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Information on Injuries at Work

There is now far more information published, than previously, on injury and death in the Irish workplace.

See HERE for the most recent statistics from the Health and Safety Authority.

However, there is a general problem in the medical profession as to what is information, in the sense of explanation.

What does it mean, for instance, to diagnose “tennis elbow”? It can only mean that the patient has been playing tennis excessively. Of course it, inaccurately, conveys the kind of injury suffered, but it does not explain it. Suppose, as is the norm, the patient does not play tennis at all, let alone excessively? How can it be defended as a diagnosis?

This problem may become acute in the completion of a death certificate. To record that a person died of a pulmonary embolism is of limited interest. Certainly, it may allay anxiety that the person may have died through an illegal act such as murder. However, it ignores the important question of the cause of the pulmonary embolism.

Some of this may be attributable to the imperfections in medical knowledge but mostly it is a failure to think with clarity. There is room for improvement on the part of the medical profession in ascribing causes to illness and death, which do not, in effect, do more than describe symptoms rather than pinpoint causes.

It is generally felt, amongst medical practitioners of occupational health, that general practitioners should consider occupational causes for illness in their patients systematically. That is, it should be part of the taking of a patient’s history that the occupation/s of the patient be noted and inquired into as a regular practice of every practitioner.