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This is the 4th edition of Occupational health: recognising and preventing work related disease and injury, edited, as before, by Levy and Wegman. Four editions—1983, 1988, 1995, and now 2000—says something in itself: there must be people out there buying it in sufficient numbers for the publishers to countenance the expense of a further edition. There must also be sufficient changes and updates between editions for some people to buy it again for the updates. The questions for the reader of this review must be: Is this a genuine update with additional relevant material to suit the new millennium and is the book worth the price? The short answer, on both counts, is yes.
I have read or scanned all the chapters and I can say that this is a genuine update. Many chapters have been largely rewritten, and where necessary, updated. Some—such as epidemiology—do not require such major rewrites as others. Lists of carcinogens have become longer in 5 years. New chapters have been added: environmental health, occupational health service, injuries, young workers, older workers, and healthcare workers.
One of the criticisms I had of earlier editions was the book's heavy American bias: to some extent this is still true but less so. The list of contributors is truly international and many are the leading authority on their subject. In some cases—for example, worker compensation—I think the book is still missing a trick by being so United States orientated. The broad concepts of recompensing an injured or diseased worker are worth spelling out and there is much to be gained reviewing the way different countries approach the issue. There is even now the stance taken by pan national organisations, like the European Union, to harmonise these schemes across national boundaries. What we get is the United States scene by and large.
In other areas the book has not expanded to meet the needs of today. For example, the chapter on shift work is about shift work. Very good it is too but the issue for today is working hours, not just shift work. Much is known and agreed about the health effects of shift work. The new unanswered questions relate to long or irregular hours of work.
Still, these are relatively trivial issues to raise in relation to this splendid book. It is authoritative, well written, and ably edited. It covers the broad gamut of occupational health illness and occupational health practice. It also now has few peers among the middle sized books (is a book of now 842 pages as opposed to 650—middle sized?) Last time around I thought Levy and Wegman (3rd edition) had the edge on Waldron's Occupational Health (3rd edition). The 4th edition of Waldron's book (Waldron and Edling) is not a true update but a supplement to the 3rd edition and it is very patchy in quality and suffers also from some poor editorial control.
So, Levy and Wegman's 4th edition is clearly out in front. If you do not possess one or even if you do own an earlier edition, there's enough in this new edition to warrant the modest outlay.