Occupational medicine is a branch of clinical medicine concerned with the identification and management of health risks in the workplace.
Professionals in the field serve businesses and their employees and focus on the prevention, evaluation, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of any work-related health issues. Occupational medicine also supports business efforts to comply with workplace safety laws.
The study of occupational medicine is founded on the belief that workers’ safety and well-being is affected by a range of factors present in a complex and dynamic environment. Changes in the relationships and standards of the society, government, labor unions, employers, and workers influence the evolving scope of occupational medicine.
The goals of occupational medicine include:
Develop and implement workplace health programs
Prevent occupational accidents and injuries
Identify potential hazards in the workplace
Maintain the physical and mental well-being of workers
Diagnose and treat occupational injuries and illnesses
Assess workers’ health and fitness to determine whether they are fit to work
Rehabilitate workers who have become sick or injured in the workplace
A few hazards that occupational medicine deals with or evaluates include:
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Toxic materials used in production
Stressors in work processes
Indoor air quality and other environmental issues
Workplace diseases and injuries
In achieving these goals, occupational medicine combines different disciplines, including:
Physical therapy and rehabilitation
Medical professionals who specialize in occupational medicine are called occupational medicine specialists, occupational physicians, or occupational and environmental medicine (OEM) physicians. These medical professionals must be competent in all areas of clinical medicine to serve workers effectively.
They are considered an integral part of the company and are expected to possess a general knowledge of workplace operations. They interact with both the company’s management team, labor force, government agencies, unions, hospitals, and public health officials.
Occupational medicine plays a key role in society, offering benefits to the individual and the community.
When Should An Employee See An Occupational Physician?
Large companies and organizations should have occupational medicine specialists on staff to assess the health of their employees and the safety of their workplace on a continuous basis. All employers are recommended to do so as part of their responsibility to protect their employees.
Companies should also implement health and safety programs preemptively to protect their workers. Hiring occupational physicians can help prevent accidents, diseases, and injuries from occurring in the workplace.
By ensuring the health of employees and the safety of the workplace, companies are also ensuring the continuity of their operations by preventing accidents that could disrupt or delay their processes.
Some companies have a full-time occupational medicine specialist on staff. However, many occupational medicine physicians also work in hospitals, multi-specialty clinics, and occupational medicine clinics.
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