What Does the Role of an Occupational Health Technician Involve?

Occupational Health Doctor Sitting Behind Desk Smiling

Chances are that you are already aware of what the function of an occupational health technician is. OHTs carry out a range of medical tests on employees to determine their health and wellbeing and indicate whether their job responsibilities are adversely affecting them. But what tasks does the role actually involve? What test are performed exactly and what are they for? This is what we’ll focus on in this week’s blog post.

Audiometry

An audiometry assessment tests employees’ ability to hear and aims to detect any potential damage to the hearing from occupational noise exposure. Regular hearing tests are required in industries involving high levels of noise, such as factory and music-related occupations, as well as pilots and military personnel.

Doctor performing audiometry test on senior woman

There are various ways to test an individual’s ability to hear:

  • Pure tone testing (audiogram): a pair of earphones is worn by the employee and attach to an audiometer, after which pure tones are transmitted to one ear at a time to determine the minimum volume required for each tone to be heard.
  • Speech audiometry: tests the employee’s ability to indicate and repeat words spoken at various volumes.
  • Immittance audiometry: measures the eardrum’s function and the way sound flows through the middle ear.
  • Tympanometry: assesses the eardrum’s vibrational response to sound and the middle ear pressure.

Spirometry

Spirometry is a test designed to detect lung conditions by measuring how much air an individual breathes out in one forced breath. To carry it out, occupational health professionals use a small device called a spirometer which is a machine attached to a mouthpiece by a cable.

This test is appropriate for employees who are frequently exposed to hazardous substances such as asbestos, silica dust, welding fumes, latex, paints, and many others.

Urinalysis

There are workplace hazards and chemicals that can only be detected through a urinalysis test (an assessment of a person’s urine). These include:

  • Drugs and Alcohol
  • Isocyanates
  • Lead
  • Nickel

A urinalysis test involves assessing the appearance, concentration, and content of urine. It could also include a microscopic exam to check for objects too small to be seen in another way, such as red blood cells, white blood cells, bacteria, and crystals (possible sign of kidney stones).

Blood Pressure Reading

Office workers who spend 49-plus hours at a desk job have been reported to be 70% more likely to suffer from high blood pressure. This is why blood pressure monitoring is incredibly important in an occupational context. If left untreated, high blood pressure can cause serious issues such as heart attacks and strokes.

There are various machines designed to monitor blood pressure, but all of them include a type of measuring device and usually have an arm cuff attached. The cuff is wrapped around the employee’s arm and filled with air until if feels quite tight. The device usually picks up the measurements from sensors inside the arm cuff and shows them on a digital display.

Healthcare professionals may also use a stethoscope to measure employees’ blood pressure.

Psychometric Testing

Doctor looking at medical results/ data sheet while consulting a patient

A psychometric test is usually performed during the recruitment process to determine whether an employee is suitable for a particular role or business.

Tests like this cover several different areas, including the individual’s ability to use verbal and logical reasoning, as well as situational judgement. They also assess the candidate’s personality, values, and emotional intelligence to determine whether they have leadership qualities.

Functional Assessment

A functional assessment test is designed to measure an employee’s ability to dependably perform their work tasks and responsibilities in a safe manner over a defined period of time. It usually includes taking the employee’s medical history, a musculoskeletal evaluation, a physical effort determination, and a full assessment of behaviours that may impact performance.

Functional assessments are typically performed on patients who:

  • Recently suffered an injury
  • Have recently been diagnosed with a medical condition
  • Experience aches and pains
  • Are awaiting surgery
  • Have been on sick leave for some time

Vision Screening

Patient undergoing vision screening

Vision screening is a test that aims to detect whether employees’ eyesight has been affected by their work. It usually assesses eye coordination, night vision, colour recognition, double vision, and distance estimation, depending on the candidate/ worker’s specific job role.

Employees who typically require regular vision screening include:

  • Forklift operators
  • Van/ company car drivers
  • Airline pilots
  • Laboratory staff
  • Manufacturing workers

These are only some of the tasks that occupational health technicians undertake as part of their job role. Other tests they may be required to perform include BMI testing, alcohol audits, drug and alcohol testing, and Epworth sleepiness assessments.

If you’re an individual who contributes to the occupational health and safety programme at your workplace, or if you would like to provide your employees with training that will equip them with the knowledge and skillset required to do so, why not look into our Occupational Health Technician Course? Click here to learn more!

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