Injury, illness and the related expenses due to lost productivity can be detrimental to any employer, large or small. This is why controlling occupational illnesses and injuries is a top priority for many companies. While keeping employees safe and healthy may seem like a daunting process, it’s important to know that there are health care professionals who specialize in just that: occupational health and wellness.
Occupational health professionals are uniquely qualified to assess and treat illness and injuries that occur within the context of the workplace. In addition to working collaboratively with other health care professionals, occupational health specialists provide screenings related to specific chemical exposures and provide preplacement physical examinations, job placement assessments and periodic examinations.
Occupational health professionals are specialists in treating and managing work-related illnesses and injuries. Treatment plans focus on the following:
▪ Early recognition and intervention
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▪ Same-day evaluation and treatment
▪ Consultation with and referral to specialists as appropriate
▪ Recommended work restrictions and/or removal from duty
▪ Case management relative to followup and monitoring as employees return to work
In addition, health promotion and wellness programs are in demand by companies interested in not only maintaining an experienced workforce, but also in attempting to control the costs of personal health insurance.
Regular screenings, often done on-site at the workplace, allow employees to gain information about their health and receive necessary counseling to improve their health. This ultimately can decrease insurance costs and keep employees vital and healthy. Occupational health professionals can also be a resource for companies who need guidance for case management of employees with a prolonged or complex illness or injury.
In today’s world, the regulatory climate in which businesses must operate is becoming increasingly complex. The federal mandates of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation, to name a few, require employers to be responsible for providing the proper health and safety surveillance as well as assuring that protective mechanisms are in place to minimize the risk of injury and death. Employers are also responsible for assuring that employees in safety sensitive positions have the proper physical qualifications and certifications. Occupational health specialists are experts in assisting employers with regulatory compliance, including mandatory drug and alcohol testing.
So, what should you look for when selecting an occupational health provider?
▪ Knowledge of the work environment, familiarity with potentially toxic materials and recognition of workplace hazards and job-related stressors
▪ Ability to determine an employee’s physical and emotional fitness
▪ Ability to recognize, evaluate and treat occupational injuries and illnesses
▪ Knowledge of workers’ compensation law, as well as local, state and federal regulatory requirements
▪ Knowledge of legal and ethical issues related to the delivery of occupational health services
Susan Ososkie, MS, CRNP, NP-C, practices occupational medicine with Mount Nittany Physician Group.