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Occupational health is a familiar term to most, but it can be challenging to define. We look at what is involved in occupational health assessments and how it could directly benefit your business.
Occupational health assessments encompass every aspect of a person's general wellbeing, both in and out of the workplace. At its most basic, it starts with height, weight, blood pressure and any pre-existing health conditions, then moves into more specialised areas such as occupational lung disease, hearing loss or dermatitis. Assessments will also look at employees' mental health, with questions about stress, depression and anxiety forming a hugely important part of the process.
The requirements for occupational health assessments are largely dependent on the workplace environment and will, in some cases, be mandatory. If your employees are exposed to certain risks within the workplace, from noise, dust and fumes to musculoskeletal strains and vibration, you have a duty to do everything possible to protect their physical and mental health.
However, while the assessments may not be mandatory in all workplaces, it is certainly beneficial, as it allows you to catch potential health issues before they cause long-term sickness or injury to workers and serious disruption to your business.
The risk of occupational ill health is ever-present; in 2020/21, a staggering 1.7 million employees suffered from work-related illnesses. Implementing occupational health assessments won’t solve all issues with ill health overnight. Still, it can give you a solid understanding of what health concerns currently affect your employees and what actions should be taken. Keeping an eye on workers' health can also help confirm if other safety measures, like using special equipment to remove dust or fumes, are working properly.
Occupational health assessments are a straightforward process. The employer will select a day(s) for the assessments to take place and make a quiet, private room available for the occupational health technician to complete the appointments.
Each employee will have a one-on-one meeting where they can sit down and talk in a safe, confidential space about a wide range of health impacts and concerns. As part of the process, the technicians will not just look at control measures that have been put in place by the employer but also consider pathways to help and guidance that can be accessed by an employee in their own time too.
Appointment duration usually ranges from around 45 minutes to an hour or more. Everyone is individual and will have different pre-existing medical conditions, extra-curricular activities (some of which may impact areas of health), and employment history.
In addition, there are different levels of assessments; a full suite of occupational health surveillance covers all elements including lung function, audiometry, skin checks for dermatitis, and hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) assessments. However, in some situations, only one or two areas are relevant to the workplace. If you're unsure about what you need, just get in contact; we'll be able to give you more tailored advice.
After the first set of assessments is complete, the employer receives a summary document highlighting key areas for each staff member (it's important to note that this isn't the entire record of the occupational health surveillance), and a recommendation of what frequency their surveillance should have. For some people, this will be six months; for others, it might be over a year.
Occupational health assessments are just one piece of the puzzle. It goes hand in hand with workplace exposure monitoring, which is the formal process of assessing and sampling things like noise exposure, air quality and vibration levels to make the workplace safer. These compliance measures, alongside relevant training within the workplace for face fit testing, first aiders, wellbeing champions and mental health first aid, can provide a real boost to wellness, health and productivity within a workforce.
Are you looking for Occupational Health support? We're always only a phone call or email away, ready to give you guidance on how to make these assessments a reality in your workplace. Contact us on 01427 420 404 or email email@example.com