The Role of Genetic Testing in Occupational Health

“Every day, 6,300 people die as a result of occupational accidents or work-related diseases – more than 2.3 million deaths per year.” – International Labour Organisation

This statistical information should be regarded as a guide for all employers and HR consultants in their efforts to uphold the well-being of staff. The said data should be a constant reminder of why offices and work facilities should be optimised to become an area where people can work safely or why protective gear should be provided and its use consistently enforced in sites that inherently pose hazards.

However, in this technologically advanced age, there are new considerations for occupational health. Now, a DNA test can be utilised to evaluate an employee’s chances of developing certain diseases or conditions as a result of his exposure to certain chemicals and substances. It can also be used as reference for future insurance considerations. It can also be utilised to assess whether a candidate is physically suitable for the job at hand. These applications affect certain ethical issues, though. There is always a risk that staff may be dismissed not because of illness but due to scientific evidence showing his predisposition to the said health condition. Thus, the said uses of DNA testing can be avenues for discrimination, as well as the loss of privacy with very personal records such as genetic information.

It must be noted that genes are not the only sole predictors of human well-being. You have to take the environment and lifestyle in consideration, too. Let’s take your company set-up as an example. If you, as employer, do not allocate enough leave benefits or facilitate sanitation in the work place, then it is highly likely that your labourers will get sick. You do not need a DNA assessment result to tell you that. Admittedly, it is also possible that you will encounter staff prone to having health problems despite the fact that you have been particular about making your premises an ideal facility to work in. However, general medical exam results can give you enough clues to the level of physical fitness of the said individual. So, if DNA evaluations for occupational purposes become widespread in the corporate sector, think twice before joining the crowd due to the abovementioned facts. But, be on the lookout for new developments in genetics that will help you increase productivity in the workplace without violating ethical norms.