What Is an Occupational Health Check?

What Is an Occupational Health Check?
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Andrea Rea

Andrea is a practicing attorney and MBA with 15 years experience in health care administration, litigation and business law.

Some employers require prospective employees to take a pre-employment physical before the employee can start work. Learn more about employee health screenings and when employers are and are not permitted to ask medical questions.

Occupational Health Check Defined

Occupational health check is a term used to describe a variety of employee health screenings required by employers. The primary purpose is to prevent work-related injuries and disease.

Occupational health checks are most commonly used to determine whether an individual is physically suited for a particular job. Some jobs require special physical ability, such as those involving heavy lifting or other physical exertion. Think of a firefighter's job duties compared to an office worker. Employee health screenings can also identify pre-existing conditions which make an employee more susceptible to the effects of hazardous substances or other risks on the job.

Occupational health checks can be required at various stages of the employment relationship, starting before a new hire is assigned to particular job. These health screenings are generally used for the following purposes:

  1. To establish that candidates are able to meet the physical requirements of the job prior to assignment
  2. To monitor health status at periodic intervals when the job involves exposure to potential health hazards
  3. To establish that employees are able to return to work after a prolonged absence for health reasons
  4. To establish the conditions under which employees with illnesses, injuries or disabilities are able to continue working

Workers who have been exposed to occupational hazards such as toxins or other substances are sometimes given medical examinations to manage the lasting health effects. Periodic health examinations of employees can reveal the existence of health hazards in the workplace and allow the employer to make changes to improve worker health and safety. Sometimes special health screenings are conducted after the end of an assignment involving hazards that might cause future health impairment.

Pre-Employment Health Screening

A pre-employment health screening is an exam usually performed by a health care professional to determine if an employee is medically fit for the job and the specific duties required. The pre-employment exam may include a routine history and physical, drug screening and/or complete lab work. Employees may also be required to perform physical ability tests to measure their ability to perform a particular task. The purpose is to determine where the employee can be placed to function at his or her best without risk of injury. Blood test results and other clinical information can also be used to establish a baseline at the start of employment. This information can be used to evaluate changes in health status that may occur later on.

Perhaps most importantly, the results of pre-employment physicals should be used to place workers in jobs that are well suited for their health, and not to screen out workers for improper purposes. The physical examination must be related to the job the applicant will be doing. Psychological testing is also required in some occupations where workers are exposed to high levels of stress: for example, air traffic controllers and law enforcement personnel.

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