What is Occupational Health?

Posted By Stephanie Hancox on 2017-08-31 08:56

Everyday we are bombarded with news article after news article on how this Health and Safety regulation was breached and this other one was breached. But can you tell me the definition of Occupational Health? The difference between Health Surveillance, Health Assessment and Monitoring?

Within this blog we aim to help you improve your understanding of the great importance that Occupational Health brings to a company along with the many benefits. 

So what is the difference between Health Surveillance, Health Assessments and Monitoring???

Health Surveillance Identifies potential health risks to a worker for                                                               example....                                                                                                 HAVs Tier 1, requires a worker using vibrating tools (which can cause a range of conditions collectively known as hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS), as well as specific diseases such as white finger or Raynaud’s syndrome, carpel tunnel syndrome and tendinitis.) To complete a self assessment questionnaire to identify whether the worker is at risk.                                                                                                         A further Surveillance service we offer is Dermatology Surveillance which again is a self assessment questionnaire, where the individual identifies potential signs of Dermatitis. Symptoms can range from slight dry patches to red cracking skin. Those questionnaires are assessed over time and the form a picture of what is happening. They also allow you to understand whether the precautions you put in place are working or not. Health surveillance allows for early intervention if it is needed. 

Health Assessment identifies the potential effects that the persons health has on their ability to perform their job fully, for example....                                                                                        Audiometry assessments identifies problems in an individuals hearing, and if they full under category 2 OR category 3, we advice the employer to check risk assessments, the individuals PPE along with ensuring they can hear alarms i.e. Fire alarms. 

Monitoring is a more generic type of surveillance and measures certain factors; Along with the collation of results either over a certain time frame, or a collation of results which can be used to show a specific trend. For example....                                                                                                                                                                             Noise monitoring. An assessment we complete on location to test the noise levels within the work place; The results collected will be able to advice us to advice you what precautions are needed to be put in place whether this includes changes to the layout of noisy machinery or a review of PPE Products. More information can be found at .... https://www.healthscreenuk.co.uk/hearing-tests-in-the-workplace.                                                   Here at HealthScreen we understand the importance of monitoring trends from surveillance/assessments taken place previously. This is why we compare audio results to previous audio results to support an argument as to whether precautions put in place to protect workers hearing works or doesn't. 

Am I, as an employer, legally bound to have a health and safety scheme in place?? 

By law, an employer must put a health and safety scheme in place relevant to the risks that are present within the individual working environment. For example an office worker wouldn't require health surveillance however the employer would be advised to offer a DSE (Display Screen Equipment) Assessment. In comparison to a FLT (fork lift truck) driver who by law requires a FLT Driver medical. Further comparison would be an individual working on a construction sight who would require Dermatology/skin surveillance with Pre-Placment medicals and a Muscoskeletal Questionnaire or Assessment being strongly suggested based upon risks associated with construction work.

So I'm legally obliged to offer certain types of Occupational Health surveillance, but why should I offer ones that are suggested??

The main advantage of offering Occupational Health services within your workplace is the chance of decreasing absences due to poor health; which positively impacts the company as less absences results in increased productivity which further leads to overall greater profits. 

Further advantages includes...

- A secure Occupational Health scheme makes the company more attractive as a potential employer.

- Reduction in legal action being taken against the company; due to a failure in not sucesfully identifying         and taking corrective and preventative action on hazards in the workplace which can damage an                     employees health. 

"The involvement of occupational health professionals is rated the most effective approach for managing long-term absence by all main employer sectors."
CIPD Absence Management Survey 2009

Further useful Information ...

In the unfortunate case where an employee decides to take legal action against the company in failings of Occupational Health; As an Occupational Health Provider, we are legally obliged (under HSE Regulations) to store onto all medical information collected (i.e. Results and quetionaires) for 40 years from the most recent date, surveilance/assesments/monitoring was carried out. This means that there is a solid collection of results where we can idntify failings in the prevention of risks to a workers health, Furthermore, we can also identify whether a workers poor health could be as a result to the working environment by identifing trends over a long time-frame. 

We hope this blog has helped you in understanding the great importance of Occupational Health and if by chance we have missed anything, Please dont hesitate to get in touch via Email, Social Media or by phone.