Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) bulletin
Scientific evidence has shown that welding work where various metal vapours are released to the respiratory air is associated with a heightened risk of pneumococcal pneumonia and, in particular, lobar pneumonia and invasive pneumococcal disease.
Pneumococcal disease has been diagnosed in people other than welders at the Turku shipyard, primarily people who work in the same spaces as the welders, i.e. spaces where there metal vapours generated by welding are present. The congestion and poor ventilation of the working conditions increase the risk of contracting the disease.
As part of their normal occupational safety and health obligations, the Turku Meyer shipyard and its networks have highlighted the importance of hygiene to their employees and made more hand sanitizer freely available. In addition, particular attention has been paid to the proper use of respirators. The shipyard recommends all people working at the shipyard to get vaccinated against pneumococcal disease. Occupational safety and health measures have been planned in co-operation with the Wellbeing Services County of Southwest Finland, occupational health care professionals and officials.
Vaccinations protect against pneumococcal infections
Persons at a risk of contracting a pneumococcal infection in their work can be protected efficiently with vaccinations. A polysaccharide vaccine or conjugate vaccine will decrease the risk of a severe disease caused by most common types of pneumococci. In addition, conjugate vaccines can prevent pneumococcal infections and break possible chains of transmission as they reduce the throat carriage of pneumococcal bacteria covered by the vaccine. This provides indirect protection to unvaccinated employees and the general public.
Employer carries out the risk assessment and occupational health services administer the vaccinations
As the hazards of the disease are work-related, the vaccinations are part of the occupational health services organized by the employer. The employer must assess work-related risks and offer employees the vaccinations required to be protected against them.
In addition to the vaccinations, it is important to carry out other protective measures to reduce the respiratory exposure of employees to welding vapours, metal dust, viruses and bacteria.
The autumn’s influenza season also increases the risk of pneumococcal diseases at shipyards.
Heikki Frilander, Chief Physician, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, tel. +358 (0)46 850 5040, heikki.frilander[at]ttl.fi
Hille Suojalehto, Chief Physician, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, tel. +358 (0)43 820 0363, hille.suojalehto[at]ttl.fi
Hanna Nohynek, Chief Physician, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), tel. +358 (0)29 524 8246, hanna.nohynek[at]thl.fi
Employees contracted pneumococcal disease at the Turku shipyard, vaccinations beginning (Wellbeing Services County of Southwest Finland bulletin 18 September 2023)
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