What is the Main Purpose of Occupational Health?

Employees are entitled to work in a safe place, free from hazards that could potentially cause injury, illness, or death, and the purpose of occupational health is to ensure these accidents don't happen.

In 2020, 4,764 fatalities and 2.7 million illness and injury cases were reported in the United States, a decrease from 2019. Since implementing the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act), work-related deaths and injuries have declined by 60 percent. However, over 5,000 deaths and 3.6 million injuries and illnesses in the workplace are still reported yearly.

Employers must develop an occupational health program to avoid these incidents and help businesses remain compliant with workplace health laws.

Nicole Slaughter
Published on

What is the purpose of occupational health programs?

Occupational health programs not only ensure safe working environments for employees but also benefit employers by:

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Assisting employers with federal and state laws, acts, and legislation
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Reducing costs and, in some cases, unlocking workers’ compensation premium discounts
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Increasing business operations and productivity
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Improving employee health and well-being

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Act covers most private-sector employers and their employees and some state and local employers. Some states have OSHA-approved state plans, which OSHA monitors and approves.

OSHA does not cover most state and local government agencies but offers protections to employers and workers in states with OSHA-approved state plans.

How can employers improve employees’ physical and mental well-being?

Depending on the industry, employees face numerous hazards that put them at risk. The purpose of occupational health is for the employer to identify these recognizable hazards and take action to reduce or eliminate them if possible. If an employer can’t eliminate risk, they must supply employees with the proper protection. There are four main categories of workplace hazards, which include physical, ergonomic, chemical, and biological hazards.

Common workplace hazards include:

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Exposure to hazardous chemicals
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Loud noises
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Fall risks while working from heights
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Tripping hazards
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Poor air quality
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Equipment operation and maintenance
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Workplace Violence
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Fire and explosions
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Lack of emergency procedures
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Disease outbreaks
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Natural disasters

In addition to physical hazards, employers should consider the mental well-being of their employees. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mental health disorders are among the most troublesome health concerns in the U.S. Mental health disorders lead to decreased productivity and poor communication with co-workers, and negatively affect daily work tasks. Many people with mental health disorders also suffer from physical medical conditions, including respiratory and cardiac illness and diabetes. The cost of treating someone with physical and mental disorders is two to three times higher than for someone without a co-occurring condition.

With 63 percent of Americans as part of the U.S. labor force, workplace wellness programs can identify those at risk so they can receive treatment. Employers can reduce healthcare costs for themselves and their employees by addressing mental health issues in the workplace.

To develop control measures, employers must assess these physical and mental hazards and their potential outcomes.

What are the benefits of occupational health and safety services?

The purpose of occupational health services is to ensure the safety of all employees from workplace accidents, injuries, and fatalities. Employers may also require screenings to ensure their employees are fit to perform job duties.

The benefits of occupational health services include:

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Less absenteeism
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Reduced costs
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Safe workplaces
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Employer compliance with occupational health laws

Which occupational health services should employers consider?

Occupational health services include:

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Occupational health screenings
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Employment physicals
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Antibody tests (titer tests)
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Vaccinations
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Biometrics screenings
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Tuberculosis (TB) testing
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Respirator fit testing
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Vision and hearing screening
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Annual physicals
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Occupational health drug screening

There are different kinds of drug tests available, from basic 5 panel tests to more comprehensive screening for a wide variety of substances.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main purpose of occupational health?

The purpose of occupational health plans is to ensure the health and safety of employees by eliminating or reducing risks of workplace accidents, illnesses, and fatalities while ensuring employers remain compliant with occupational health laws.

What is the role of Occupational Safety and Health Administration?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) ensures employers comply with the OSH Act of 1970, which provides safe working conditions for employees. OSHA provides training, outreach, education, and assistance to employers.

Why is occupational health important?

Employers that utilize occupational health services protect their employees by minimizing the risk of workplace accidents, injuries, and fatalities. Occupational health plans protect employers, helping them comply with federal, state, and local workplace health and safety laws.

Citations

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“Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/iif/
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“OSH Act of 1970.” Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), United States Department of Labor,
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“Develop your Safety + Health Program.” Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), United States Department of Labor, https://www.osha.gov/safeandsound/safety-and-health-programs
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“State Plan Frequently Asked Questions.” Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), United States Department of Labor, https://www.osha.gov/stateplans/faqs
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“What are occupational health hazards?” Creative Safety Supply, https://www.creativesafetysupply.com/qa/workplace-safety/what-are-occupational-health-hazards
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“Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs.” Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), United States Department of Labor, https://www.osha.gov/safety-management/hazard-Identification
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“4 Types of Workplace Hazards.” The Law Offices of Goodwin & Scieszka, 22 January 2018, https://www.1888goodwin.com/2018/01/22/4-types-of-hazards-to-watch-for-in-the-workplace/
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“Mental Health in the Workplace.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), https://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/tools-resources/workplace-health/mental-health/index.html
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“About OSHA.” Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), United States Department of Labor, https://www.osha.gov/aboutosha
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Occupational Health

Read Health Street's informative articles about occupational health testing.