Medical Surveillance Programs Provide Critical Health and Safety Insights

We had a great turnout for our webinar co-sponsored with OH&S, but that’s not surprising given the importance of the topic – Maximizing Value in Medical Surveillance Insurance and Engagement. Dr. Richard, Lewis, the featured speaker, is an experienced occupational medicine physician and a member of our Medical Advisory Board.

Workplace medical surveillance programs are an important adjunct to other health and safety programs. They help ensure regulatory compliance and facilitate the assessment and identification of potential health concerns at an early stage.

Information obtained through surveillance allows employers to take corrective actions to minimize adverse impacts on business and worker well-being.While originally developed to detect chronic diseases such as asbestosis and black lung, medical surveillance activities continue to be important in the detection of work-related asthma, allergies, musculoskeletal disorders, hearing loss and other preventable conditions.

Equally as important, when done well, these programs can personify an organization’s commitment to a culture of worker health and safety. When examinations are conducted by a knowledgeable practitioner, employees gain confidence and reassurance that their health is a priority. Once occupational concerns are addressed, the practitioner can also be an advocate for personal health and safety, improving productivity and lowering healthcare costs.

During the webinar, attendees submitted a number of questions. Here are a few selected questions with answers provided by Dr. Lewis:

Q1: In my experience, a medical surveillance program philosophy should be one of prevention, not reassurance. Telling employees at times that risks are unknown may not be reassuring. Your thoughts?

There is a difference between saying you do not know and saying that based on the information you have there is no evidence of harm. You should always emphasize minimizing exposures as a preventive measure.

Q2. Why does OSHA rely so much on the General Duty clause to enforce medical surveillance requirements as opposed to developing more specific regulations?

The regulatory process cannot keep up with demand. Many regulations (such as silica) get delayed by various stakeholders. There has to be a different approach.

Q3. How do you suggest making a business case for medical surveillance when the exercise could potentially open up a number of possible issues and add to the number of recordable cases for the employer?

As illustrated in the webinar presentation, if you have a real problem, you want to identify and manage it. If it comes to light under uncontrolled circumstances there is likely to be excess direct and indirect impact.

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