Your A-Z of occupational health terms

Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) – Written guidelines issued by an official body or a professional association to its members to help them comply with its ethical standards.

Aerosols – a suspension of fine solid or liquid particles in gas – smoke, fog, and mist are aerosols.

Allergen – substance that causes an allergic reaction.

Asbestos – highly heat-resistant, fibrous, naturally-occurring  silicate mineral.

Biological agent – Any micro-organism (virus, bacteria, fungi, yeast etc), cell cultures or human endoparasites which may cause infection, allergy or toxicity or otherwise create a hazard to human health.

Carcinogen – a substance capable of causing cancer in living tissue.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – compression of the median nerve that controls sensation and movement in the hands; causes a tingling sensation, numbness and sometimes pain.

Chronic  – of an illness, persisting for a long time or constantly recurring.

Contaminant – something that makes something less pure, or poisonous.

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (CoSHH) – regulations that require safe working with potentially hazardous chemicals.

Cutaneous – relating to or affecting the skin.

Display Screen Equipment (DSE) – a device or equipment that has an alphanumeric or graphic display screen. It includes computers, laptops, touch-screens and similar devices.

Ergonomics – the practice of designing products, systems or processes with regard to human characteristics. 

Health and Safety Executive – government organisation responsible for promoting health and safety throughout the UK.

Ingestion – taking a substance into the body through the mouth.

Inhalation – taking a substance into the body by breathing it in, usually gases, dusts, etc.

Irritant – a substance that produces an inflammatory reaction when it comes into contact with the skin.

Manual Handling Operations – an activity that requires a person to exert force in order to move something, e.g. lifting a heavy box

Risk Assessment – a formal estimation of the likelihood that somebody will encounter injury or health risks due to identified hazards.

Solvent – a substance capable of dissolving another substance.

Stress – The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demands placed on them at work.

Toxicity – the degree to which something is poisonous.

Vapour – the gaseous form of a substance that is usually solid or liquid at room temperature.

Ventilation – the movement of air, usually with regard to introducing fresh air to a room.

Workplace exposure limit – designed with the intention of limiting workers to excessive exposure of toxic chemicals.

Workstation – the combination of equipment that a user requires, usually incorporating display screen equipment, desk, chair, telephone, etc.