Occupational Health (OH) is an often overlooked essential service that businesses with any number of employees need. Just as you need HR to put in place systems that help your staff perform well, reduce absenteeism, and monitor your documentation, so you need OH to ensure your staff are fit and able to work to the best of their abilities.
A person’s work can affect their health; conversely, their health can affect their work. This balance has to be managed carefully, which is when you may need specialist OH support. They help you to achieve the balance between assuring your employees are well enough to work, whilst providing advice on ensuring the work is helping them to regain a sense of purpose and increased self-esteem.
How do you reach a balance?
OH focuses on the diagnosis and prevention of diseases caused by work. Through a combination of improved diagnosis of occupational disease, lower exposures to harmful substances, and elimination of the most toxic chemicals, there has been a significant reduction in their incidence. Sadly, though, diseases such as asbestosis, occupational asthma, lead poisoning, and noise-induced hearing loss still occur to this day.
More recently, there has been a shift towards ill-health caused by a mixture of occupational and non-occupational factors, such as stress-related illness and musculoskeletal disorders. OH has, therefore, also taken on the role of assessing an employee’s fitness to undertake a specific job, especially when the job deals with the public’s safety, such as airline pilots, firemen or bus drivers. Assessments may also apply for specific job requirements such as surgeons, or employees regularly travelling overseas.
Duty of Care
While your company is not responsible for the general health of your employees, you do have a moral and legal responsibility for the occupational health of your people. In other words, ensuring that their work does not make them ill, and that they are medically fit for their job.
Specialising in the relationship between work and health, OH is essentially an independent, objective advisory service, providing health advice to both employee and employer. Its main objectives are:
- To identify and help prevent illness caused by work – both physical and mental health
- To advise on the fitness of an employee to do their job, which could involve requesting medical reports from doctors or other specialists
- To provide emergency response on site
- To improve and maintain the health of the workforce to the mutual benefit of both employee and employer
When to Bring in an Expert
A client of mine had an employee who suffered with severe anxiety. Unfortunately, the anxiety was having a detrimental effect on her work, which in turn caused further issues to both the employee and the business. By then, my client simply wanted to sack the individual, which of course could have meant ending up in court for unfair dismissal.
It was an awkward situation, one which I knew needed specialist help. I called in the expertise of Pippa Clark, an OH specialist. Being particularly aware of the Equality Act and sensitive to the mental health needs of the employee, Pippa was able to ask questions that I didn’t know to ask. From that, we were able to manage the situation to both the employer’s and employee’s satisfaction.
Autumn Employment Law Update Workshop with Pippa Clark, Occupational Health Specialist
Our next Employment Law Update Workshop is taking place on 10 October 2019. Do come along and benefit from the expertise of Pippa Clark, an OH Specialist. Pippa will explain how OH can help your business to help your employees to maintain safe and productive working lives and how OH can help your business to develop a healthy and productive workforce.
As usual, the venue is The Meeting Room at Hennerton Golf Club in Wargrave, Berkshire, at a cost of just £20 plus VAT, including refreshments. The workshop will run from 9.30am to 1pm.