What is Occupational Health? How to Keep Employees Healthy


In 1970, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was created to ensure the safety and health of workers while doing their jobs. Occupational Health (OH) includes workplace interventions and medical practices focused on preventing and treating workplace injuries and illnesses.

Occupational Health isn’t only a regulatory requirement, it is also a business priority. OH promotes employee retention through increasing worker satisfaction, providing tangible employee benefits, and reducing attrition due to illness or injury.

OH lowers business costs through reducing workers’ compensation claims and lowering health insurance premiums. It prevents  productivity losses due to absenteeism and worker turnover.

So, what is Occupational Health’s purpose? OH helps both employees and employers. It’s a practice that empowers healthy and productive working conditions.

Take the first step to improving the health and safety of your employees, and reach out today! Find out how HFit can provide better care to your workforce, or consult our experts on employee health & safety best practices.

What is Occupational Health? The Basics

Employees are the greatest assets of a company, so it is mutually beneficial to keep workers in good health and high spirits. Employees that feel treated well are more loyal and more likely to put in the extra effort.

Occupational Health focuses first on prevention: preventing illnesses and injuries on the job, and mitigating the risk factors that might cause them.

  • Occupational Health promotes safe working conditions & practices (eg.: never enter a construction site without a helmet).
  • Occupational Health trains and educates employees on ergonomic techniques (e.g.: how to wield power tools without damaging the wrist or fingers).
  • OH specialists regularly assess areas of the workplace where accidents could happen.
  • OH clinicians evaluate workers for individual injury risk due to health concerns.
  • OH experts recommend techniques to reduce risk or may even advise against a particular worker doing a particular role.

Even with a robust prevention strategy, injuries happen. When a work accident happens, the employer is responsible for getting their employee the needed care.

Without a trusted Occupational Health Partner, this typically means going to a local urgent care or emergency room. The care received there may or may not be prompt or appropriate.

As more and more hospitals close their Occupational Medicine departments, workers are being treated by clinicians who lack specific expertise in Occupational Health.

Because of that, they can experience longer wait times for care due to the abundance of cases the hospital or urgent care is handling at that time.

Advantages of an OH Partner

What is an Occupational Health partner? That’s simple! OH experts are going to make the lives of your EHS department much easier.

Partnering with a trusted Occupational Health provider ensures that employees receive the right care at the right time. Through in-person and virtual care, an OH partner like HFit Health can:

  1. Assess injuries.
  2. Provide or recommend care.
  3. Coordinate multidisciplinary follow-up.
  4. Clear an employee to return to work safely and promptly.

An OH partner provides high-quality care specialized for worker’s health. At the same time, the care is appropriately managed so that workers’ compensation claims and costs are reasonable.

Opting for traditional medical visits is no longer your only option. In fact, it’s a pretty wasteful one in modern workplaces. It creates disruption since employees have to leave and return to work.

Traditional medical care lacks specific expertise that is key in preventing and managing work-related injuries, while also adding additional costs on top.

What is Occupational Health? The Details

Now that you have a good grasp of the basics, it’s time to get into the specifics. Occupational health uses multiple approaches at once to make sure that all employees are apt for work.

From regular check-ups and case management, to risk prevention, to telehealth for quick triage of minor injuries. OccHealth gives all workers the personal care and attention that they deserve.

This way, businesses can be sure that their local production chains will keep going without interruption.

What is Occupational Health Medical Care?

OH specialists cover a broad spectrum of professions and functions, but the goal is always the same: a safe, supporting and desirable workplace.

  • OH clinicians cover all the work-related health needs of employees:
    • Injury management
    • Drug screens
    • DOT (Department of Transportation) physicals
    • Breath alcohol testing
    • Fitness for duty
    • Returning to work after injury or illness
    • COVID-19 testing & clearance
    • Injury prevention & risk assessment
    • Telehealth
    • Vision tests
    • Hearing tests
    • First aid

On top of that, an Occupational Health partner can also help you with workers’ compensation claims. They can take care of everything on premises, or over the phone/internet.

For example, our Occupational Health plan offers both remote assessment & treatment via telehealth (nationwide), as well as on-site services. It all depends on what the needs of your employees are.

The more risk factors your processes involve, the likelier you are to need a comprehensive range of Occupational Health solutions.

It’s not only about OSHA standards compliance; great OH also promotes productivity by showing you’re taking an active stance against injury and illness.

What is Occupational Health Virtual Care?

In some cases, workers will need the intervention of a health professional ASAP. Let’s say you run a production or manufacturing line, and have a key worker who got a minor hand injury.

You want to make sure they’re safe to return to the line after receiving first aid. However, setting up an appointment at a clinic or office will add further delays to restarting production.

Thankfully, technological advancement has given Occupational Health an edge too. Minor injuries, re-checks, care monitoring and more can all be done remotely via medical surveillance.

Health providers are available at a moment’s notice for workers, and they don’t even have to leave the premises. Minimal disruption to the job site! This saves valuable time and eliminates wasteful use of the business’s budget.

Generally speaking, companies could retain up to 62% of the cost of an initial clinic visit, and 45% of the cost of follow-ups (versus workers’ comp level 2/3 reimbursement)![1] [2] 

For example, our virtual injury management process works in 3 simple steps:

  1. Worker completes an intake interview via web app – 4 introductory questions and up to 9 more per injured body part (approx. 10 minutes).
  2. They receive a call from our clinical staff in 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. In case clinical staff determine that the worker needs prescriptive care other than triage and self-care, they are connected to an Occupational Health physician or nurse.

What is Occupational Health Risk Management?

Occupational Health is the answer to overcoming medical challenges in the workplace. It can prevent and treat a wide variety of problems. At the same time, it also trains workers, supervisors, managers and other staff on how to avoid incidents altogether.

Factory workers are the most prone to injuries. The young and inexperienced or the veteran professionals whose minds slip to something else for a second; accidents can happen to everyone.

Occupational Health doesn’t only treat the symptom, but look for the cause too. It finds ways of avoiding incidents completely, or at least mitigates their possibility for the future.

Sometimes it’s because of inadequate or faulty equipment, which can be replaced or repaired to prevent future injury. Other times, the cause might be work conditions – like employees asked to work too much overtime, so they are sleepy on the job.

At other times, an injury might be due to employee mistakes, which can be rectified by improved training.

In all of these situations, OccHealth experts can help to identify the root cause of an injury and develop a plan to prevent that type of accident in the future.

All of these practices of minimizing work-related illnesses and injuries come together into the concept of “risk management”. Each business is unique, so OH has customized approaches depending on the environment, work tasks, and so on.

The road always leads to the same destination, but the lanes on it are different. So, don’t worry. You’re not signing up for standardized templates.

The Ultimate Goals of OH

Occupational Health professionals are ready and able to treat injuries or illnesses. However, their primary objective is making sure they won’t have to. Think of it this way: if employees don’t get sick to begin with, there’s nothing to recover from.

That means fewer medical leaves and sick days. It means better work results and productivity, because employees aren’t working while sick or hurt.

OH focuses on both treatment and prevention:

  • Promoting workplace safety and being conscious about personal health.
  • Providing counseling and resources to employees struggling with work or home stressors.
  • Vetting equipment, work processes and work habits from an ergonomic standpoint.
  • Monitoring working conditions and advising improvements when necessary.
  • Supporting employees on medical absence (illnesses, injuries, other types of sickness).
  • Helping workers with their mental health (stress, anxiety, etc).

The ultimate goal of Occupational Health is to keep people healthy, so that the individual has a good quality of life and so that the company has a high-functioning workforce.

In fact, OH can also adapt a lot of best practices depending on your case, such as:

  • Absence Management and Return to Work Policies – evaluating if employees are fit for work (including situations of disabilities and behavioral challenges).
  • Workers’ Comp – Bespoke treatment plans for workers, including access to medical personnel.
  • Training Sessions – Preventive actions coaching for assuring workplace wellbeing.
  • Educational Resources – Tools for training employees on best practices for health and safety in the workplace.

Why to Mitigate Workplace Risks

All right, so what is Occupational Health in the real world?

Well, workplace injuries and illnesses aren’t risks only to physical health. Even the most skilled worker is just a person at the end of the day. They feel the emotional and psychological “costs” of an accident too.

Depending on each person, a workplace incident can leave them doubtful of workplace safety for a long time. For business owners, this means that their employees won’t be performing as well for a while.

There’s nothing to gain from ignoring occupational health, and everything to lose.

The greatest ripple effect is felt by companies in the manufacturing, engineering, chemical, construction or industrial sectors.

Sprains, torn ligaments, soreness, cuts, punctures, lacerations or general pain all leave their mark on workers. When their shift ends, the injury doesn’t. They carry it into their weekends, their family time, their activities with friends.

If employees don’t feel appreciated and cared for at work, the chances they’ll care about their job lowers. The question you should always ask as a business owner, supervisor or manager is “can this X injury be prevented”? If yes, then how? If not, then change the process.

Key Lessons from OccHealth

OH can feel a bit much when you’re just starting to learn about it. However, it’s all in the best interests of both workers and employers. There are a lot of injury and illness cases which could’ve been avoided by simply keeping in mind a few OccHealth concepts.

Here are some key lessons from Occupational Health:

  • Overexertion is one of the biggest risk factors – Overreaching when stocking shelves, straining while moving boxes, or repeatedly doing the same motion without stretching or making ergonomic adjustments are all overexertion injuries. In fact, they’re some of the most common work-related injuries.

  • Small oversights can have huge impacts –Not taping down power cords that cross walkways could seem completely acceptable, until someone trips and hits their head.

  • Heavy machinery is very dangerous –  Give big and complex machines the respect they deserve. Employees should exercise extreme caution near high temperatures, moving blades, systems under pressure, etc.

Contact us about doing a risk assessment for your company!

Here’s a Simple Example

Hammering away to build something is fine and safe as long as you don’t hit your fingers, right? The arm gets tired after a while, but you just take 5 minutes to rest. Yes, that’s true. However, how about the wrist?

It keeps going up and down, up and down; for hours on end.  Until carpal tunnel syndrome sets in, of course. Some occasional tingling and numbness of the hand or fingers.

Weird weakness that causes people to just drop items when holding them. Soon enough, the sensation starts going up the wrist, towards the arm, and it feels like an electric shock.

It goes away the first few times if you just shake the limb, but it’s not a solution. In fact, it can lead to permanent nerve and muscle damage! Simply from using a hammer without consideration to health warnings.

Don’t delay and let’s talk about your custom OH plan.

Occupational Health Benefits

Like we’ve said so far, OH brings many advantages to both employees and employers. It works on a basis of mutual gain, reinforcing the relationship of trust between the two parties.

Occupational Health Benefits for Employees

  • Easy workers’ compensationOH providers understand that workers’ compensation can be hard to navigate. So, they’re also trained as negotiators between parties if the need for a claim arises. A great OH specialist will be able to get the employee what they’re owed, while also leaving everyone at the discussion table satisfied with the outcome.
  • Safety inspectionsThere were roughly 2.8 million injuries and illnesses in US workplaces in 2019. The most common were cuts, strains, soreness and sprains. However, any health annoyance can cause emotional and psychological strain. Occupational Health assesses working conditions in an effort to determine if they can be deemed safe or not.
  • Prevention methods & trainingRegular physical exams and mental health evaluations are conducted on each worker. This way, the employer is aware if they shouldn’t be assigned certain tasks that could cause or worsen diverse conditions. Additionally, educational medical resources and continuous support are provided to all employees that need it.
  • Better morale – Everyone would like to know that they actually matter to the organization they work for. Having an ongoing OH program is a great way of showing that employees are valued. What’s more, motivated people work harder and are less likely to switch jobs.
  • Lifestyle improvements – The OH clinicians’ advice is oftentimes applicable to daily life too. By gaining this knowledge, workers are less likely to develop chronic health conditions outside the workplace.

Occupational Health Benefits for Businesses

  • Reduced expenses – OH affordable even on a tight healthcare budget. It’ll save you from considerable financial strain by preventing expensive injuries, legal claims, and regulatory fines.

  • Legal compliance – Businesses must respect OSHA regulations. If an inspection comes and problems are found, significant fines are issued. Moreover, non-compliant companies are liable to lawsuits from employees. Occupational Health professionals make sure you have everything you need to be compliant with requirements and regulations.

  • Fewer medical leaves – Sick days cost both the employee and the employer time and money; just in different ways. On top of that, the colleagues of a missing employee have to pick up their tasks. This can quickly and easily lead to overexertion. In turn, those could be even more medical leaves. OH can implement prevention and healthcare policies that will significantly reduce time off for medical reasons.

  • Mental health support – Just because an employee is physically fine, it doesn’t mean they’re feeling well. OH also helps employees keep a positive mental attitude. If workers are depressed or anxious, it affects the quality of their work and could lead to injuries. OH clinicians can evaluate and treat the mental health of workers to promote holistic wellness.

  • Medical surveillance – OH specialists monitor the health of employees and check their working environments for potential hazards. This type of prevention lessens the occurrence of injuries and illnesses.

  • Health screenings – Drug and alcohol tests, physical exams, COVID-19 tests, injury care, telehealth and telemedicine; everything that’s needed to ensure that a worker is “fit for duty”.

We’re Here to Help

We’ve been in business for 7+ years, in which time we’ve worked with some of America’s largest companies. We have seen first-hand that high-quality Occupational Health services are needed throughout the country, and are on a mission to solve that problem.

We make preventive and diagnostic healthcare accessible and promptly available to both employers and employees, through in-person and virtual care.

We offer comprehensive OH support to companies through ergonomics, workplace assessments, and expert consulting. We adapt quickly and effectively to the needs of our clients.

Just get in touch today and we’ll give you all the details about how we can help.