Occupational Health Is the Key to A Productive Workforce | FITMed24

Occupational Health Is the Key to A Productive Workforce

Sickness in South Africa’s workforce is responsible for losses to our economy totalling billions every year. That said, the costly consequences of much of the illnesses and injuries responsible could actually be avoided. In fact, it was for just this purpose that the Department of Labour introduced the legislation entrenched in the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1993. Basically, the act requires employers, in close collaboration with their employees, to implement whatever measures may be necessary to create and to maintain a workplace that is safe and which poses no risk to the health of the staff.

This, however, is a task for which most employers do not have the necessary knowledge and experience, so the government also introduced special training courses to remedy this shortfall. While the training is open to the nation’s employers and their staff, many companies prefer to allocate all or part of the responsibility for matters concerning occupational health and safety to suitably qualified third parties.

It is the responsibility of companies to provide safe working conditions and for assistance, they will frequently recruit the technical expertise of those trained in the field of industrial hygiene. As the title suggests, their role is a form of cleansing. They locate and evaluate the potential risks associated with workplace hazards and recommend remedial measures. Their effectiveness can be reviewed by government inspectors at any time. In parallel, medical examinations designed for all at-risk workers may be undertaken by doctors, nurses, and other qualified medical professionals with a specialist qualifications in the field of occupational health.

The content of these medicals varies according to the nature of the job and the potential hazards it may hold. For example, the composition of an examination recommended for an underground worker in the mining industry will differ in its scope from that considered appropriate for an airline pilot. For construction workers, and particularly those required to work at height, the content will differ yet again.

Work-related illness is not always accompanied by visible symptoms and workers can be unfit to perform their duties while appearing healthy. Often it is only an occupational-health medical examination that will reveal this. Those required to drive vehicles, often for long distances, are a classic example. Statistics in South Africa suggest that a third of all road accidents involve people who drive for a living and, in many cases, they are due to health issues arising directly from the demands of the job. Much the same risks also apply to those who operate heavy construction vehicles and machinery.

Whether on the open road or the factory floor, the safety of workers and those around them depends as much on their physical ability to perform effectively as on the knowledge and skill required. An occupational-health specialist has undergone the training required to detect what a family doctor might not. Job-related examinations conducted by these specialists may include assessment of musculoskeletal function, spirometry, audiometry, vision and colour-vision tests, blood-pressure measurements, urinalysis, and eve mental-health assessment. 

In addition, FITMed24, one of South Africa’s leading occupational-health services providers, operates workplace-wellness days that combine health advice with less comprehensive testing, including cholesterol, glucose and vision screening, blood pressure, pulse, and BMI measurement.

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