Barb Maxwell, MHA, RN, COHN-S, CCM, CWCP, QRP, FAAOHN
President, American Association of Occupational Health Nursing (AAOHN)
Many businesses have either transitioned to remote work or closed temporarily during the COVID-19 pandemic. As workers return to the workplace in the coming months, the question of worker safety remains at the forefront.
The role of the occupational and environmental health nurse (OHN) in promoting a safe and healthy workplace after a period of national business shut down is now more critical than ever.
Occupational and environmental health nursing is the specialty practice that focuses on promoting and restoring health, preventing illness and injury, and protecting workers and community groups from environmental hazards. OHNs have a combined knowledge of health and business that they blend with healthcare expertise to balance the requirement for a safe and healthful work environment with a “healthy” bottom line.
The real cost
Poor employee health costs businesses about $1 trillion annually, and that is without the added impact of a global pandemic. Business executives should look to OHNs to maximize employee productivity and reduce costs through lowered disability claims, fewer on-the-job injuries, and improved absentee rates.
As research about the coronavirus continues to emerge and the return-to-work guidelines rapidly evolve, having licensed healthcare providers serving the worksite to interpret this information and implement protocols should be the top priority for any business, large or small, regardless of industry.
OHNs can provide worker education and administrative controls for safe work supplies like masks, gloves, cleanser, and disinfectants; handwashing and workstation cleaning protocols; elevator use; cafes and food courts; public transportation; supplier deliveries and practices; and safe interaction with customers and clients.
The emotional toll
In addition, a community disaster like the COVID-19 pandemic can take an emotional toll on employees and their families. OHNs can identify signs and symptoms of traumatic stress, and provide coping skills and emotional resilience that will keep employees happy, healthy, and on the job.
Through their recognized value as business partners, OHNs implement occupational health service programs and provide budgetary input. They develop policies and procedures that align with company visions and missions, and supervise, direct, and mentor co-workers in the effort to impact corporate improvement and workers’ health and safety, thus contributing positively to the financial bottom line.
With an economic recession on the horizon, the need for businesses to operate efficiently and safely to remain open is significant.
To learn more about the value of OHNs in the workplace, visit aaohn.org.