Effective Management of Health and Safety Programs: A Practical Guide, 3rd edition. Moser R Jr., ed., Berverly Farms, MA: OEM Press, 2008 Mar; :351-376
Occupational and environmental medicine is a branch of preventive medicine that "focuses on the health of workers, including the ability to perform work; the physical, chemical, and social environments of the workplace; and the health outcomes of environmental exposures" . It is devoted to the prevention and management of occupational and environmental injury, illness and disability, and to the promotion of health and productivity of workers, their families, and communities . From a medicolegal standpoint, occupational and environmental medicine is unique among the medical specialties. In no other specialty do regulatory and legislative mechanisms shape and drive the practice of medicine to the extent that they do in occupational health. Indeed an entire federal agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), has been established within the U.S. Department of Labor to safeguard the rights of this particular class of patients (the worker) and to specifically prevent or minimize the incidence of work-related disorders. Providers of occupational health services also face unique challenges arising out of their dual loyalty to patients and employers. Can the occupational health professional strive to uphold traditional notions of patient confidentiality, informed consent, and personal autonomy while simultaneously advancing the employer's goals of increased productivity; public goodwill; decreased workers' compensation costs; and promotion of worker, coworker, and customer health and safety? Although dual loyalties to employer and employee create the potential for conflict and impairment of medical judgment, in reality incidents of conflict occur far less frequently than might be anticipated . Occupational health care providers (whether company employees, independent contractors, or private practitioners) can most effectively limit their own liability, promote the health and safety of their patients, and preserve the legal and moral rights of workers through familiarization with occupational health laws and regulations, and by adherence to principles of good medical and risk management. SUMMARY: Occupational health care providers are in a unique position to ensure worker health and safety. Because they interact with injured workers at every phase of employment-preplacement, periodic, and post-injury-they have a profound impact on the disposition of job applicants and employees in the workplace. Occupational health professionals place a strong emphasis on prevention. Familiarization with judicial, legislative, and regulatory mandates will enable them to preserve the health and uphold the rights of workers, to educate employers, and to minimize their own liability.
Management-personnel; Occupational-health-programs; Occupational-safety-programs; Decision-making; Training; Education; Occupational-health; Environmental-health; Regulations; Legislation; Occupational-medicine; Environmental-medicine; Preventive-medicine; Worker-health; Employee-health; Task-performance; Work-performance; Work-environment; Environmental-exposure; Occupational-health; Work-practices; Preemployment-examinations; Disabled-workers