Occupational health goes beyond injuries and investigations

When you think of occupational health, what comes to mind? Is it an accident at a factory or a workers’ compensation claim? You might be surprised to know that, although those situations are very important, occupational health is much broader than accidents and claims.

It’s really about working with all sizes and types of businesses to keep workers healthy, following safety practices, preventing and treating health issues and keeping ahead of changes in the industry so people can stay working.

From offices to restaurants, from commercial trucking to construction companies, Mount Nittany Physician Group is proud to provide area businesses with quality care for their employees through our occupational health practice.

Because we are a part of a team of more than 120 medical specialists and providers, we have the resources to effectively prevent and treat a wide range of injuries and illnesses, from a scratched cornea to a toxic gas exposure.

Americans spend half of their waking hours at work.

In 2007, more than 5,000 fatal and 4 million nonfatal work-related injuries and illnesses were reported in private-industry workplaces. About half of those nonfatal injuries resulted in time away from work due to recuperation, job transfer or job restriction.

It has been estimated that the total economic costs related to occupational illness and injury in the U.S. are close to those of cancer and heart disease.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, controlling occupational injuries and illnesses and their related expenditures should be a top priority for companies.

One important way to achieve that control is through prevention.

Studies have shown that a healthy, happy workforce is a more productive workforce. It logically follows that the cost-benefit ratio of maintaining a corporate culture that promotes wellness is very beneficial, and many companies are realizing the cost savings in preventing lost time.

The phrase “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is particularly accurate when referencing the cost of health promotion programs in the workplace versus lost time and productivity due to illness, injury, prolonged disability, retraining and rehiring.

The workplace can provide a setting for health promotion through wellness initiatives, including risk assessments, followup plans, group classes, on-site gym facilities and smoking cessation programs.

Mount Nittany Physician Group Occupational Health works with businesses to tailor wellness programs to their needs, requests and budgets. A wellness program — performed at the work site — can include taking an employee’s weight, height and blood pressure and completing biometric testing such as lab work for blood pressure, chemistry and cholesterol panels.

However, prevention goes far beyond wellness programs and can have many different meanings.

For instance, at a production plant, it might mean wearing the proper safety eyewear that can prevent 90 percent of eye injuries. In a commercial trucking company, it could be ensuring that employees don’t take medication that could compromise their driving ability.

Accidents do happen. When an incident has occurred, it’s important to get the best treatment as quickly as possible.

Our team constantly strives to stay ahead of the latest changes in the industry. For instance, Medical Examiner Certification is now a requirement for medical professionals who perform Department of Transportation examinations, and our registered nurse practitioner, Sue Ososkie, and I have gone through the rigorous training needed to obtain that certification.

This Medical Examiner Certification is now required when certifying drivers’ fitness for duty. Certified examiners look very carefully for any potential risk factors that may cause sudden impairment while on the road.

Commercial trucking is just one example of the many industries that must comply with changing government mandates. In all of the businesses with which we work, the occupational health team at Mount Nittany Physician Group is constantly monitoring changes that may impact employee and company well-being.

Our long-term plan is to look at where the health injuries are happening and develop programs that are at the forefront of preventing and treating these injuries. For instance, because we’ve recently seen a significant number of concussions, we’re exploring the possibility of creating a concussion-management team that will work in conjunction with our neurology practice.

The bottom line is that we are here as your resource to keep your workforce healthy, productive and compliant with new industry mandates and regulations.

To learn more about our latest events and services, visit  mountnittany.org/workhealth or call 231-7094. We also invite you to sign up for our free monthly Work Wellness e-newsletter.