the globe and it makes
good sense to seek out the expertise of those who personally know
and understand the issues.
In this Encyclopaedia we have planted an occupational health and
safety garden with facts, figures and interpretations to assist
in the blossoming of safe and healthful working conditions around
the world. The seeds have been sown in more or less orderly disciplinary
groupings, so that the reader, once becoming familiar with the garden
paths, can create any bouquet of facts that she or he wants. The
indexes in the fourth volume provide a more detailed map, including
a valuable index guide to the essential cross-referencing of information.
The experienced reader will soon learn what is planted where and
will be able to make his way along a favoured route. The electronic
version of this work has additional navigational aids, with its
built-in hyperlinks and specialized search facilities. By judicious
creation of searches, the astute CD-ROM user could even plant an
entirely new and rearranged garden of his or her own.
The Encyclopaedia is not, of course, one hundred per cent complete.
Isolated facts are missing. Some notions may be outdated even before
we go to press. This is the sign of an active and creative field
of human endeavour. This Encyclopaedia could not have been written
without the countless hours of work of individuals from around the
world. The reader will find the names of our collaborators in the
lists of authors and editors, and in the Directory of Experts which
is published in the electronic version of this work. Most of these
individuals came to the effort with the full support and assistance
of the institutions with which they were affiliated. Volume IV contains
a non-exhaustive list of these collaborating institutions, as well.
The fourth volume also contains a guide on "how to use"
this Encyclopaedia most effectively.
We are grateful for the extensive support in this worldwide effort.
Of course, the individual viewpoints presented are ultimately those
of the authors and not of their institutions or the International
Labour Office. We hope that the compendium of ideas presented here
will hasten the day in which occupational death and disease is a
rarity in the world.
Jeanne Mager Stellman, Editor-in-Chief