Most people have heard about occupational health, but how many people know what they actually do and how they fit in?
Occupational health (OH) professionals are medical professionals who are specially trained in occupational health over and above their other professional qualifications.
In specific terms, occupational health advises employers about:
• What would constitute reasonable adjustments such as specially adapted chairs for people with back problems;
• Phased return to work for employees who have been long-term sick;
• Exercises for employees with minor musculo-skeletal problems.
They may also deliver training or awareness sessions about best practice in the workplace.
Who Are They?
They are doctors or nurses, but they may also be physiotherapists, psychologists, occupational therapists. The government-funded Fit for Work Organisation provides more information about occupational health generally.
What Can They Help With?
They can provide advice for both employers and employees. UK sickness rates were, overall, lower in 2017 than they had been for some time, but the south-west of England has higher rates than most other parts of the country.
An example of what OH can help with is this: a Gloucester-based employer has an employee who was involved in a serious car accident and who has ongoing problems with a broken leg as a result. The employee’s medical records are not disclosed to the employer, so they can only work with what the employee tells them, but we all know that, particularly in relation to our own health, we have selective hearing. The employer refers to the employee to occupational health Gloucester. The city has a lot of independent providers, so it should be easy to find someone. Initially, a nurse will do either a face-to-face or telephone assessment and advise the employer about adjustments they might make.
Areas where there is a range of industries may have a high need of occupational health Gloucester. Of course, most employees only take sick leave when necessary, but for those who are perhaps a trifle disingenuous, take advice from occupational health Gloucester – it may have some of the richest people in the UK living in the county, but businesses still need productivity.
Regardless of sickness rates, it makes sense for employers to engage occupational health professionals at an early stage and try prevention rather than a cure.