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Medical Consultation to Cal/OSHA - Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Does HESIS provide medical assistance for all worker complaints and employer reports of illness and injury?
  2. Can I find out if conditions at my job are making me ill without filing a complaint with Cal/OSHA?
  3. Who else can workers and employers talk to if they are concerned about work-related symptoms and illnesses?
  4. How can you tell if a worker’s illness is caused by a work exposure?
  5. What are some examples of medical assistance HESIS has provided to Cal/OSHA?
  6. How does determining whether illnesses and injuries are related to work help prevent occupational injury and illness?

1Does HESIS provide medical assistance for all worker complaints and employer reports of illness and injury?

No. HESIS provides medical assistance in response to specific requests from Cal/OSHA.  Cal/OSHA usually requests assistance for cases involving serious illnesses or injuries that can lead to long-term health damage, or when it is difficult to determine whether the illness or injury is related to work.

2Can I find out if conditions at my job are making me ill without filing a complaint with Cal/OSHA?

Yes.  If workers are concerned that a work exposure has caused (or can/may cause) illness or injury, they can report it to their employers using the procedure outlined in the written Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) at their worksite.  Under the Cal/OSHA IIPP regulation, employers must have a written procedure for workers to report workplace hazards, illnesses, and injuries. This must include an anonymous procedure for reporting workplace hazards. Employers are required to investigate the worker reports and respond in a specified time period regarding actions taken to resolve the reported health and safety issues.

3Who else can workers and employers talk to if they are concerned about work-related symptoms and illnesses?

Workers also can consult their personal doctor, union representative, company health care provider, or HESIS;

A physician who treats a worker and determines that an illness or injury is work-related must file a Doctor’s First Report of Illness or Injury (PDF)Opens in new browser window;

Employer resources include their workers’ compensation insurance carrier, trade association, Cal/OSHA Consultation Service, company health care provider, and HESIS;

HESIS can provide information on the health effects of chemicals and other workplace hazards, symptoms of overexposure, and occupational medicine resources.

4How can you tell if a worker’s illness is caused by a work exposure?

We identify the chemicals, infectious agents, or other potential health hazards to which the worker is exposed.  Based on the known health effects associated with the hazard and a thorough analysis of the working conditions and exposure circumstances, we determine whether the worker’s illness is likely to be work-related.  Many symptoms of overexposure to chemicals and other hazards, such as headache, nausea, and dizziness, can also be caused by non-work-related illnesses and health problems.  Therefore, determining the relationship between a reported illness and exposure to workplace hazard is essential.  For illnesses and diseases that take a long time to show up after exposure to the hazard, it is more difficult to establish the relationship to work.

5What are some examples of medical assistance HESIS has provided to Cal/OSHA?

Over the years, HESIS has provided medical expertise and assistance on a wide variety of cases.  Some recent examples include helping Cal/OSHA determine:

whether nerve damage among printers was related to solvents used to clean printing presses;

whether tuberculosis among correctional facility employees was transmitted by inmates; and

whether a confirmed case of hantavirus was related to work with rodents, and whether a variety of illnesses among school employees were due to mold.

6How does determining whether illnesses and injuries are related to work help prevent occupational injury and illness?

Through investigations of worker illnesses and injuries, we can obtain new information that a workplace condition is harmful to human health.  This is especially true when the workplace association may not be well-established or documented.  Information on human health effects, in particular long-term health effects, is lacking for many chemicals used in workplaces.  For example, HESIS did a medical investigation of asthma in a worker with skin exposure to paint.  What we learned was consistent with information from animal studies on the toxic effects of isocyanates.  The case added to our understanding of occupational asthma and the human health effects of isocyanate-containing products, which are widely used in workplaces.

 

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Last modified on: 6/29/2010 10:39 AM