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Implications of applying cumulative risk assessment to the workplace

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  • Alternative Title:
    Environ Int
  • Description:
    Multiple changes are influencing work, workplaces and workers in the US including shifts in the main types of work and the rise of the 'gig' economy. Work and workplace changes have coincided with a decline in unions and associated advocacy for improved safety and health conditions. Risk assessment has been the primary method to inform occupational and environmental health policy and management for many types of hazards. Although often focused on one hazard at a time, risk assessment frameworks and methods have advanced toward cumulative risk assessment recognizing that exposure to a single chemical or non-chemical stressor rarely occurs in isolation. We explore how applying cumulative risk approaches may change the roles of workers and employers as they pursue improved health and safety and elucidate some of the challenges and opportunities that might arise. Application of cumulative risk assessment should result in better understanding of complex exposures and health risks with the potential to inform more effective controls and improved safety and health risk management overall. Roles and responsibilities of both employers and workers are anticipated to change with potential for a greater burden of responsibility on workers to address risk factors both inside and outside the workplace that affect health at work. A range of policies, guidance and training have helped develop cumulative risk assessment for the environmental health field and similar approaches are available to foster the practice in occupational safety and health.
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