Occupational Health

by Anna Harrington

Introduction

As a manager, you are unlikely to be an occupational health expert, but you still bear a considerable responsibility to ensure that your team can work safely, that legislative standards are met, that you notice and take action if any of your team appear stressed, that you pay attention to the possible special needs, not just of the disabled, but of workers who are young, older than the average or pregnant, and that you manage your people in a manner that enhances their well-being.

This overview of occupational health is designed to make you aware of the aspects of occupational health that you, as a manager, should consider. The breakdown of UK statistics shows that of 29.3 millions working days lost due to work-related issues in 2008/9, some 24.6 million were due to work-related ill-health and 4.7 million due to workplace injury. A robust OH policy carries great business benefits, in terms of lower costs, reduced staff turnover and absenteeism and greater employee engagement.

There is a brief review of the most common health conditions that can affect an individual’s ability to work, including depression, diabetes, heart disease and cancer, with separate sections on musculoskeletal disorders and stress – the two most common causes of sickness absence. We also discuss the importance of managing sickness absence and having a clear policy.

We cover workplace health promotion and list some of the lifestyle factors that affect individuals. If, as a manager, you feel that workplace health is given insufficient attention in your organisation, we discuss how to build a business case to convince senior management, together with the basics of conducting an occupational health needs assessment. You will also find a list of the various types of professional who may become involved in providing expert help and the relevant qualifications.

Occupational ill health can prove very costly to an organisation; occupational health and well-being, on the other hand, can bring greater employee engagement and raised output, and working can even, it is argued, prolong the life-span of employees.