PROTOCOLS: ESTABLISHED STANDARDIZED PROCEDURES
Protocols are written, standardized plans for providing medical treatment. They are comparable to the standardized procedures that you already may use in some areas of your business, such as your system for maintaining accounts or servicing company equipment. Your OHDS needs a set of protocols for treatment of work-related illness and injury, for response to emergency situations, for collection of data from health surveillance programs, and for all the other activities of your medical program.
These standardized procedures are not meant to interfere with an occupational health professional's treatment of work-related injury and illness. They are aimed at ensuring the early detection of work-related health problems through consistent and thorough evaluation of employee health complaints.
Standardized procedures also promote the use of the most up-to-date therapies for work-related illness and injury. They are particularly important if you are using several contractors to provide your company's OHDS services, because they help ensure that all your employees receive the same type of care. (See Appendix 10-1 for ideas on how and when employers sometimes use contractors.) Even if company employees provide your OHDS services, there still should be standardized procedures written for all health surveillance programs, health care, and first aid. These standardized procedures should be communicated to all health care employees and subcontractors who provide treatment for your workers.
A Comprehensive Guide for Establishing an Occupational Health Service, published by the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN), includes information on developing protocols. To obtain a copy of this guide, contact AAOHN, 50 Lenox Point, NE., Atlanta, Georgia 30324, telephone (404) 262-1162.