Occupational health focuses on preventive care and hazard prevention to keep employees from getting injured at work. Prioritizing occupational health is a vital part of keeping the workplace a safe and healthy environment for your employee population.
Whether it’s through wellness assessments or educational workshops, employers have multiple opportunities to keep employees from sustaining injuries. Let’s examine three ways employers can help their team prioritize their health and safety at work.
Occupational Health Means Being Proactive about Preventing Injuries
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, private industry employers reported 2.7 million workplace injuries and illnesses in 2020. Educating employees about desk ergonomics, and how to correctly lift heavy objects and use machinery are just a few ways employers can keep employees from sustaining injuries while at work.
Marathon Health physician assistant Larry Vandermolen is in charge of occupational health at Finish Line in Indianapolis and says falls are a common injury he sees in the workplace. “It usually occurs in the winter due to employees slipping on ice when they’re leaving or entering the building. It’s important for employers to identify these types of hazards to prevent injuries from occurring.”
Back pain is another preventable and common injury. There are a variety of causes that contribute to low back pain, ranging from injury during physical activity to lifting heavy objects. Employers should provide their teams with guidelines on how to prevent back pain and injuries.
Employers can also try to combat sitting disease by offering resources like health coaching to employees interested in creating a custom wellness plan that incorporates physical activity.
A physical therapist on the job can educate, help with recovery
Physical therapy is a valuable component of the occupational health process since it can expedite recovery. “One of the advantages of having a physical therapist onsite is that I can schedule an appointment for an employee to start physical therapy as soon as possible,” Vandermolen says. “I’m also able to consult with the therapist on an ongoing basis on how an employee is progressing so I have a better idea of when they’ll be ready to return to their job.”
Physical therapists can also help create materials on worksite safety and hold workshops to educate employees about additional ways to prevent injuries from occurring through exercises that can be done at home and work.
Additionally, they can perform wellness assessments that can help employees experiencing pain, as well as those who would like to prevent future injuries. If any issues are identified during the assessment, employers should provide employees with the opportunity to engage with physical therapy services.
Preventive Care Keeps Employees Healthy
When employees are healthier they’re less prone to injury. Focus on providing preventive care like free biometric screenings and annual physicals for your workforce. Marathon Health’s Director of Public Safety Programs Jim Hill, MD, MPH, says that utilizing preventive care as part of an employer’s occupational health services gives your team the most bang for their buck. “When preventive care is combined with an emphasis on safety in the workplace, employers are able to streamline their occupational health services to reduce the numbers of injuries from occurring.”
Employers should create wellness campaigns to encourage employees to be more mindful of their health. Some examples include:
- Offering incentives when employees schedule an annual physical or wellness appointment.
- Encourage employees to engage with a health coach to set individual goals such as drinking more water to taking a 20-minute walk during their lunch hour a few days a week.
- Organize a walking challenge where employees can compete individually or on a team for a prize at the end of the competition.
- If you have several employees who work remotely, look for ways employees can engage virtually in wellness activities such as online workout classes or healthy cooking classes.