Occupational Health Testing
What Tests Are Done During An Occupational Medical Examination?
Being that occupational health concerns itself with carrying out individual tests to determine employees’ capability from a health standpoint, this testing has benefits for both employees and employers alike.
There are a standard set of tests that get carried out based on the risk exposures employees face in their immediate work environment. Let’s delve into some of the individual tests that commonly make up an occupational health medical:
Sr. Lombard – The tests that we do in a medical examination, comprises of testing the basics of all of the body’s systems and, should we have any abnormalities, obviously, we will refer you for further care.
The other testing that we have requisitions for, is biological monitoring, which are certain tests that need to be done based on the environment that you work in.
So if you are, for instance, a farm worker and you do crop spraying, you are exposed to pesticides and we would need to test your blood, to make sure that you haven’t got any accumulation of pesticides in your body.
An audiometry exam, evaluates the extent of hearing loss an employee has incurred, either over a prolonged period or if they currently work in high-risk noise environments. This is measured in a PLH (percentage of hearing loss) metric. This is particularly important when an employee’s hearing can be affected by high noise-producing machinery, noisy factories or plants.
A visual examination examines, in various degrees, an employee’s quality of sight. Basic tests, such as a Snellen chart, would test for basic visual acuity and some colour blindness. This test is common for most general work-related tasks which can include, office-based work and other ground-level job descriptions.
An employee’s medical history is looked into, to determine any pre-existing medical conditions or past medical conditions that may affect an employee’s ability to carry out their job description effectively and safely without causing more harm to the employee and/or being a liability to the company.
Occupational history is concerned with an employee’s previous employment and job descriptions which may provide an occupational practitioner with insight into any previous risks the employee may have been exposed to that may have bearing on their future ability to carry out functions of their job description.
Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
Statistically, South Africa has been discovered to be among the highest burdened countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, when it comes to hypertension among the population. It is deemed a “silent killer” and can easily go undiagnosed. Hypertension can lead to major illnesses such as strokes, and heart disease and can lead to eventual death. Monitoring employees’ hypertension can reduce injury on duty as well, minimising possible strokes, heart attacks and loss of consciousness while performing their work duties.
Urine analysis is important to screen for possible risks of urinary tract infections, kidney disease and even diabetes. Such indicators are picked up with any elevated levels of protein, pH, Glucose and specific Gravity urine tests. All these indicators can be run with simple urine tests carried out by occupational health practitioners.
Spirometry (Lung Function Testing)
Lung function tests are a great initial screening tool for any abnormalities in lung function of employees. Those particularly in high-risk work conditions such as construction work, mining and spray-painting should have these tests done to ensure healthy lung capacity and reduce the long-term risk of silicosis, fibrosis and lung cancer.
Biological monitoring (blood tests), X-ray testing, drug tests and other assessments are optional and can be carried out according to job-specific exposures and may be carried out by qualified occupational health practitioners.
Who Should Have Medical Tests Done?
Do you need a medical?
Most industries have aspects of job descriptions that are stressful and potentially harmful from an illness and/or injury perspective. Every employee should have an occupational health medical done, though a particular onus lies on those employees working in heavy industry.
Such industries commonly include:
- Iron and Steel Production,
- Construction and contracting services,
- Mining (including oil refining and coal mining),
- Heavy Engineering and manufacturing,
- Food Processing
Sr. Lombard – Almost all occupations have some part of the occupational specification or, “the job” that could be stressful to the employee and affect their health negatively. So, depending on what industry you are in – most industries and especially the heavier, industrial-type industries require medical examinations.
Even your executive medicals, cover executive employees or people in high-functioning, stressful jobs. And they, also need medical examinations, therefore, pretty much everyone (who are active workers), should do a medical examination.
Employees working in heavy industry sectors are generally at higher risk of exposures that may cause long-term illness or sudden injury that may maim or even lead to mortality. The scope of medical testing is dependent on the levels of risk experienced, for example, employees who carry out general work at ground levels on construction sites require less extensive occupational medical screening than those working on scaffolding and roofing as their risk of exposure to injury is significantly less.
Is Heavy Industry The Only Sector Requiring Occupational Medical Testing?
Though they are the industries that are highly scrutinized for compliance, even light industry and the corporate sector should conduct occupational health medicals. Executives, and positions with high levels of stress are present in conditions that can negatively impact employee health. Hypertension is among the most common cause of illness in corporate environments and regular monitoring of such vitals can help to regulate employee health.
Factors influencing employee behaviour in the workplace can similarly affect other parts of the biological system. Employees with bad eating habits due to time constraints can cause elevated (harmful) stats in glucose levels which eventually lead to diabetes, heart disease, strokes and even heart attacks. Musculoskeletal disorders can occur as long-term outcomes due to incorrect ergonomics within the work environment, and even mental and behavioural disorders brought on by stress and anxiety.
Various occupational diseases cause short-term and long-term effects on bodily functions which in turn affect an employee’s ability to carry out their duties effectively and safely. Having occupational health medical surveillance programs in place reduces absenteeism in the workplace and improves performance at an organisational level.
With the focus primarily placed on early detection, prevention and where necessary, treatment of diseases and injuries associated with respective occupations and duties, Occupational health medicals are a detection and referral process. At an organisational level, productivity and performance are enhanced, while liability for the organization is mitigated, ensuring compliance with the guidelines of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993, of the Republic of South Africa.
Partner with Occupational Health service providers who can guide you and your organisation to keep your workforce safe, healthy and productive. Choose the right occupational health service provider for your needs – Care Net Consultants (Pty) Ltd, are specialists in the field and ensure we have the right expertise in place to guide you with your occupational health and medical surveillance needs.