A Variety of Issues Can Affect Indoor Environmental Quality
Variations in indoor environments can contribute to an array of physical symptoms for workers. The challenge lies in isolating the source and identity of any potential contaminants.
Research has shown that some respiratory symptoms and illnesses relate to indoor environmental quality issues, such as working in a damp building. However, it is unclear what measurements of indoor contaminants would indicate that workers are at risk for disease.
In most instances in which a worker and healthcare provider suspect the indoor workplace environment is causing a specific health condition, medical and environmental tests do not provide enough information to determine which contaminants are responsible.
Contaminants can originate from a number of sources, including office machines, cleaning products, carpets and furnishing, perfumes, mold, outdoor pollutants that find their way inside, and even insects. Other factors that affect how individuals respond to the indoor environment can include relative humidity, ventilation and temperature.
Workers who experience persistent or worsening symptoms should seek medical evaluation to establish a diagnosis and obtain recommendations for treatment.
While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is part of the U.S. Department of Labor and is responsible for developing and enforcing workplace safety and health regulations, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is the federal agency that conducts research and makes recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness.
NIOSH, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, helps assure safe and healthful working conditions by providing research, information, education and training in the field of occupational safety and health. You can access all NIOSH publications at www.cdc.gov/niosh/pubs/.
To schedule a Saint Francis Medical Center physician to assess your workplace, call Jason Bandermann, MBA, referral services manager, at 573-331-5825.
Freedom From Smoking® Program Brings Education to the Workplace
The detrimental effects of smoking have been obvious for many years, yet kicking this addictive habit requires strong individual motivation and willpower to be successful. Saint Francis Medical Center offers employers a cost-effective tool to help employees stop smoking with an onsite program called Freedom From Smoking®.
“The strongest form of motivation for many people comes from the desire to live a longer, healthier life,” states Mary Jane Fieser, worksite cessation project coordinator at the Medical Center. “The good news is that regardless of how long you have smoked, you can enjoy benefits from quitting beyond the positive impact on your wallet.”
The seven-week Freedom From Smoking program features a series of 30-minute classes at a time that is convenient for both employers and their employees. Forty-nine percent of program participants report success in quitting smoking or dipping, compared with the Missouri state average of 32 percent for those participating in similar programs.
Participants may choose from a variety of nicotine-replacement therapies or prescription medications covered by the program for three full months (approximate value of $450). Each participant is responsible for paying a $60 deposit, which includes medication or other types of cessation therapy and program materials. They receive full reimbursement of that deposit if they are smoke-free after six months.
Smoking’s effects on health
Most people know about the harmful effects of smoking on the lungs, but smoking actually harms nearly every organ in the body and weakens the immune system. Half of all smokers who keep smoking will die from a smoking-related illness. In fact, smokers are twice as likely to die from a heart attack as nonsmokers.
Former smokers have fewer illnesses like colds and flu, lower rates of bronchitis and pneumonia, and generally feel better than people who still smoke. Quitting can improve day-to-day life in a variety of ways:
- Your breath smells better
- Stained teeth get whiter
- Your clothes and hair smell better
- Yellow fingers and nails disappear
- Food tastes better
- Your sense of smell returns to normal
- Everyday activities no longer leave you out of breath
According to the American Cancer Society®, people who stop smoking before age 50 cut their risk of dying in the next 15 years in half compared with those who keep smoking.
Long-term effects of quitting
A 1990 U.S. surgeon general’s report lists some of the physical benefits of quitting smoking over the long term:
One year after quitting – The excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of people who still smoke.
Five years after quitting – Your stroke risk returns to that of a nonsmoker.
10 years after quitting – The lung cancer death rate is about half that of a person who still smokes. The risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, cervix and pancreas also decreases.
15 years after quitting – Your risk of coronary heart disease is the same as a nonsmoker’s.
You can request a Saint Francis Medical Center facilitator to come to your worksite to lead a Freedom From Smoking program for your employees. For more information or to schedule a program, contact Mary Jane Fieser, worksite cessation project coordinator, at 573-275-2177 or email@example.com.
Physical Ability Test Minimizes Risk to Employee and Employer
An important consideration before placing an employee into a physically demanding job is determining that person’s ability to safely perform the functions of it. Physical ability tests can measure an applicant’s performance of particular tasks from a purely physical standpoint, along with the strength of specific muscle groups or stamina in general.
“It is in the employer’s and the employee’s best interests to indicate whether that individual has the ability to safely perform a job based upon the requirements of the position,” explains Alex Ogburn, MBA, director of Occupational Health Services at Saint Francis Medical Center. “This minimizes the risk of physical injury to employees and others on the job.”
A pre-employment physical ability test can reduce business costs by identifying individuals for hiring, promotion or training who possess the needed skills and abilities for a particular job, while also decreasing insurance and workers’ compensation costs.
A job-demands analysis, such as those offered by the Occupational Health Services team at Saint Francis, can include a physical ability test administered by a physical therapist, a drug test and physical examination conducted by a physician.
For information on pre-employment screenings, call Jason Bandermann, MBA, referral services manager, at 573-331-5825.