Your employee reports a work injury, so what do you do next? You decide to implement health screenings and/or drug testing for new employees, but how do you accomplish the screening? You need assistance in understanding the rules and regulations for your employee medical surveillance needs, but do not know who to contact.

An occupational health clinic can be an excellent resource.

The role of the occupational health provider has evolved from a strictly industrial focus to one that is knowledgeable in the requirements of the employer and the expectations of society and government regulations.

Traditionally, an occupational health clinic is a place for work injury treatment. While treatment of work injuries is a large part of the occupational health provider’s role, the occupational health provider offers many services beyond injury care.

The provider is knowledgeable in workplace safety and in prevention of injury in the workplace. Promotion of employee health and wellness is a priority for the occupational health provider.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration is possibly the most well-known regulating agency in workplace safety, but other agencies, including the Department of Transportation and the Mine Safety and Health Administration, just to name a few, also play a role in workplace health and safety regulations.

Interpretation of these agency safety and health regulations can be difficult, especially for the non-medical individual. An occupational health provider is trained to understand the regulations set forth by these agencies, can assist employers in complying with these regulations, and can be your partner in maintaining employee health and safety.

Occupational health clinics can be found in most areas of the country. When identifying an occupational health clinic to partner with, it is important to discuss the medical services you are requesting and means for communication with clinic staff and providers when questions or concerns arise.

It also is valuable to provide a tour of your workplace to the medical providers to facilitate their understanding of occupational exposures that pose risk for injury and return to work options for employees on light duty. It is important that you feel confident in the relationship you establish with the clinic, providers and its staff.

The occupational health clinic is a critical resource for employers when managing workplace health and safety. Establishing an effective, cohesive relationship between employer and clinic and its providers improves the outcome after a work injury and aids in the prevention of further workplace injury.

Julie L. Muenster is with Tri-State Occupational Health in Dubuque.

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