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Chapter 24 : Occupational Medicine in a Biomedical Research Setting
The principal goal for an occupational medicine program is to promote a safe and healthy workplace through the provision of work-related medical services. In a biomedical research setting that involves biohazardous materials, those services should include a preplacement interview and counseling, a practical plan for responding to suspected exposures and infections, and occasionally the provision of medical surveillance for suspected health hazards in the work environment. A preplacement medical evaluation is recommended for individuals who may be exposed to potential human pathogens, including zoonotic agents. This chapter focuses on medical care for occupational injuries and illnesses. Medical surveillance is an important component of occupational medical support services. The practice of occupational medicine is unique in that the practitioner is responsible to both the employee-patient and the worker's employer. Participation in a serum storage program is generally voluntary, although it should be strongly recommended by the health care provider. Sera should be preserved for the workers’ benefit at -20°C or lower in a non-self-defrosting freezer. The importance of the basic principles for designing medical support services for a workplace—a proper risk assessment and thoughtful advance planning for work-related medical needs—cannot be overemphasized when the workplace is a maximum containment laboratory. Specialized medical surveillance programs and immunization regimens may be necessary. Strict adherence to postexposure monitoring protocols is needed, and provisions for adequate medical facilities in the event of an exposure and/or subsequent infection should be made prior to undertaking biosafety level 4 work.