There are many benefits to engaging an occupational health provider in addition to the obvious need for compliance with health and safety guidance, and the way in which the service introduced into a workplace may have a critical impact on its effectiveness.
For some years, there has been a requirement for health surveillance at work, under certain circumstances, for example, in relation to noise, vibration and the use of some chemicals.
Despite this, occupational health (OH) providers such as MOHS often come across businesses that have never undertaken health screening or used other OH services.
Reasons for adopting an occupational health programme
The need to introduce a programme may be driven by external inspection, a change of liability insurance provider or, as is often the case, may be a requirement as part of a new contract with a customer. It can also be driven by new ownership, where other parts of a group already have provision in place.
There are many benefits to engaging an OH provider in addition to the obvious need for compliance with health and safety guidance.
Engaging your employees
However, how an OH service is introduced into a workplace may have a critical impact on its effectiveness. The importance of an effective dialogue with the workforce cannot be under stated. Workers often have a natural distrust of these types of services, suspecting that they are “just another way to get rid or workers”.
Not all workers manage their own health as well as they could, and this often leads to concerns that a visiting advisor may “find something serious”. Other workers may feel that health surveillance is intrusive or that it is pointless as they should expect some injury or ill health as a result of their work.
Clear communication from management regarding the reasons for introduction and the benefits of engaging are key to a successful introduction. It is important that workers understand what the service may involve.
They should be made aware of both their legal obligations to comply with surveillance, but also understand its main purpose.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) list the following reasons:
- detect ill-health effects at an early stage, so employers can introduce better controls to prevent them getting worse
- provide data to help employers evaluate health risks
- enable employees to raise concerns about how work affects their health
- highlight lapses in workplace control measures, therefore providing invaluable feedback to the risk assessment
- provide an opportunity to reinforce training and education of employees (e.g., on the impact of health effects and the use of protective equipment.
Explaining these reasons to employees is crucial, along with information about confidentiality of personal medical information, explaining how records will be safely kept and describing the scope of a programme and how to access it.
Your provider should partner with management to help communicate these points and to help answer any questions that may arise.
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We have over 55 years’ experience in occupational health and are always keen to speak with organisations wanting to learn more about preserving the wellbeing of their staff.
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