What is Occupational Health?

Occupational Health focuses on the physical and mental wellbeing of an employee for the prevention and treatment of job-related injuries and illnesses.

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How is Occupational Health provided in a workplace?

In large organisations, a medical professional (for example a part-time doctor, physiotherapist or potentially a psychologist) may be charged with maintaining the occupational health in the workplace. The occupational health department will ensure that the legal duties are carried out as a way of protecting employees in the Company. However, having a separate department may not be practicable for smaller companies.

No Occupation Health Department?

Many businesses do not have an Occupational Health department. Therefore, many small and medium companies (SMEs) use external resources to offer assistance. Meaning that the Company has the right help and support to ensure that an employee’s physical and mental wellbeing is being maintained.

Company Obligations and Legal Framework

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 sets out the legal duties for Companies (and those who are employed there) to safeguard employees. A Company must ensure an employees health and safety is not compromised because of their role (as far as practicable).  This means that assessments of the work-related risks need to be made, which cannot be more than is suitable and sufficient for their employment.

You are required to make any appropriate arrangements regarding the planning, organisation and control of the policies while conducting reviews to confirm that they are adequate. To make sure that all employees are aware of the procedures you are required to produce written health and safety documents. Any amendments/revisions need to be communicated to your employees.

The Combined Code on Corporate Governance imposes responsibilities on the Directors to have a system of internal controls that ensure the wellbeing of their employees. The Turnbull report also places the responsibility on the Director. Failure to implement the necessary procedures could result in an individual (for example, Director, company secretary or a manager) being held criminally liable and the Company could be found guilty of a health and safety offence.

Health and Safety Reviews

Those that are responsible for the management of health and safety should produce ongoing reports on any internal controls that are in place.

An annual review is also advised which should cover;

  • Any changes that have been made since the last assessment.
  • The thoroughness of the continual health and safety monitoring system.
  • Whether the board are fully communicated with regarding the monitoring system.
  • Any weaknesses that have been identified and the effect they will have,
  • And, any weaknesses in the reporting process.

Occupational health in the workplace will look at the following;

  • The health and safety policies in place:
    • This should be based on the risk assessments and risk control measures that have been identified;
    • Must conform to the up to date legal duties;
    • Communicated to employees.
  • Future planning:
    • Identify potential hazards;
    • Eliminate any unnecessary risks;
    • Look at controlling risks (so far as is practicable);
    • Establish a periodic review of the measures you have in place.
  • Implementing:
    • Employee training;
    • Consultations with employees on the procedures;
    • Procedure manuals;
    • Plans for potential emergencies.
  • Management reviews and maintenance:
    • Creating reports and completing a thorough investigation of any workplace accidents;
    • Complete audits and analyse the results;
    • Be aware of the areas of focus for the future.

When producing a set of health and safety regulations, they should be a clear and practical so that they can be acted upon. 

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