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Health Hazards Veterans Face in the Workplace

One of the biggest things to think about when hiring veterans is the health risks and hazards they can be exposed to. Regardless of the age of your veteran employees, doing some extra research to make sure that their health isn’t at risk is key to creating a safe workplace, both physically and mentally. 


Additionally, ensuring that you focus on their needs and wants to create an effective workplace is key. While you can always look at a list of tips and tricks for managing veterans at work, ensuring that you know of their past experiences and what they need the most can truly help your productivity and their overall health as employees. So, to dive a little deeper into both of these ideas, here are a few of the health hazards veterans face in the workplace, as well as the impact their past occupations may have on their present-day lifestyle.



Previous Occupations

Unfortunately, there are a plethora of physical health issues that occur due to time in service. While we can often think of the common conditions affecting a veteran’s joints or bones, there are others that can take a bit of time to show up—mainly due to latency periods. 



For example, 30% of cases of Mesothelioma actually come from veterans. Mesothelioma is a cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos that affects the lining of the lungs or the abdomen. To add to the occupational hazard, veterans with mesothelioma might not even realize they have it until years later since the latency period is 10 to 50 years. Believe it or not, from 1930-1980, those in the military had high exposure to asbestos because of its use on military bases, naval ships, and equipment. While intact, asbestos is virtually harmless. However, once it is disturbed, it can cause a multitude of health issues. 



A good portion of veterans may also end up working in fields like construction, engineering, or as first responders. All of these jobs also have a high risk of asbestos exposure. To make things worse, the symptoms of mesothelioma can look like that of aging, including fatigue, loss of appetite, or regular coughing. It’s important to make sure that regular doctors’ visits are in order in order to keep your health in check, even if it seems like something you’ll “get over.” 



Current Way of Living

While being in the military can cause physical and mental health issues, it’s important to try and maintain a strong, healthy balance within regular day-to-day activities. Oftentimes, when coming off of service, the same type of lifestyle can’t be maintained, and it can be easy to fall victim to unhealthy routines. 



A study done by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs stated that while veterans tend to be satisfied with their work and their social relationships, they actually were less satisfied with their physical health overall. Those surveyed even stated that sleep disorders and chronic pain were among the highest health conditions they faced after their separation from the military. 



One of the key takeaways here is to stay active to maintain a healthy standard of living. Even taking just 20 minutes out of your day to go on a walk can really make a difference. While female and male veterans tend to show different health concerns (anxiety and depression tend to show higher results in female veterans, whereas physical concerns like high blood pressure and cholesterol show more in men), the fact is there tends to be a larger emphasis on helping veterans rejoin the workforce than their health. 



Hazards in Your Field

While transitioning from the military to another job can be daunting, it really doesn’t have to be. As an employer, you can create a safe environment for your veteran employees, both physically and mentally. By offering health services through your human resources team, you’re able to make sure that your employees are staying healthy, both mentally and physically. 



Focusing on physical health, getting in touch with an inspection company that can focus on health hazards like lead, asbestos, or other physical hazards can make a huge difference. These can seem like small issues, but they won’t only protect your veterans, but they can protect your other employees from future health issues. 



This will, in return, help you avoid potential negligence claims or health issues that will arise in your employees. If you work in a vocational field, make sure that you’re clear about any hazards the job may entail, that way you can take preventative measures to maintain their health. 



Lastly, offering mental and emotional health services can have an impact as well. Only about half of veterans will seek mental healthcare services on their own, so including this in your healthcare plan can help maintain their sense of belonging at work, and that they have a support system. 



While no one can expect you to make huge changes to your business, being aware of past health concerns and preparing for any potential issues can be important to your thriving business. Even the smallest thing like offering support can go a long way. Taking these small steps to improve the workplace for your veterans and general employees can create a space they will not only want to stay in but one that supports them in every aspect.