Medical surveillance programs are commonly used in the workplace to screen employees for potential exposures to various health hazards – such as lead – as well as disease developments like asbestos. Medical surveillance is used to carefully observe the health of the employees for the initial development of work-related complications such as allergic reactions, hearing loss caused by noise exposure, including others. The primary goal of these programs is to identify potential health dangers and take the appropriate measures to curb them.
With approximately 100,000 chemicals being used in various industrial applications today, it is unfortunate that the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) only controls and regulates exposure to 30 materials. This is a clear indicator that these regulatory processes may not be able to properly address the health and safety of the volume of chemical materials being used.
In spite of this, OSHA requires employers to take steps to safeguard their employees from potential health hazards. This requirement provides employers and other occupational health professionals with the chance to consider using medical surveillance programs with the goal of promoting employee health.
Past Incidences of Workplace Health Hazards
To have a clearer understanding of the seriousness of the issue, the following examples denote the ways that medical surveillance can be beneficial in the workplace. There have been cases of operators in a microwave plant developing severe lung complications as a result of exposure to the powder used for butter flavoring. Machine operators in the automotive industry have developed inflammatory lung diseases caused by unidentified contaminants in water-based coolants.
In both incidents, the complications were identified by the community physicians and because there were not any preexisting workplace medical surveillance programs, it lead to miscommunication and confusion in both the diagnosis and management. This led to the loss of money in medical bills and a reduction in productivity. It is quite clear that the case would be much different if there were medical surveillance programs used in both instances.
While medical surveillance is crucial for identifying potential health risks, educating employees about the fundamentals of good health and safety in the workplace is crucial. Employees should have their concerns or questions addressed and potential health risks identified early and handled appropriately. In addition, following the right safety procedures in the workplace and promoting the use of individual protection may be emphasized. Ooccupational health professionals have the opportunity to promote health, safety and the adoption of healthy lifestyles.
Of course, the result is a healthier, safer and an actively engaged workforce.
It is easy to see that utilizing medical surveillance programs in the workplace is valuable to both the employer and the employees.