Everyone knows that health checks should be done at least annually. Often medical reports are required for insurance purposes, for employment, and when traveling. However, health assessments for workers working in jobs with inherent and prevalent hazards must be more regular and more closely regulated. Employers must provide their employees with periodic and planned medical check-ups to ensure their health and safety.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) refers to such occupational-related medical and health check-ups for workers as medical surveillance. However, OSHA’s referencing to medical surveillance that employers must provide to affected or possibly affected workers in the various OSHA regulated safety and health standards, encompass broader aspects that consider the overarching and long term impact to the health and safety for workers employed across diverse industries and occupations.
Medical Surveillance Explained
Medical Surveillance is the systematic assessment of employees who are exposed to or expected to be exposed to occupational hazards. Employers are required to provide medical surveillance over time for both individual workers and groups of workers. The ultimate goal of medical surveillance is to reduce occupational injury, accidents, and illnesses to safeguard workers in the longer term.
Medical Surveillance of individuals or groups of workers provides comprehensive information on the state of their health and the impact of any hazards that workers may have been exposed to while carrying out their job tasks. This helps employers to better identify and comprehend possible or existing workplace hazards that may result in adversely impacting worker health and put in place control measures to ensure workers’ health and safety.
Briefly, an employer’s medical surveillance program must include pre-employment screening, regular screening thereafter (based on OSHA standard requirements), provision of the appropriate treatment, record keeping, and a medical surveillance program review. For additional details on medical surveillance and the medical surveillance program read the blog titled Importance of Medical Surveillance in the Workplace by OSHA HAZWOPER Training.
Workplace Hazards Faced by Today’s Employees
Still, the question remains, why should health checks or medical surveillance be an integral part of workplace health and safety plans? Read on to learn more.
Working with hazardous substances
Today’s employees work with a plethora of hazardous materials and chemicals in the workplace. For instance, many construction workers use lead and asbestos or asbestos-containing materials to complete their job tasks. Medical laboratory workers work with blood and other possibly infected bodily fluids to run tests. Researchers may work with viruses, bacteria, and other contaminated materials. Workers use chemicals as part of production processes. As such, their exposure to such hazardous materials is quite high. To ensure worker health is not being compromised, regular medical surveillance would ensure that workers’ health and wellness is being regularly monitored and recorded.
Working in risky workplaces or industries
While we expect people with risky careers to be at greater risk to occupational health hazards, even people with seemingly innocuous job tasks working in risky workplaces or industries can be exposed to toxins, viruses, and other hazardous substances while carrying out their work tasks. Examples include office workers working in healthcare or other industries where hazardous chemicals and other materials are used to produce goods. While such office workers may not have direct contact with a hazardous substance or chemical, the far-reaching effects of some of these substances and chemicals may adversely impact this worker’s health in the longer term. Hence, if employers incorporate regular medical checks as part of the health and safety program in the workplace, then all workers, whether directly or indirectly working with hazardous substances, would have to undergo regular health check-ups, thereby increasing their chances of identifying any adverse health impact early.
Working in confined spaces
Many workers employed by a variety of businesses, industries, and occupations often work in confined spaces. OSHA describes a confined space as an area with limited access and not necessarily designed to be occupied by people, although workers and other individuals may sometimes be required to enter confined space to perform specific job tasks like drill holes, underground pipelines, manholes, and even attics, which can be contaminated with mold and other toxic vapors.
Often, workers are unexpectedly exposed to poisonous or harmful-to-health gases when working in confined spaces. Thus, regular health checks would ensure that employers are better able to safeguard the health of these employees and ensure they are not being exposed even minimally to any toxins that can have a long-lasting impact on physical health.
Working in high-risk occupations
Many workers choose careers that invariably expose them to hazardous substances and materials. Medical researchers, scientists, emergency rescue personnel, and firefighters are some examples. Thus, having a comprehensive medical surveillance program to ensure the health and safety of such individuals is of critical importance.
Assisting Employers in their Quest to Protect Employees’ Health and Safety
To ensure that employees are aware of the dangers of working with hazardous substances, OSHA recommends that workers who are and may be exposed to various chemicals, toxins, and other poisonous gases and materials across industries be given adequate training. For example, construction workers and other general industry workers are required to be given training on hazards and exposure related to substances such as asbestos, lead, bloodborne pathogens, and hydrogen sulfide among many others. While workers employed in Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) are also required to undergo extensive annual training courses.
Moreover, organizations can also streamline their OSHA compliance efforts and remove the administrative burden with Safety Assure – an OSHA recordkeeping application. The standout feature is that organizations can use their smartphones to streamline OSHA compliance – making it more convenient than ever. Workers can report incidents, near misses, and accidents right from their smartphones along with photos as supporting materials, helping reduce paperwork and redundant steps, reducing response times. The management can also detect safety gaps with the data available and work on corrective actions – improving workplace safety in the process. Safety Assure can do all that and more – contact us now to learn how such an OSHA recordkeeping application can help you.