It’s Occupational Health and Safety Week and Richard Samuel, MD, medical director for Adventist HealthCare Urgent Care, answers questions about how you can stay healthy and safe at work.
Q – Why is occupational health important?
Dr. Samuel – Every day, millions of U.S. workers face the risk of work-related injuries and illnesses that can potentially lead to long-term health conditions. Working in a safe environment is not only essential to your physical well-being, but is also a key element to feeling motivated and productive at work. Creating a safe and healthy workplace is an investment employers across all industries should always be willing to make for their employees.
Q – What are the most common workplace health issues?
Dr. Samuel – In our urgent care centers, we treat many patients dealing with musculoskeletal conditions, which are injuries or disorders affecting the muscles, ligaments, tendons and nerves in the body. These conditions account for a third of all worker injury and illness cases and are frequently caused when workers do not use correct body posture when moving heavy objects or engage in work that involves using the same muscles to perform a repetitive task, such as typing. Common musculoskeletal conditions that occur due to workplace injury are:
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Muscle strains
Sometimes, patients experience preventable workplace accidents resulting from poor lighting, lack of protective gear and unsafe walking surfaces. Also, environmental pollutants, such as cleaning products and animal waste, can trigger current or newly-onset asthma and respiratory conditions.
Q – How does occupational health affect workplace performance?
Dr. Samuel – Poor workplace health and safety standards negatively affects everyone. For the employee, it leads to health issues that reduce their quality of life and job satisfaction. Employers that invest in creating a safe working environment experience lower turnover rates, higher employee productivity and reduced absenteeism.
Q – What are some basic tips I can use to improve my health while at work?
Dr. Samuel – Here are a few basic tips you can take to improve your health and safety while on the job:
- Lift heavy objects using your legs instead of your back
- Stand and move around as much as possible
- Invest in ergonomically-friendly office furniture, such as a wrist rest for your keyboard and mouse pad
- Wear any protective workplace gear
- Limit your exposure to smoke and other environmental allergens and irritants
Talk with your doctor if you begin to experience any health issues related to work. There may be helpful stretches, exercise or other tips they can recommend to help you feel better and healthier.
Sources: World Health Organization, American Public Health Association, Occupational Health and Safety Research, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services