Occupational Health is a term that is often thrown around, but how many people actually know what it means?
In simple terms, OCC Health is the focus on the up-keeping of an employee’s physical and mental health in the workplace. But there’s much more to it than that.
According to research, over 170 million days are lost each year due to sickness absence, costing an estimated £100 billion every year. With these kind of results, we feel like its time to talk about workplace sickness in all forms and how Occupational Health assessments (OCC) can help reduce this.
What Exactly Is It?
Occupational Health looks at how a member of staff is coping with their job both physically and mentally and if there are any risks to their wellbeing.
Specialists like ourselves can help to prevent any work-related illness or injuries by encouraging safe working practises, monitoring the health and safety of their staff and supporting the management of sickness absence.
Health assessments can be carried out on both employees and areas of work to ensure that their safety is not being compromised and any risks are dealt with promptly. Assessments can also be carried out on employees that have been off work sick for a long period of time.
This will help you as an employer to understand how long it will be before they are fit to return to work again and any changes you may need to make to their work environment.
What Are An Employer’s Obligations?
As an employer, it is your duty to look after your staff and encourage a safe and healthy workplace environment. This means there needs to be procedures put in place to ensure that members of staff are able to perform their job comfortably. This is what Occupational Health boils down to.
Part of this is considering the effect and toll that certain jobs can have on an employee, whether it’s a strain to their mental health or risk of injury.
The status of a person’s health can have a huge effect of the performance of their job, with both positive and negative effects. For example, a person in good health who has recently received praise or acknowledgement for their work is more likely to work productively and feel good about it. Whereas a person who isn’t in good health will potentially struggle to keep up, and the workload could be having a negative impact on their mental health.
It is required by law since The Equality Act was put in play in 2010, that all employers must provide a safe workplace where employees are protected from discrimination. Having your employees sit down with a OCC Health specialist can highlight any areas of concern and will allow you to make any adjustments accordingly.
The Equality Act 2010
In October 2010, a new Act was put in motion regarding the discrimination of employees in the workplace. This act was named The Equality Act and contained over 116 different pieces of legislation in one document.
The Equality Act was designed to protect any working member of the public from discrimination against gender, race, religion, disabilities, sexual orientation and age. Multiple different legislations were brought together into one single Act to make it easier to understand and easier to enforce into the workplace.
As an employer, it is your legal duty to comply with these pieces of legislation and make sure that none of your employees face any risk of being discriminated against.
Mental Health In The Workplace
One of the biggest reasons for sickness absence is due to mental health, which affects many people. The majority of people will experience some form of mental health issue during their time in the workplace, such as stress, anxiety and depression.
Depression that is caused or provoked by something in the workplace is a very serious matter, and it’s not as simple as “feeling a bit sad”. A lot of people will bottle up their feelings as they may feel like they will not be taken seriously or laughed at for speaking up, and this is not the approach that any place of work should be taking.
It’s your duty as an employer to ensure that the work you are giving to your employees is not having a negative effect on their mental health and allow them to speak up and give them a platform to express their problems.
The stress of a job can be too much for a lot of people, so it’s important that your employees are able to come to you with any issues that they may have with the workload or even other members of staff. Whilst some mental health issues will not stem directly from a problem at work, providing a stress-free (where possible) environment for them to work in will be beneficial.
Workers that are suffering from depression or other forms of mental health will likely find it harder to concentrate and take longer to complete tasks. It could also lead to conflict between them and other employees and potentially lead them being to be less patient or aggressive with clients.
Ignoring these signs and letting things get worse could lead to an employee leaving the company and there could even be a risk of them taking their own lives in some cases.
Mental health is a very important matter that a lot of people struggle with each and every day, so it’s crucial to make appropriate adjustments where possible. You need to provide confidentiality as well, as there is still a stigma surrounding mental health when there shouldn’t be.
Carrying Out Workplace Assessments
By carrying out workplace assessments, specialists like ourselves can identify any potential risks or threats that could occur in the workplace and advise employers on any areas they need to improve on or fix. This doesn’t just concern the safety of your workers, but also customers and the general public.
For example, it’s important to locate any tripping or fire hazards in case of emergency. Another example could be that the floor of elevators are not allowed to be painted black because partially sighted people may become confused and accidentally fall down the elevator shaft.
All workplaces must be able to accommodate for people with any kind of condition, whether it is wheelchair access or rails. Failure to do so will lead to not being compliant with The Equality Act 2010 and could land the employer in some hot water.
When thinking about the safety of your own workers, it’s crucial that anyone who is working with the likes of machinery or hazardous chemicals is provided with the correct PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and has received adequate training. The PPE will protect the workers whilst carrying out their jobs and failure to provide this protection could lead to injury and potentially even death.
There are many benefits to be had from undertaking OCC Health assessments and health surveillance.
For example, allowing OCC Health specialists to come in and carry out health assessments can lead to a decrease in work related injuries, therefore reducing the costs of injury and compensation. Bringing in professionals will also show your employees that you care about their wellbeing, therefore you should see an increase in productivity and employee satisfaction.
Lastly and most importantly, a OCC Health assessment will point out any areas of concern and will allow you to make any changes to fit the current legislation, protecting both you and the company from any trouble further down the line.
Where Wurkplace Comes In
Wurkplace specialises in providing a high-quality, professional Occupational Health service.
We can come in and detail all of the potential risks in a work area, and carry out health assessments on your employees to ensure that their safety needs are being met, both physically and mentally.
We can figure out whether or not an employee has a suitable fitness for the role, advise you on any health conditions or disabilities that may impact the terms of employment and ensure that employees are fit for work.
If you’d like to discuss more about our Occupational Health service, then please get in touch today.
As a Managing Director at Wurkplace since May 2010, Karen has extensive HR, employment law and health and Safety experience from working within the private sector.
She also boasts experience of working in the public sector including local authority, fire service, police, schools, colleges, charities, NHS.