Rise to the OH haiku challenge

You may remember writing haikus at school. But can you rise to the challenge of writing one about your working life in occupational health (OH)? It could be something humorous about one of your clients or about HR, or something heartfelt and passionate about, say, the new fit note.

Diane Romano-Woodward, OH adviser at the University of Birmingham, has got the ball rolling with a selection of her haikus, and has helpfully provided an explanation of what a haiku is.

What is a haiku?

A haiku is a short, unrhymed poem, usually following the convention of being three lines in length, with five, seven and five syllables respectively. They originate from Japan, and traditionally would include a reference to a season, relating nature with human nature. In English there is a variation in length of syllables and this strict format can be difficult.

There is often a ‘cutting’ which divides the poem into two sections. Both sections should enhance the understanding of the other, and they are normally separated by a colon, long dash or ellipsis.

It is possible to offer ‘freestyle’ haiku, which breaks from these traditions.

Can you guess which OH conditions these haikus are about? (Answers and links below.)

1 A cloudy right eye;

The glass blower leans closer

To the furnace heat

2 Fingers bleeding, raw

Still working on building site-

No other living

3 Yes, it was noisy

A sense of isolation.

He can’t hear them speak

4 Hairdresser from teens

Can any harm come from perms?

Sniffs, and wipes her nose

5❯ Stands under streetlight.

To fail is to be beaten

“Like a nice time, luv?”

6 Strong and tall in youth

Spent 20 years in coal dust.

Now sitting, spitting

7 Working among trees,

Is his heart block the result

Of the deer tick bite?

8 Should have been careful

With the bloody scalpel blade

No liver remains

9 State Registered Nurse

Cannot breathe when wearing gloves

Vocation now dole…

10 How may I help you?

The phone calls keep on coming

Can no longer cope

11 Engineer by trade

Typing the detailed reports

Rubbing his shoulders

12 Crawls into oven

Still hot, to speed production.

He does not emerge.

13 “Have you learned nothing

In the last 300 years?”

Asks Ramazzini.


1 Glass blowers cataract – infrared

2 Occupational allergic dermatitis – commonly to chromates in cement

3 Noise-induced hearing loss

4 Occupational allergic rhinorrhoea

5 Prostitution and violence

6 Coal dust-pneumoconiosis

7 Lyme disease – a UK tick-borne infection.

8 Hepatitis B

9 Occupational asthma – latex

10 Stress 

11 Work-related upper limb disorder

12 Bakery fatalities, Leicester

13 Ramazzini 

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