Occupational Health

by Anna Harrington

Occupational health help

Once you have carried out a workplace health needs assessment, you can use it to determine the levels and types of services needed.

Types of service

You will need to conduct a review of resources available to implement any action plan. From this, gaps and needs will be identified.

There are a number of options available to all organisations in respect of generalist and specialist support. Below are examples of support available:

  • Private OH providers
  • NHS OH – NHS Plus provides OH services externally
  • In-house expertise
  • Individual OH professionals
  • Access to Work – this government-supported service provides advice and financial support for businesses employing a disabled person or disabled individuals
  • EEF – the Engineering Employers Federation runs courses on Health and Safety and offers consultancy services
  • Shaw Trust
  • Insurers – such as Unum, for vocational rehab, or AXA, for more general OH
  • Constructing for better health (CBH) – National Scheme for the management of occupational health in the construction industry.

SEQOHS – Safe Equality Occupational Health Services

These standards are voluntary and apply to core clinical occupational health services provided by doctors and nurses.

Constructing Better Health

This organisation exists to ‘improve the health of construction, building services and FM sector workforces’. It sets industry standards for the provision of occupational health services to the construction sector.

Primary care

A definition of primary care states that it is ‘the care given on first contact with medical services’, but in reality primary care in this country has come to mean much more than this. It also means the prevention of ill-health, an aspect of public health, and the management of individuals in the community with long-term health conditions.

Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) are currently being erased and their functions divided between other organisations, such as consortia of General Practitioners with the power to commission services. It is suggested that the public or preventative health functions of primary care will be assigned to local councils.

The public health function of primary care embraces workplace health and the promotion of health within workplaces, so to this end there are likely to be resources available to assist businesses achieve this aim:

  • Financial
  • Expertise
  • Time.

In particular, if behavioural changes are required then this will take time to implement and be effective.

Professionals involved with occupational health provision

The makeup of OH teams will depend on the needs of the organisation. There may be representatives from nursing, medical and health and safety professionals, a health champion, counsellors, physiotherapists and so on.

Note

An assessment of competence should always be made by, for example, checking professional registration with the appropriate body, checking past experience and relevance to the organisations’ needs, examining references, and requesting the person attends an interview.

The following is a list of professionals who may be involved in workplace health, the regulatory bodies and professional status.

Nurses

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) Part 1
Registered Nurse – RN1, RNA. Mental Health Nurse – RN3, RNMH  
Specialist Community Public Health Nurse  
Specialist Community Public Health – ROH, OH Part 3

Nurses may work in occupational health with no recognised specialist professional post-registration qualification (RN Part 1). From a legislative and quality perspective, it is advisable to secure the services of a nurse who is appropriately qualified, registered and experienced unless they are to be supervised by an appropriate member of the team.

The highest professional registration is the SCPHN (Occ Health), which demonstrates that the nurse has undertaken additional (in addition to the registered general nurse training) academic training in occupational health to the standards set by the Nursing and Midwifery Council. It gives an employing organisation a level of assurance of competence.

A registered nurse may have undertaken a diploma or degree in occupational health but not have the qualification recognised by the NMC, it is then up to the employing organisation to be content with their level of knowledge and experience.

Doctors

Doctors are registered and regulated through the General Medical Council. General Practitioners (GPs) are doctors who have undertaken academic and vocational training in the treatment of acute and chronic health conditions in the community. They may have an interest in occupational health and have completed the diploma in occupational medicine (DOcc Med); they are able to work under the direction of a Consultant in Occupational Medicine.

The Faculty of Occupational Medicine is part of the Royal College of Physicians and develops and maintains the standards of professional competence of its members. There are different levels of membership:

  • Fellow FFOM
  • Member MFOM
  • Associate AFOM

Occupational technicians

Technicians may or may not have undertaken academic training or could have received in-house training. They are able to carry out the routine health screening associated with occupational health, such as audiometry or lung function testing. They need to work with a qualified and registered occupational health professional.

Physiotherapists

Physiotherapy helps restore movement and function to as near normal as possible when someone is affected by injury, illness or by developmental or other disability. Physiotherapists work in a wide variety of health settings in the community and hospitals. They are regulated by the Health Professions Council (HPC).

Occupational therapists

These assess and treat the physical and psychological aspects of an individual, aiming to reach the highest level of independence as is possible. They are regulated by the Heath Professions Council.

Psychologists

There are many specialists within the field of psychology. Essentially they are all concerned with behaviours and interactions. Clinical psychologists will treat individuals who either have a diagnosed mental health disorder or are having thoughts which are personally problematic or are exhibiting problematic behaviour. Occupational psychologists are concerned with the way organisations function and the performance of individuals within them. They are registered with the British Psychological Society.

Occupational hygienists

Occupational hygienists get involved at the interface of people and their workplaces. They use science and engineering to prevent ill health caused by the work environment, specialising in the assessment and control of risks to health from workplace exposure to hazards. There is no minimum level of training to be registered with the British Occupational Hygiene Society. However there are four levels of membership, which are restricted to those who have reached a certain academic level and gained relevant experience.

Health and safety practitioners

These are concerned with the identification of workplace hazards and the management of risk. They may be registered with the Institute of Occupational Health and Safety.

Ergonomists

Ergonomics deals with the interaction of technological and work situations with the human being. The basic human sciences involved are anatomy, physiology and psychology. These sciences are applied by the ergonomist with two main objectives: the most productive use of human capabilities, and the maintenance of human health and well-being. Ergonomists are registered with the Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors.