Health and safety have always been important factors to consider when people go to work. Over the last 100 years, however, there has been an increasing awareness and push by governmental and private enterprises to make the workplace safer and healthier. People started studying the effects of working, both physically and mentally. They observed certain trends, characteristics, and norms taking place over large periods of time, and began to gather conclusive evidence that could be used to improve overall productivity and health in the workplace environment.
This process is called epidemiology. And, epidemioloists have been instrumental in major health reforms in the workplace and throughout the world. Companies have established Human Resource Departments to better serve the needs of hiring, firing, motivating, educating, and helping out their employees. The science of ergonomics has sprung up, which is
the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance.
As a result of ergonomics, the workplace environment has been redesigned with equipment to maximize production while minimizing physical injury and stress.
Other factors epidemiologists study are in the field of preventative medicine, wherein disease patterns are estabished, injury risk is reduced, and exposure to undue dangers is minimized. The sole purpose of this science is to make the public aware of the dangers in their environment and on the job and help insure their safety.
The history of epidemiology started when Hippocrates, a famous Greek physician, started noticing the correlation between disease and environment. He made extensive notes about his findings and those records have been passed down to us. Through the years, other physicians have added their knowledge and findings, and a clear picture has emerged showing that a person's mental and physical well-being is very much influenced by the environment they are placed in, both on and off the job.
But, let's not limit epidemiology just to the workplace! It's very important to governments, municipalites, and public health organizations to help stop the spread of communicable diseases by pinpointing certain trends and habits of specific sectors of the population. By studying those trends, changes can be made to clean up the offending environment that's making people sick.