Home > Health & Wellbeing > What is Occupational Health?

What is Occupational Health?

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 20 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Occupational Health Illness Prevention

In addition to statutory health and safety procedures all employers must put in place, 'occupational health' focuses on the relationship between health and work. It can vary from workplace to workplace. For example, a chemical manufacturer's employees will be exposed to some different health related issues than, say, the employees of a call centre so occupational health practitioners need to take these different aspects into consideration.

For some people, a health issue will affect their ability to do the type of work they want to do whilst in other cases, the work itself may have the potential to affect people's health. For an occupational health specialist, the 'patient' may be a single employee, a group or even the entire workforce, depending on the specific issue.

The Purpose of Occupational Health in The Workplace

Occupational health aims to ensure that people can be as effective as possible in their work and that their health is protected. It can sometimes get overlooked as more emphasis tends to be placed on safety issues but a good occupational health scheme can have a major effect in Reducing Sickness Absence.

The main responsibilities of an occupational health provider is to identify what can cause or contribute to Ill Health in the Workplace, to determine the action required to minimise being made ill from work, based on a well informed assessment of the risks and introducing suitable control measures to prevent ill health wherever possible.

They are also responsible for the particular health needs of individual workers such as those with disabilities, and should also be involved in the process of evaluating work equipment to see that it is suitable for its purpose. For example, ensuring that VDUs/computers and workstations are set up correctly and that employees are trained in how to use them 'healthily' to prevent things such as back pain which could lead on to Musculoskeletal Disorders or eyesight problems.

Occupational health may also involve screening job applicants to ensure that their health is of a satisfactory standard to carry out a particular job function and they can also provide support and advice to those who may already be off sick from work and looking to return. For example, an employee may be off sick due to a fall. The occupational health specialist will often liaise with a local hospital's physiotherapy unit to assess whether the employee is fit enough to embark upon a course of physiotherapy to enable them to return to work more quickly or if more rest and recuperation is required first.

Whilst it is not compulsory to employ someone in the role of an Occupational Health specialist, their role is so entwined with a company's overall mandatory health and safety possible that it would be impossible to adopt a correct health and safety procedure without taking into consideration some of the aspects mentioned above. There is an emphasis on prevention being better than cure and more of a focus on how to maintain a healthy workforce. When people are off work sick, it is the duty of the Occupational Health specialist to ascertain why they were off sick and to suggest ways in which it can be prevented happening again for the same reason.

They also have a role to play in promoting a healthy lifestyle to employees. Personal health checks - a sort of human M.O.T. - could be offered every year or two, talks can be given or posters put up. All ideas being to promote good health and to minimise illnesses from occurring, both physical and psychological, due to the nature of the work being undertaken or as a result of the working environment itself.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Mart
    Re: Holiday Pay & Overtime: The Changes
    I work in the security area. My rota is 4 on 4 off nights. However i usually work around 25 shifts per month.…
    17 April 2019
  • Leonardo
    Re: Violence at Work
    I was a victim on March 27, 2019 in workplace, one of my colleagues, was thrown, kicked my buckets and pour water on the ground in the presence of…
    16 April 2019
  • Branchy
    Re: Working At Night
    I work permanent 12 hour nights - 3 days per week - 36 hours per week. How is my average worked out for the no more than 8 hours in 24 over a 17…
    12 April 2019
  • Shiva
    Re: Employer Has Changed My Shifts: What Are My Rights?
    Hi I have been working for job and talent agency from 2018 October 20. Then last couple of weeks I…
    12 April 2019
  • Vicky
    Re: Safe Working Temperatures
    I work in a mill cleaning for 4 hours in a morning, there is no air con and I'm not allowed a break, is there a law that states I cant…
    11 April 2019
  • Jimmy
    Re: Working At Night
    Hi I work night is it legal to work a 12 hour shift then an hour after finishing being told to do a days training
    11 April 2019
  • Missjane
    Re: Zero Hours Contracts Explained
    My work place has closed for a refurbishment and I am a working mother 9-3 mon -Friday they r closed and have shipped us out to…
    9 April 2019
  • Nicky P
    Re: When Your Employer Changes Your Working Hours
    Hi there, I currently work at a hotel (worked there for a year) that is beside the restaurant that I have…
    9 April 2019
  • Moi
    Re: Can my Employer Fire Me?
    My manager was leaving the restaurant I work at , before he left he told all staff to stay and have a drink , which we did , a new…
    8 April 2019
  • Upset
    Re: Cancer: Your Rights as an Employee
    My Rota as been messed about with while I 've been off and now I have a really crap Rota I have complained but we're do I…
    8 April 2019