Occupational Medicine (OccMed) safety managers face the challenge of supporting an organization’s endeavors while ensuring that employee activity is safe, healthy, and consistent with regulatory requirements. It’s also necessary to try and predict what new tasks may become dangerous and enforce new safety standards as we learn more about issues such as ergonomic injuries and the importance of mental health, as well as encounter new infectious diseases like COVID.1
Evolving expectations and responsibilities require OccMed safety managers to pursue continuing educational opportunities in addition to gaining experience on the job. Below, we’ll look at relevant topics for training courses and new skills that can help OccMed safety managers keep workplaces safe and compliant.
Meeting New Challenges in Occupational Medicine
There will always be new challenges to grapple with in the workplace. In the last few years, an improved understanding of the social determinants of health, the growth of new medical specialties, a broader appreciation for the role of mental health, new diagnostic equipment for understanding illnesses and injuries, and expanding responsibilities for worker health have made it crucial for OccMed safety managers to develop new expertise in areas such as:
- Addiction (particularly in light of the opioid crisis).2
- Chronic health conditions.
- Environmental risks from air and noise pollution.
- Infectious disease prevention.
- Information Privacy.
- Mental health and productivity.3
- Return-to-work policies and OccMed for hybrid and remote workers.
- Whole person health (also called “Total Worker Health”4).
Updating Core Competencies in OccMed Safety
At a minimum, most OccMed safety managers will likely need updated training in areas related to new regulations or previously unforeseen challenges in the workplace. Examples include:
- Updated exams and preventative care for DOT commercial drivers that meet the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) standards.
- Knowledge about occupational exposure to bloodborne diseases that meet federal and state OSHA compliance with new COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards.
- Changes in labor laws brought about by new technology.
- Changing regulations regarding telehealth.
Meeting the OccMed Demands of the Future
When asked if there were any new occupational safety and health courses or topics that they would like to see introduced in OS&H continuing education within the next few years, employers polled in the 2011 National Survey of the Occupational Safety and Health Workforce listed over 100 areas – many of which are more relevant than ever over a decade later.5 These include:
- Identifying/containing new emerging infectious diseases.
- Management of workplace exposure to infectious diseases and worker immunizations.
- Ergonomic studies and regulations for repetitive motion.
- Violence in the workplace legislation.
- The financial case for promoting a safe workplace.
- Health coaching to increase employee engagement in safety & health.
- Managing worker injuries in a “virtual” work environment.
- How to use emerging technology to enhance safety training.
- Integrating new technology into OSH.
Sources of Continuing Education in OccMed
OccMed safety managers may consider continuing their education with classes and certifications from universities or organizations like:
- OSHAcademy (whose certificates and transcripts are recognized by OSHA, the Institute for Safety and Health Management (ISHM), the American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH), and other public and private organizations).
- The National Examination Board in Occupational Safety & Health (NEBOSH).
- NIOSH (which supports continuing education through their Education and Research Centers (ERCs) and Training Project Grants (TPGs)).
- Organizations such as the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
- The OSHA Training Institute (OTI) Education Centers (which are non-profit organizations authorized by OSHA to deliver occupational safety and health training to workers at all levels).
The Future of OccMed Safety Training
An OccMed safety manager’s work is never done – and neither is their training. New approaches to health and unforeseen challenges like long-term disabilities caused by long COVID will continue to present challenges in OccMed. A great OccMed safety manager will be prepared for the future of workplace health and the next generation of employees by seeking out training in these areas whenever possible.
To learn more about how you can improve your company or clinic’s OccMed recording and reporting, check out Net Health Occupational Medicine.
Net Health Webinar: Process Standardization Do’s and Don’ts
3 Risk & insurance, “The Time Is Now for Workplace Mental Wellness Certification,” October 6, 2022;
American Psychological Association, “Train Your Managers to Promote Health and Well-Being,” April 25, 2022.
4 National Association of Occupational Health Professionals (NAOHP), “How Occupational Medicine Practices Can Lead Organizations to Total Worker Health,” December 5, 2021.
5 National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), “National Assessment of the Occupational Safety and Health Workforce,” October 3, 2011.