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Workplace Safety and Health Information for Health Professionals

Doctor consulting with a patient in her office

Chances are that most of your patients hold at least one job. As you know, work is a factor in a person's health. It can either make them healthier, or it can make them injured or sick.

With a few simple steps, you can help keep your patients safe and healthy at work. The steps are:

  1. Each time you see a patient, ask them about where they work and what they do.
  2. Record this information in your clinical notes.
  3. If you find a work-related condition, illness, or injury, report and document it carefully.

You can find more information about these steps below.

Asking about a patient's work

  • It can help you or a future clinician diagnose potential work-related diseases or conditions.
  • It can help public health identify trends and possible work-related outbreaks or mass exposure events.
  • It is necessary for injured or work-sickened patients who may need to file for workers' compensation.

The most important questions to ask are:

  • Where do you work or volunteer?
  • What do you do in your job(s), both paid and voluntary?
  • What are you concerned about in your workplace(s) or volunteer site(s)?

If you have time, ask your patient to elaborate on any hazards they mention. If a patient's illness, condition, or injury may be connected to their work or volunteering, be sure to record the name of the pertinent employer or volunteer location in your clinical notes.

CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's (ASTDR) quick, easy training modules will help you take an exposure history.

What to do with information about a patient's work

Some occupational health conditions must be reported to the State. Reportable conditions acquired in the workplace can include:

Instructions for disease reporting are available on the Disease Reporting page. In all cases, it is important to enter the patient's Industry and Occupation when using WEDSS, or Employer and Occupation when completing the Acute and Communicable Disease Report, F-44151. (PDF) Note any suspected work-related exposures.

As a clinician, if you have reason to believe a worker is being endangered on the job you can file a complaint with OSHA. Complaints can be filed confidentially.

If you are reporting an imminent life-threatening situation, contact OSHA immediately using the toll-free number: 1-800-321-OSHA (6742). TTY 1-877-889-5627.

Information about a patient's work can help if you:

  • Use workplace information to inform your diagnosis when possible. Many work-related toxins, exposures, and activities can affect health.
  • Consider making a referral to an occupational medicine physician or nurse.
  • Document their occupation information and any occupational exposures or injuries in your clinical notes in case of a future workers' compensation claim.

You can also provide the patient with educational materials that may protect them from harm. These include:

You can help protect the people who live with your patient by:

  • Educating your patient about hazards they bring home from work with them, including lead. These can come home on a worker's skin, clothes, shoes, or tools and contaminate the car and home.
  • Encouraging your patient to change clothes and shower before leaving work, not bring work clothes into the living areas of the house, and wash work clothes in separate laundry loads from the family's clothes.

For more uncommon situations, you or your patient can email us at to ask specific questions.

Find more information

Questions? Can't find what you're looking for? Email

Last revised January 16, 2024