Employees are an organisation’s most important – and often most vulnerable – asset. Not only do employers need to ensure that their workers are physically and mentally capable of the work they are hired to do, but they must also strive to guarantee that it does not cost them their health and wellbeing – which is why employee medical fitness screening is required in many industries.
While it might seem that the cost of ongoing medical exams for a workforce is high, injury or loss comes at a much higher price – and in more ways than one.
Medical screening is a legal duty for some categories of workers, it’s also logical that healthy and cared-for workers are happier and more motivated, which means more productive workplaces, reduced risk of accidents and fewer absences – a win-win all round.
What is medical fitness screening?
Medical fitness screening is a medical examination performed by a qualified occupational medical practitioner to ensure that an employee (or prospective employee) is fit for the job he or she is to perform according to the job specification. This could include hearing and vision tests, urine or blood tests, lung function tests and others, depending on the nature of the job and environmental hazards pertaining to it.
Pre-employment medical screening is important because it gives both the employee and the employer confidence that the employee is able to perform a job to the best of their ability. It can also identify potential illnesses or chronic conditions that could prevent someone from performing the job adequately. For people with an existing chronic condition, these screenings can also indicate whether the condition is being managed effectively. Studies have shown that pre-employment medical exams can help save companies money by reducing accidents, injuries and damage claims.
Depending on the industry and nature of the job, some companies conduct routine, periodic medical screenings to ensure that the health of workers is not being compromised while on duty. Medical screenings could also be required when employees leave their jobs to make sure that their health did not deteriorate due to workplace conditions or circumstances. So, pre-employment physicals are extremely important in providing a baseline to track health over time.
In which industries is medical screening critical?
There are fields where the need for medical fitness screening is immediately obvious: an airline pilot, for example, needs to have excellent eyesight, while a firefighter should not only be fit, but also physically strong enough to be able to lug heavy equipment around. There are several other industries that require medical fitness screening, though. Let’s have a look at some of the main examples.
Transport, logistics & warehousing
Employees in this sector work under time pressure, which is aggravated by long, irregular hours and work which is physically demanding. Workers can be exposed to prolonged sitting or standing and carrying heavy loads which can cause musculoskeletal issues such as back problems, continuous noise which can lead to hearing loss and stress due to long hours on the road and lack of sleep.
The risks for mineworkers vary based on the type of mining but can include inhalation of dangerous dust or chemicals which can cause lung diseases, noise due to machinery or blasting, constant body vibration due to tool operation and extreme conditions such as high heat and humidity. For this reason, every mineworker in South Africa is required to have a valid medical certificate stating that he or she is fit to work, known as a Red Ticket.
Manufacturing & engineering
Because this sector covers such a wide range of industries, there are many risks and dangers involved and resulting effects on health can include skin and eye irritation, allergic reactions, asthma, injuries and burns. Employers must balance operational efficiency with employee health and safety, and employee medical checks should form a large part of this process.
The construction industry is subject to some of the most stringent occupational health and safety regulations. The requirement for comprehensive, risk-based medical testing for all construction workers is outlined in the 2014 update of Construction Regulations in the Occupational Health and Safety Act. It takes into account additional factors relating to construction such as working in high areas, for example on top of scaffolding, and operating heavy machinery such as cranes.
Agriculture & food handling
Strict regulations apply throughout the agricultural industry, from poultry and wine farms to abattoirs. Because there are so many health and safety risks in this sector that are potentially far-reaching, many diseases must be reported to the relevant authorities. An extensive set of regulations also applies to all food handlers, including those working in restaurants or catering companies. Regular medical screenings are crucial in the prevention of food-borne diseases.
Short-term cost-cutting comes at a high price
Medical fitness screening is important to help prevent unnecessary accidents and workmen’s compensation or legal claims in the future. Your company could be held liable if it is found that the necessary medical screening was not done or it cannot be proved that it was – can you afford not to take all the necessary steps?
Charisma offers a wide range of medical screening services using state-of-the-art equipment and software. These can be conducted on client premises via our mobile and Wellness Day services, or at our Medical Fitness Screening Centre. Reports and certificates following assessments are made available within 24 working hours and our automated system notifies regular clients one month before the next medical.