Looking for a Job… Are You Fit for Duty?

ExperTox supports our local Houston-area community by offering occupational health services, in conjunction with drug testing, alcohol testing and occupational exposure testing.  It is our job to ensure that prospective employees are fit for duty. We are making a judgment on cardiopulmonary fitness based on pulmonary function testing (PFT), blood pressure and heart rate checks.

 Checking blood pressure and heart rate may seem unimportant, but it is the basis for all our testing.  A client must have a systolic (top number) no greater that 160 and diastolic (bottom number) no higher than 100 prior to doing any other testing. Doing a pulmonary function test puts a great strain on the heart and lungs.  Performing this test with an elevated blood pressure could harm someone.   Wearing a respirator for 8-16 hours a day while performing hard physical labor can also cause stress to the heart and lungs.  The workers that we see generally are shiftworkers who work long hours with very few days off.  All of these factors cause stress to the body.  They sleep badly, eat poorly and get very little cardiovascular exercise.   Further complicating this issue is that the jobs these people perform could also compromise the safety of other workers as well as the public if they had a sudden loss of consciousness or an acute cardiac event.

 For us, elevated blood pressure is a very big deal.  In this economy when jobs are so hard to come by it is difficult to turn someone down for a job based on one factor.  Even though we explain to people that it’s hard to get a paycheck if you have a stroke, heart attack or worse… die. People have families to take of and bills to pay.  A lot of our clients have been out of work and have no insurance or money to get medical attention.

 We work with people and our client companies to give them more time to get their blood pressure down.  We give them tips and educational materials to help them.  It takes time to get an elevated blood pressure under control and sometimes companies cannot wait and have to hire someone else for the job.  It’s a real problem.  We have some people take someone else’s medicine to try to get their blood pressure down.  That is so dangerous.  These are the extremes people will go to for a job.

 If you are in a position to promote cardiovascular fitness in the workplace, we strongly encourage you to do it! Lunch time safety meetings, handouts, or training sessions are excellent ways to get the word out.  Any way you can reach people and educate them about hypertension could save a life and it promotes healthier employees in the workplace.  There are a lot educational materials available for free from the American Heart AssociationAmerican Lung Association and the  National Hypertension Association to name a few.

 Lou Ann Enis, RN

Supv. Occupational Health

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