Company health care management strategies, policies, and health care providers are an important part of the overall ergonomics program.
In general, medical management emphasizes the prevention of impairment and disability through early detection, prompt treatment, and timely recovery. Medical management responsibilities fall on employers, employees, and health care providers.
The employer can create an environment that encourages early evaluation by a health care provider by:
Employees should participate in the health care management process by:
Employees may be faced with conflicting job demands or requirements. Safe work practices or rules may conflict with pressures or incentives to be more productive.
The health care provider can support the employer's ergonomics program by:
Health care providers who evaluate employees, determine their functional capabilities, and prepare opinions regarding work relatedness should be familiar with employee jobs and job tasks. With specific knowledge of the physical demands involved in various jobs and the physical capabilities or limitations of employees, the health care provider can match the employee's capabilities with appropriate jobs. Being familiar with employee jobs not only assists the health care provider in making informed case management decisions but also assists with the identification of ergonomic hazards and alternative job tasks.
One of the best ways for a health care provider to become familiar with jobs and job tasks is by periodic plant walkarounds. Once familiar with plant operations and job tasks, the health care provider should periodically revisit the facility to remain knowledgeable about changing working conditions. Other approaches that may help the health care provider to become familiar with jobs and job tasks include reviewing job analysis reports, detailed job descriptions, job safety analyses, and photographs or videotapes that are accompanied by narrative or written descriptions of the jobs.
Employees reporting symptoms or signs of potential MSDs should have the opportunity for prompt evaluation by a health care provider. In general, the earlier that symptoms are identified and treatment is initiated, the less likely a more serious disorder will develop.
Employers should not establish policies that discourage employees from reporting symptoms. For example, programs that link a manager's earnings to the number of employees reporting symptoms may discourage supervisors from allowing symptomatic employees to be evaluated by the health care provider.
It's extremely important that an ergonomics reporting not be created in such a way that employees fear discipline or discrimination on the basis of such reporting.
Well, there it is: medical management in a nutshell. Coordinate with your health care provider to develop this component of the ergonomics program. When administered effectively, medical management can result in lowering costs and it sends a very positive message to employees - a message that says "we care!"