A doctor in the house Featured

5:48am EDT January 31, 2003
A board-certified occupational physician should have a place on your business team, alongside a CPA and other business advisers.

An occupational physician assists with developing and implementing an effective occupational health and safety program in the workplace. With proper preparation and planning, he or she can assist the business team to minimize costs and maximize productivity.

Occupational physicians establish preventive medical screening programs, diagnose occupational illnesses early, return injured or ill employees to work more quickly and reduce response time to chemical releases.

To get an occupational physician on board, begin by contacting independent consulting occupational physicians or hospital occupational health programs listed in the phone book under "Occupational Health Services," then interview physicians to find one compatible with your business philosophy.

Once you find your new team member, educate him or her about your business and invite the physician to meet your operating team and go on a plant tour. Provide a process description and chemical inventory. Discuss your corporate environmental, safety and occupational goals and the specifics of your return-to-work policy and restricted work program.

Armed with a thorough understanding of your business and the facility's risks, the physician can advise you on providing associates the proper medical care and follow-up when an incident occurs. He or she also works with the safety director to identify productive work that injured workers can perform until they're able to return to regular work.

This team effort minimizes lost work time, which significantly reduces the direct and indirect costs of a work-related or personal incident.

With knowledge of the chemical, physical and biological hazards, the physician establishes a program to screen for potential occupational illnesses. As a result of the plant tour, he or she knows the exposures that associates may potentially experience. This early detection may result in reducing exposures or in early medical intervention that prevents costly medical treatment and time away from work.

If a chemical release occurs within the facility, the physician is familiar with the chemical inventory and can anticipate the symptoms of exposures and the treatment to minimize health effects.

The physician's team is prepared to assist you with providing medical treatment while calming the fears of other associates during the stressful time of responding to a chemical release. How to reach: Dianne Grote Adams, president, Emilcott/DGA Inc., (866) 364-5342