Having an occupational health policy ensures that workplaces and work practices are safe and not detrimental to employees’ health and that employees are medically fit for the job. If there are problems, either with the workplace or with an employee’s medical fitness, the occupational medicine specialist’s role is to advise on adjustments to the workplace and give appropriate advice and support to the employee and employer, says Dr Laura Elena Tepelus, DHA-licensed Occupational Medicine Specialist and Medical Director at Occupational Health International (OHI), the first dedicated occupational healthcare facility in Dubai.
“Occupational medicine specialists have an in-depth understanding of occupational epidemiology, disease prevention and toxicology,” she explains. “They also have the knowledge and experience to identify, assess and monitor occupational risks to health. They know how to control workplace hazards as well as advise for prevention and management of possible occupational diseases.”
When deciding about medical fitness for work, occupational medicine specialists consider not only the general health of the employee but also the workplace, taking into account the psychological and physical environment as well as any implications this may have on the employees’ health.
Exposure to high temperatures, working long hours, overstress, exposure to different chemicals in certain industries, working off-shore or in remote locations with specific hazards, working at heights or in shifts, exposure to noise, and exposure to manual handling and other physical efforts are some of the occupational health hazards employees in the UAE face, says Dr Tepelus.
Naturally, occupational medical check-up packages need to be tailored to different jobs. The complexity of the tests depends on the type of industry, job description, exposure to hazards, age, gender, and previous and existing medical history of the applicant. “Unfortunately, the majority of medical insurances do not cover occupational medical or preventive medical services, hence the payment of such medicals is usually supported by the employer,” says Dr Tepelus.
“The financial benefits of such medicals are significant, but they are indirect and obvious only after a couple of years, when the employer can clearly notice the reduced costs on sick leaves, reduced work-related accidents or incidents, increased productivity, and a healthier workforce.”
An experienced occupational medicine specialist offers not only medical check-ups at the clinic but also onsite activities including workplace visits and risk assessments.
Consultations at the clinic include pre-employment and periodical occupational medicals, deployment medicals, return-to-work medicals, occupational health-related screenings, toxicology-related screenings, and investigation of the causes of occupational impairment of health. OHI clinic also offers preventive medical services as a large proportion of diseases and disorders such as diabetes, hypertension, heart diseases and certain types of cancers are preventable.
Many modifiable lifestyle factors such as lack of exercise, poor nutrition, obesity, stress and smoking are associated with increased healthcare cost. With regular check-ups, risk factors can be identified before things get complicated. The clinic also provides general medical services such as diagnosis and treatment of acute diseases as well as management of chronic diseases, cardiac and gynaecology consultations, and travel medicine and adult vaccination.
In addition to workplace visits and risk assessments at the client’s premises, which help them to suggest proper recommendations to the employer on development of the workplace environment, well-being campaigns such as medical camps, awareness programmes and mini clinics are also held.
Benefits of occupational health check-ups
For the employer
Ensures the workforce
is healthy and their health status is properly and professionally maintained
Increases the trust of the employees in the company’s management
Increases the productivity of employees
Reduces sick leaves
Places the right employee in the right workplace
For the employee
Helps the employee understand occupational hazards at the workplace and take precautions
Helps prevent or control existing medical conditions in order to avoid complications
Helps improve the quality of life by following the advice of the occupational medicine team
Maintains a comfortable health level at workplace
Ensuring safety and productivity of employees
Occupational Health International (OHI) serves a wide range of industries from oil and gas, marine, construction, manufacturing, logistics, chemicals and transportation to food and hospitality that have both local and international presence.
Established in 2011, OHI is a joint venture between Gulf Healthcare International, a healthcare group with business units across the GCC, and Occucare International, a dedicated occupational health facility that has business units spread across the US and the world.
In addition to occupational medicine services, OHI also provides general medical services including cardiology-related medicals and monitoring of chronic conditions and preventive medical services such as adult vaccination and travel medicine. It also offers Well Man and Well Woman health screening packages for individuals who have regular check-ups to monitor their health.
OHI adheres to the highest healthcare standards and has rigorous quality systems in place with certification in both Occupational Health and Safety Management System, OHSAS 18001:2007 and Quality Management System, ISO 9001:2015.