Occupational Medicine

Today, it is increasingly important for concrete contractors to establish and maintain a strong relationship with an occupational medicine practice or clinic. They offer numerous services that contractors can take advantage of that relate to employment.

Occupational medicine has evolved to be a specialized practice area over the last 20 years or so. Practitioners in this discipline provide unique, specialized services that relate to employment and/or employees. These services include:

  • Urgent and/or primary care for employees injured on the job
  • Worker’s compensation related evaluations and follow-up
  • Drug and/or alcohol testing
  • Pre-employment physical examinations
  • Fitness for duty and return from leave examinations and certification
  • Laboratory and x-ray facilities
  • Employee wellness program support and/or training
  • Work site training

What to look for

Find a medical facility close to your office or jobsites so you can have your employees treated as quickly as possible in the event of an injury on the job. In this regard, make sure there is a physician on staff at the clinic during your normal business hours.

You will also want to ensure the practice has a Medical Review Officer, as well as drug screen collectors and breath alcohol technicians who are appropriately certified to perform their special functions. You will want to ensure that the provider has in place appropriate and consistently followed “chain of custody” procedures that are defensible if challenged. These personnel and procedures will be very important if you reject an applicant or terminate an employee for flunking a drug test or Breathalyzer test. Because you will probably employ drivers and others who operate heavy machinery, you need to ensure the clinic complies with DOT regulations and procedures for drug and alcohol testing.

It is also wise to select the clinic that can provide drug testing services using different modalities. The two most common are urine testing and hair follicle testing. If the clinic does not offer on-site laboratory services, you will want to ensure that the clinical practice is affiliated with reputable laboratories that follow appropriate “chain of custody” protocols and also deliver timely results.

Because many of your jobs require considerable manual labor, you want to be certain the clinic understands the functions of each position so a pre-employment physical complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The DOT regulations also impact pre-employment physicals for persons needing a CDL certification.

One of the most important services the clinical practice will offer you relates to employees who are returning from a leave of absence. Here, you need a physician’s certification that the individual is fit to resume their duties. This “fitness for duty” evaluation requires that the clinic have a really good understanding of what the employee is expected to do on a daily basis.

If you experience a high rate of injuries on the job, consider inviting the clinic on-site to provide training and education. This can include topics such as “safe lifting,” hazardous materials handling or basic first aid. Usually the clinic can provide wellness and health-related education, immunizations and training.

As a practical matter, once you have identified a clinic or practice that provides these basic occupational medicine services, you should ask for a clinic tour. This gives you an opportunity to get to know who will be providing services and who will communicate results back to you. You should explain your business to the clinic’s key personnel and give them job descriptions for your different types of employees. It is also a good idea to invite them to your office and/or jobsite so they can get a better feel for the work your employees.

In summary, it is important to “shop” carefully to find the clinic or practice that provides the basic services you need. By following these practical steps, you will facilitate a better working relationship and get more useful results from your occupational medicine partner.

David C. Whitlock has over 25 years experience in business immigration, compliance, employment counseling and training. He is an attorney with Miller Martin, PLLC and can be reached at (404) 962-6102 or at dwitlock@millermartin.com.

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