What is Occupational Health?

Desiree Tibbs
Occupational Health Program Coordinator
Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital
1200 Westwood Drive
Hamilton, MT 59840
(406) 375-4189

What is Occupational Health?
Over the last 100 years there has been a worldwide increased awareness of workplace hazards. In 1970 United States president Richard Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act into law. The law was designed to help implement a workplace free from recognized hazards that had caused or were likely to cause serious physical impairment or death. Over the last 46 years substantial progress has been made country wide. In 1970 the estimated workplace deaths in the US were 14,000; by 2010 the workforce itself had more than doubled however deaths were down to 4,500. This incredible improvement can be attributed to the implementation of various occupational health programs throughout the country.

The current focus of the occupational health industry is on three objectives: 1) the maintenance and promotion of workers' health and working capacity; 2) the improvement of working environments to be conducive to safety and health and 3) development of programs and internal structures to support health and safety at work.

Unfortunately in the state of Montana we are still significantly above the national average for workplace injuries and deaths. According to the 2014 OSHA statistic report on business with 100 or fewer employees Montana workers still have an increased risk. So whether you own a moving company, a bakery, or a construction company your business is at an increased risk for workplace injuries.

  • Per 100 employees Montana Department of Labor and Industry 2014 report www.lmi.mt.gov
For the last year Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital has been offering occupational health services out of the Bitterroot Physicians Clinic. Jennifer Krueger, MBA, PA-C, DFAAPA, is a federally certified DOT examiner and is the program Medical Director. Jennifer has over 25 years of experience with a diverse back ground in Emergency, Occupational, Sleep and Family Medicine. She has set up several occupational health programs across the state of Montana and brought her expertise to our clinic.

Occupational Health programs primarily focus on assisting local businesses with establishing and maintaining a safe and healthy working environment. Data shows occupational health programs improve overall health and safety outcomes for businesses, including:
  • Reducing sickness and absences
  • Reduced workers compensation costs
  • Reduced administrative and human resources cost
  • Identifying potential health risks in the workplace and helping businesses maintain a healthy workforce
  • Provide screening and surveillance services when health issues arise

A wide range of services are offered to help prevent workplace injuries and illness as well as ways to help maintain optimal health. Occupational health is a multidisciplinary field, programs often include but are not limited to injury care, pre-employment services, occupational and physical therapies, laboratory & imaging services and respiratory therapy and cardiac services.

There are many different types of Occupational Health physicals. The type of exam done is based on the job description the employer provides or the regulatory paperwork the patient provides prior to their appointment. Some of the more common exams performed are pre-employment physicals, DOT and return to work exams. We also do focused exams, such as respirator clearance, firefighter and even hazmat physicals.

Our clinic laboratory offers titer services such as hepatitis, varicella and MMR, thus saving the employer the cost of vaccinations. Drug testing services are another common option that employers choose, by themselves or with other screening services. The options include pre-employment, post-accident, random and for cause drug and/or alcohol testing. Tests are performed by obtaining urine, hair or blood samples depending on paperwork provided by employer. We can meet any state or federal guidelines.

Other services often requested by employers are vaccinations such as flu, varicella MMR's and the hepatitis B series. Diagnostic services such as electrocardiograms (EKG), pulmonary function testing (PFT), tuberculosis skin testing (PPD) and various vision screenings including Ishihara color vision testing.

Same day urgent/emergent services are offered for workers compensation injuries both on a walk-in basis or scheduled appointments. The types of injuries we can see include but are not limited to lacerations, burns, sprains/fractures and other minor injuries. We strive to get workers back to their place of employment the same or next day with reasonable restrictions that their employer can accommodate. This helps cut back on the employer's overall costs and employee wage loss thus improving overall workplace moral.

The Marcus Daly occupational and physical therapists offer a multitude of valuable services to our occupational health program and local employers. Not only do they provide necessary services to help injured workers get back on the job but they offer many other sometime underutilized services. They are able to assess an individual's ability to perform required tasks; using the state of the art equipment they have in their facility or go to the work place to perform on-site ergonomic and or work-safety evaluations. Many positions today require a heavy lifting clearance, and or specific range of motion and or a body mechanics evaluation. All of this can be taken care of in one facility. Our team will even to come to your workplace to do general safety classes for the employees. All of these services are essential to helping employers avoid potential risk for on the job injuries.

Questions and or comments regarding this week's health column please contact Desiree Tibbs, Program Coordinator at Marcus Daly Occupational Health Services, 1200 Westwood Drive, Hamilton, MT 59840. Working together to build a healthier community!


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