According to some, the past 24 months have been a roller coaster of responses in occupational health. There certainly has been a great deal of attention focused on workplace health and infectious diseases, and companies have spent unprecedented amounts of resources to maintain employee health in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, from the perspective of occupational health foundations, the pandemic response is simply an expression of Occupational Health 101: it’s about the basics of maintaining a healthy workplace.
Reactive vs. Proactive Healthcare
Occupational healthcare is fundamentally a focused effort on maintaining employee health. There are the reactive components of occupational health, such as responding to employee injuries and illnesses. When an employee suffers a workplace injury, then need care. The employee has to receive post-injury treatment and ultimately return to full productive work status.
Taking injury care a step further, the next stage of occupational health is evaluating how injuries occur and taking proactive measures to prevent them or reduce their severity. Occupational healthcare programs focused on prevention and mitigation can be potent tools for reducing overall occupational healthcare spending and enhancing employee health and productivity.
Beyond injury, occupational health also focuses on employee and workplace assessments. A skilled occupational healthcare provider can engage in workplace ergonomic assessments, formal or informal, to enhance working conditions for all employees. In addition, providers can engage in evaluations such as respirator fit testing or audiometric (hearing) testing. These programs ensure that employees receive good protection from workplace hazards, such as toxic dust or loud noises.
Evaluating Your Occ Health Needs
When your company is looking at your occupational healthcare needs, you should carefully assess:
- Workplace injury and OSHA-recordable incident data and trends
- Programs in place to prevent and reduce the severity of injuries
- Programs in place to ensure that the workplace is safe and that employees are protected from workplace hazards
With the pandemic, many companies have focused heavily on COVID response at the expense of other occupational healthcare needs. Before COVID, having a written Injury and Illness Prevention Plan and an Airborne Transmissible Disease plan was required for most companies. As we face ever-changing requirements in our corporate response to COVID, this is the time to refocus our attention. Now more than ever, corporate leadership understands the direct correlation between employee health and company productivity/profitability. That correlation continues throughout all of the occupational health industry, far beyond COVID.
Upcoming Webinar – The COVID Coaster
Now is the time to evaluate your occupational healthcare needs and embrace new opportunities to build a safer, more profitable workplace.