Occupational Health: What is it and how does it help?
Occupational health (OH) is concerned with the impact of work on health and of health on work. It is designed to support businesses in the management of health issues at work by providing impartial, specialist support.
Access to the support and guidance of an OH professional is often the only difference between those companies that successfully manage health issues in the workplace and those that do not.
How Occupational Health can help businesses
Occupational Health services are designed to assist companies and in particular HR/Management teams to ensure that productivity and profitability are sustained through their employees. Staff are a key business asset and it is crucial for companies to protect this, just as they would with any other part of the business.
Research shows that good health is good for business.
Every year over 170 million days are lost to sickness absence; the longer people are off sick, the less likely they are to make a successful return to work. After six months absence from work, there is only a 50% chance of someone making a successful return.
What are the advantages to for my business?
OH teams can assist businesses through a range of services designed specifically to meet the needs of your business and provide the right solutions to a specific situation. OH services provide HR/Management teams with the right tools and services to tackle any issues that may arise. OH services can improve the following areas:
- Reduce sickness absence.
- Identify and remove health risks arising in the workplace – ensuring your business meets its statutory responsibilities
- Providing screening and surveillance services when early stages of ill health arise.
- Give independent and professional diagnosis, prognosis and advice on staff unable to work due to long-term or short-term intermittent health problems
- Lifestyle and wellbeing services increasing productivity and staff retention.
What are the key Occupational Health services?
New Start Health Assessment
This service ensures that companies are fulfilling their duty of care requirements, as per Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and Equality Act 2010. A health screening is undertaken once an employee is offered employment. This will highlight if any new starters require adjustments in the workplace. Advice and further services can be carried out to fulfil any adjustments that may be required. An example of this is ensuring that a diabetic can access a fridge for their food and insulin shots in the workplace.
OH advice line
The helpline can be accessed by HR and Managers. They will speak to qualified OH advisers that can assist on a number of issues such as:
- Fitness to work assessments
- Specific physical health conditions
- Mental health support
- Drug and alcohol testing
- Health and safety issues
- Employee personal and social issues
- Company legal requirements
- Employee referrals
This provides assessment and impartial and professional advice on any absenteeism and support employees to get back to work as quickly as possible. Absence management strategies focus on early interventions and will help business to:
- Reduce levels of absence
- Cut the cost of absence to your organisation
- Drive up the productivity and decrease disruption as a result of employees being absent
- Enable employees to return to work sooner
Approximately 70% of all sickness absence is due to psychological ill health or musculoskeletal disorders. Upon referral employees will receive advice and guidance to treatment and support so that they can return to work quickly. OH providers work with specialists such as physiotherapists or mental health practitioners to ensure that employees are managed by the right people at the right time. Should the company already have a PMI or cash plan policy, they will utilise services through these avenues as the first port of call.
OH services can provide a thorough, professional occupational health risk assessment so that companies can decide what actions they need to take to prevent occupational illnesses. Assessments will include:
- Identify any hazards and any employees who may be affected
- Evaluate the risk
- Identify and prioritise appropriate interventions and controls
Health surveillance and prevention
Ongoing checks can prevent health problems occurring and ensuring that employees are safe and able to work in their current role.
A cost-effective health surveillance programme can be delivered to businesses to ensure that testing is carried out on employees who may be at risk due to their work environment. For example, employees who are exposed to noise or vibration, ionising radiation, solvents, fumes, dust, biological agents and other substances hazardous to health may be required to be checked by law.
The types of services offered to tackle this are:
- Hearing testing
- Vision testing
- Hand and arm vibration
- Lung function testing
- Driver medical exam
- Alcohol/drug testing
This is a service that benefits all sectors from veterinary to construction to security and beyond. OH services can identify which vaccinations are appropriate and provide companies with expert advice and guidance so that they comply with the most up to date legislation. Having an effective vaccination and recall system gives confidence to workers that are exposed to vaccine-preventable diseases that protection is being provided. It also provides reassurance for management should any inspections by local authorities be carried out.
Health promotion and wellbeing
OH services support companies to create a positive and healthy working environment and promote healthy behaviours amongst staff. This can include services that:
- Improve mental wellbeing
- Change behaviour – smoking, alcohol and substance misuse
- Increase physical activity
- Promote healthy eating
- Improve staff morale
Management Information reports can also be provided which can prompt the company to address issues that have been highlighted whilst focusing on positive areas that create improved health and wellbeing.
How do I access these services?
Shire work with a range of Occupational Health providers and our aim is to provide our clients with the best solution for their business. A tailored solution will be offered to suit each business following an assessment, as each business is unique. The services provided are not only applicable but measurable in ensuring there is a positive improvement. If you are interested in Occupational Health services for your business you can get in touch here or give us a call on 01827 306 532.