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How Occupational Health Can Keep You on the Right Side of the HSE

Today is World Day for Health and Safety at Work.

Intended to promote safe practices across the globe and better health in the workplace, it’s an important reminder for any business in today’s competitive world of their responsibility to employees.

Good health and safety makes good business sense – it puts employees at the forefront of your duty of care, improves wellbeing alongside productivity, and can even help market you as a great company to work for.

If you want to stay on the right side of the Health and Safety Executive in the UK, you need to meet your obligations according to the law. Making use of an occupational health service which can help review your current processes, manage health issues and explain how the current law effects your business is therefore important.

Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974

This is the primary piece of legislation that outlines the responsibilities of employers. The Health and Safety Executive, along with local authorities, is charged with enforcing the act. There are other acts and statutory instruments which add to this legislation, some relating to set industries and sectors, such as handling asbestos or working at height. The main important document, however, is the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

How an occupational health service can help you comply with health & safety law and your duty of care responsibilities

The first thing that an OH service does is provide your company with easy access to professional advice that will help protect, maintain and monitor the health of all your workers. As a specialist team, they will have a clear idea of the legal requirements for your industry or sector and be able to assist you in developing the processes and procedures that are required.

An OH service features health surveillance as a core activity. This involves a process of systematically monitoring for the early signs of work-related ill health, particularly where employees are exposed to certain health risks. The HSE itself is concerned mainly with health surveillance, safety critical work, and sickness absence, as well as procedures and compliance, including those surrounding DSE assessments.

Medical surveillance

There are numerous industries and sectors where health surveillance is of major importance, for example, workers removing and operating around asbestos, those working at height or employees operating in potential hazardous situations such as warehouses and factories where heavy machinery is being used. This surveillance involves not only monitoring but keeping accurate records and retaining them for up to 40 years in some cases.

Medical surveillance can also be introduced if a particular health issue has been identified in a workplace. It is aimed at reducing the risk and usually begins with an OH professional undertaking a assessment of any potential hazard, including how people might be harmed and what needs to be put in place to reduce that risk. This can involve a using a set questionnaire or undertaking tests and examinations of staff. Both the employer and the employee will be advised and educated about the risks involved and the help that needs to be provided for those who have been affected by the hazard.

Safety Critical Work

Another area that the HSE are concerned with is safety critical work. There are a wide range of jobs in sectors such as the construction industry where employees face potentially hazardous conditions. Making sure that workers are fit for the job in hand is an important aspect of health and safety at many work sites. Regular medicals for staff who are potentially at risk ensures that your business complies with the current legislation for your industry.

Health and Safety Compliance

Understanding what needs to be implemented in order to comply with health and safety law is something that all businesses should have a vested interest in. The HSE has recently launched the Health and Work Strategy, along with the hashtag #HelpGBWorkWell, to work more closely with employers, employees and those involved in the health and safety community. They are also placing more emphasis on health at work, including how businesses work effectively to help those with long term or mental health conditions.

The law regarding workforce health applies to all businesses and organisations, irrespective of size or type. While some industries may have specific health and safety concerns and requirements, the onus is always on an employer to act responsibly and comply with the legislation. Occupational health services can help your business ensure that it has the right processes and procedures in place for your sector.

While also helping your business to understand it’s responsibilities, an occupational health service is invaluable in promoting better health among employees and dealing with health related issues such as sickness and absence. On World Health Day for Health and Safety at Work, it might be time to consider if you have the right processes in place and your staff are getting the support they need.

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