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Korean J Occup Environ Med. 1989 Feb;1(1):39-45. Korean. Original Article.
Yum YT .
Department of Preventive Medicine and Institute of Environmental Health, Medical School, Korea University, Korea.

Health care management for industrial workers in Korea in terms of occupational health launched in 1953 when the Labour Act was enacted. Nevertheless, negligence of government on reality of workers health was said to be inevitable under the cloak of urgent fast development in way of industrialization. Happily, however, since 1981 when Industrial Safety and Health Law was enacted, periodical evaluation of work environment and physical check-up of workers have been worked out by several professional organizations under the umbrella of Korean Industrial Health Association. In 1986, for about 5,700 industries, a total of 125,000 checks of work environment including the agents of dust, noise, lead, organic solvents, special chemicals, and of others were carried out, and on the other hand, a total of 340,000 physical check-ups were performed in accordance with exposed hazardous agents in the work-lines. The summarized results of the above achievements were as follows. 1. The case detection rates of occupational diseases among workers in industries of Korea has been revealed to be half of Japanese ones since 1975 decreasing from 2.3% in 1975 to 1.7% in 1987. However, it is too hard to believe that the above detection rate which is lower than that of Japan indicates the real prevalence rate of occupational diseases among industrial workers of Korea. It may be underestimated by defects in management of health care system for workers in Korea. 2. A total of 6,942 cases (1.65%) of occupational diseases were detected through 421,019 spells of check-up from 345,780 industrial workers in 1987. Detection rate by industry was highest among coal mines and secondly highest among mines other than coal ones. 3. Detection rate by hazardous agent was highest among workers in relation to dust, and secondly highest to noise. Case detection rate in relation to organic solvent, lead, special chemicals and others was less than 0.1% in total, which is very low comparing with that in Japan. There should be some modification in the check-up management. 4. A total of 32,035 (25.5%) work points was found to be improper showing higher level of hazardous agent than the TLV. Actually, a total of 125,721 work points was evaluated from 5,695 industries. The rate of detecting improper environment was highest among mines other than coal mines. Second highest was in textile manufacturing industries. 5. Noise and dust are the typical agents of which levels in workplace were high in most of industries. Levels of organic solvents, lead, and others were higher than TLV in 9.5-17.0% of samples tested. 6. In relation to noise, the rate of noise level exceeding TLV was higher in mines and textile industries. However, there were less workers of hearing loss in textile industries. 7. In relation to dust, the rate of dust concentration exceeding TLV was higher in non-metal manufacturing industries and mines. However, the majority(92.0%) of pneumoconiosis were detected from workers of mines. Rare cases of pneumoconiosis were detected from workers of textile industries.

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