What does an occupational physician do?

occupational physician or Occupational medicine is a clinical specialty and is the branch of medicine focused on keeping individuals well at work, both mentally and physically. As workplaces become more complex, occupational physicians play an essential role in advising people on how their work can affect their health. They step back and assess the individual’s environment and how their overall health can affect their ability to work safely.

The work of an occupational physician can vary according to the hazards of a particular industry and involves clinical medical activity and investigation of workplaces. They often work with multidisciplinary teams that include nurses, ergonomists, occupational hygienists, occupational health advisors, psychologists, psychiatrists, physiotherapists, health, safety, environmental specialists, and therapists.

What does an Occupational Physician do?

What does an occupational physician do? What does an Occupational Physician do

It has been proven that being out of work can have significant adverse effects on an individual’s physical and mental health; getting back to work can improve self-esteem and aid in recovery and rehabilitation. Occupational ill-health costs companies a staggering forty million working days every year – it is straightforward to see how occupational medicine is essential for the economy, society, and individuals.

An occupational physician can help employers identify specific areas of risk for the health and safety of their workers. This, in turn, will help reduce injuries and illness in the workplace and reduce the cost of insurance premiums for a company. If a worker does get injured, then the physician can advise on the best rehabilitative treatment and assess them to determine if there are any ongoing risks for their health in the workplace. Occupational health services are used to assist companies in managing short and long-term absence situations.

Occupational physicians evaluate the interaction between work and health. They are responsible for employee health and must:

  • know worksite operations
  • promote health in the workplace and lifestyles
  • help prevent work-related ill health & injuries
  • improve attendance and performance of the workforce
  • be familiar with toxic properties of materials
  • be familiar with hazards and stressors of work processes
  • determine an employee’s physical and emotional abilities for work
  • advise on fitness, workplace safety, prevention of occupational injuries, and disease
  • diagnose and treat occupational diseases and handle injuries
  • possess knowledge of rehabilitation methods
  • provide rehabilitation to help individuals return to work
  • recommend/implement policies to maintain a safe and healthy workplace
  • advise on suitable alternative employment for people with health problems
  • recommend adjustments in the workplace to help people stay at work
  • have knowledge of workers’ compensation laws; local, state, and federal
  • be able to organize and manage the delivery of health services
  • conduct research into work-related health issues
  • ensure compliance with health and safety regulations
  • advise on medical health and ill-health retirement

What to expect at your first appointment

History

An occupational health physician will begin by getting background information. This will be about your:

  • Previous and current health
  • Your job
  • The hazards you may face
  • Any current symptoms

They will also need to know about:

  • Medications
  • Allergies
  • Drug and alcohol use
  • Smoking
  • Family history

Examination

Typically this will begin with measuring your height, weight, pulse, blood pressure, and general appearance. Your specific problem will then direct the occupational specialist.

The examination may be tailored to fitness to undertake a specific activity or focus on a particular problem you already have.

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