What is occupational health?

A very specific branch of medicine, occupational health deals with your wellness in the workplace. Your health is a major part of your productivity—if you’re unwell, it’s a lot harder to do your job.

 

What does occupational health do?

In its early days, occupational health focused on preventing issues caused by work—these days, as well as this, it has a role in assessing the fitness of an employee to carry out tasks. This is done with a health assessment. We’ve talked in detail as to what is occupational health assessment and what to expect as well as the benefits of it to the workforce.

 

Those who work in occupational health services are specialists in the mental and physical wellbeing of workers. They are trained in:

  • Assessing and advising on staff who cannot work due to sickness
  • Advising on reasonable adjustments to the workplace
  • Helping plan and carry out return to work programmes
  • Carrying out occupational health checks
  • Highlighting workplace issues that could cause absence via risk assessments
  • Providing counselling to employees

 

All organisations have responsibility for their employees’ occupational health. Few have their own internal departments for this, however. Most use external occupational health services, calling upon their support as needed.

 

A range of specialists provide this support:

  • Nurses and doctors who specialise in occupational health
  • Physiotherapists
  • Occupational therapists
  • Counsellors

You can find these specialists on dedicated websites.

 

All employers should have policies in accordance with the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. Occupational health specialists can help to check that these policies—and the workplace itself—are in order.

 

Can I refuse to see occupational health?

Yes.

However, it’s not really beneficial to anyone—the point of an occupational health referral is to make your life easier.

It’s not designed to ‘catch you out’ with an occupational health check, and it’s not about doing the wrong thing or getting into trouble. It’s aimed at finding out what adjustments an employer can make to help you in your role.

 

Can occupational health stop me working?

For employees wondering, “can occupational health sign me off work?” or “do I have to agree to occupational health?”.

Its purpose is to make suggestions, rather than telling you what you can and can’t do. If they recommend time away from work, that’s something you should discuss with your employer. They can’t, however, force you to stay at home.

An occupational health worker is not on anyone’s ‘side’. They’re an objective specialist. And they’ll assess the facts, advising on the best course of action for both employer and employee.

Ultimately, an occupational health service is exactly that—a service. Businesses use it to ensure their employees can work at their best. Their advice is well worth heeding.

 

If you’d like to find out more information on any of the topics mentioned in this article, please contact Health Assured on: 0333 251 3208

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