Imagine a Healthier Tomorrow
By: Alison H. Page
April is Occupational Health Month; so exactly what is Occupational Health? Occ Health is a branch of health care concerned with the intersection of work and health. Many workplaces contain risks for employees, ranging from offices where people can develop repetitive strain injuries to high rise construction projects where people are at risk of serious falls. In fact, Occupational Health is such a major concern that entire government agencies are dedicated to the safety and health of workers, such as the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA).
The practice of Occupational Health is also concerned with the health and safety of workplaces as a whole. A growing recognition of the need to protect workers led to a number of reforms in the 20th century, including laws targeted at hazardous workplaces such as laws requiring people exposed to radiation to wear tags to monitor exposure levels, laws concerning the types of conditions under which construction workers can work, and laws specifying working conditions in a variety of settings from meat processing plants to spas.
One of the cornerstones of Occupational Health is the prevention of injury and disease as a result of job-related exposure. This can include recommendations for proper ergonomic settings to protect office workers, along with laws which address specific risks in the workplace like electrocution, falls, drowning, car accidents, crush injuries, shipwrecks, and so forth. Many careers are surprisingly hazardous, and Occupational Health and laws requiring safety measures have greatly improved conditions for workers.
Another foundation of Occupational Health is evaluation of employees before they start working, or pre-employment screening. Although prospective employees may not be aware, often there are rules and regulations that employers are required to follow in order to hire employees. For example, if a steel fabrication company is hiring a welder or painter, that individual would likely have to go through a general health screen, audiogram, respiratory testing, a lifting screen, chest x-ray, and a drug screen before the company could even consider hiring him or her. This process may appear to be overly extensive, but it ensures the company that the individual is likely able to perform the job without a significant risk of injury.
Many businesses are choosing to go well beyond the basics of Occupational Health and assist employees with living healthier lives. Creating a Blue Zone, an environment where the healthiest thing to do is the easiest thing to do, is gaining traction in work environments across the country. At Western Wisconsin Health, we are embracing this philosophy. We started by forming an employee wellness committee that researched how to best create an environment that promotes health and wellness. We have eliminated tobacco from the campus, we only make good, healthy food available in our facility, and we encourage people to eat fresh vegetables by hosting community gardens and connecting them to local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farms to buy boxes of fresh veggies and fruits every week during the growing season. Employees are encouraged to stretch, walk, exercise and meditate during breaks, maintain good posture, bike to work, and utilize the equipment and variety of classes available in the fitness center and therapeutic pool. In addition, classes are available to build and support emotional and social wellbeing, including resilience training, mindfulness training, happiness workshops, parenting classes, and much more. Employees also have access to behavioral health services to maintain their wellbeing. We are making plans to further expand the things we do as an employer to help our employees and their families live healthy, happy lives.
Businesses that opt to invest in Occupational Health, and health and wellness, initiatives will often see a significant decrease in their worker’s compensation claims, a decrease in insurance premiums, and an improvement in health benefits and overall productivity of employees.
The design of the Western Wisconsin Occupational Health program allows prospective employees to be seen quickly, in an appropriate manner, and with occupational health experts. We want the employee to feel comfortable as they go through the process and educate them about the importance of the testing we are completing.
Occupational Health Services include:
- Preplacement Exams
- Department of Transportation / Commercial Driver’s License Physicals
- Follow-up and Injury Care
- Respirator Screening
- Respirator mask fit testing
- Audiometric/Hearing testing
- Drug and Alcohol Testing
- Group Fitness Center Discount Program
- Management Classes
- Return-to-Work Exams
- Health Conservation
- Behavioral Health Services: Employee Assistance Programs and Counseling Services
- Corporate Wellness Services: On-site Health Screenings and Wellness Education Seminars
You can learn more about our occupational health services at wwhealth.org or call 715-684-1111 to discuss the options for your business. Effort put in to the health of your workforce will serve your business and the community well for generations to come.