How Occupational Health Care can Help Prevent SIFs

In the fall of 2018, a 53 year-old industrial worker in West Virginia approached Remote Medical International Paramedic and HSE Adviser Nathan Ziegman with symptoms including two days of indigestion, burning in the center of his chest, and an uncomfortable feeling in his left arm.

After contacting Remote Medical International’s 24/7 Telemedicine, Ziegman and Dr. Ricky Misiaszek decided to send the worker to the emergency room.

“If a worker has something medically wrong, it can prevent them from working and can have lifelong implications to their family. Going to get checked out early can make the difference of having a career or not,” said Ziegman.

The worker was hospitalized for a small heart attack and needed three heart stents. According to Dr. Misiaszek, had the worker not gone to the emergency room, he could have gone into cardiac arrest if his symptoms had progressed.

“With Ziegman’s intervention, he could have added years to this man’s life. If it wasn’t addressed, I am confident he would have had a life-threatening heart attack, either on-site or at home,” said Dr. Misiaszek.

According to a presentation from Electrolab and Safestart, serious injuries and fatalities (SIFs) are injuries that could be fatal to a worker, and can occur on, or off-site of a project. Nearly 95% of accidental fatalities happen away from the workplace, according to the National Safety Council. Heart attacks develop from everyday habits, such as eating unhealthy foods or not exercising, and can occur anywhere.

Educating workers on heart attack symptoms and promoting healthy lifestyles can help keep workers healthy and prevent SIFs.

“Taking the self protection preventative safety lessons you learn at work back  home can lead you to a long life,” said Ziegman.

According to Dr. Misiaszek, chest pains are not uncommon on an industrial worksites and younger workers can experience them, too. An occupational medical provider’s job is to rule out any life-threatening problems, which includes running an EKG, asking about lifestyle, and if there is a family history of disease. If a provider is at all concerned, they will have the worker have more tests to make sure the symptoms aren’t a sign of something more serious.

SIFs can affect the productivity of a project and create costs to an employer. Hidden costs to an injured employee include loss of efficiency due to fewer crew members, overhead costs, litigation, and the cost of hiring a new employee.

To prevent SIFs, employers should encourage employees to make safe decisions and motivate healthy habits through coaching and teaching.

Occupational medical providers can monitor workers on-site and maintain their health by checking in on from day to day and coaching crew members on healthy habits.

“Because we know these people personally, we interact with them daily and know the best way to take care of them,” said Ziegman.

For heart attacks, it is important to have regular follow-ups with your physician and know how to recognize signs of cardiac problems to seek help as soon as possible.

Eating the right diet can help prevent complications of diabetes or cardiac diseases, such as avoiding saturated fats, high-processed foods, and eating lots of fruits and vegetables.

Regulating your cholesterol can also help prevent cardiac disease. Avoiding smoking, keeping your weight at a healthy range and exercising can also help prevent a heart attack, according to Ziegman.

“The main thing is to recognize the symptoms and seek help if you develop them,” said Ziegman.    

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