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What is the purpose of the occupational health?

Millions of employees suffer ill health as a result of their work and this can have a significant impact on their quality of life and ability to continue with their job. Occupational health is an area of healthcare which aims to prevent illness and injury through good working practices, monitoring employee wellbeing and supporting management with reducing sickness absence.

Occupational health assessments are often required to ensure compliance with specific legislation (such as those relating to lead, asbestos and ionising radiation) or as part of an employer’s health and safety processes (e.g. statutory medicals for fork lift truck drivers or noise at work assessments). Other common occupational health assessments include biological monitoring – testing for levels of certain chemicals in an individual’s blood, display screen equipment (DSE) assessments and ergonomic workstation assessments.

At the heart of a workplace wellness strategy, occupational health assessments provide an invaluable tool to support individuals and organisations achieve their optimum performance. In addition to helping reduce absenteeism, they promote positive mental and physical wellbeing and improve the way in which businesses operate.

During an Occupational Health Assessment, the healthcare professional will examine an individual’s body and take a detailed history, including details of any previous illness or injuries that might be relevant to their current situation. They will then provide advice on their fitness for work, giving an indication of when they can return to work or if there are reasonable adjustments that could be made in order to maintain an effective level of productivity, whilst remaining within the boundaries of any medical restrictions.

Some employees are concerned that personal information shared during an occupational health assessment will be passed onto their employer and this is a legitimate concern. However, all healthcare professionals are bound by medical confidentiality and are only able to discuss any medical issues that the individual has consented to discuss with them.

The outcome of an occupational health assessment will be a detailed report that will either be provided to the individual, their employer or both. An employer will generally want to receive an occupational health assessment report as they are looking for information on whether the individual is fit for work, when they can return and if any reasonable adjustments can be made to their working conditions.

Individuals who are referred for an occupational health assessment by their employer can expect their appointment to last around 30 to 45 minutes. This may be a face to face consultation or a telephone/video conference call depending on the circumstances. Usually, an employer will have sent the health professional a referral form, which will include any specific questions they have about an individual’s medical condition and the reasons for their referral. If the assessment is a DSE or ergonomic workstation assessment, the healthcare professional will likely ask an individual to submit photos of their desk and work environment before their consultation. This will help them to make an informed decision regarding their recommendations.

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