Occupational health is an area of medicine that deals with the prevention and treatment of job-related injuries and illnesses, yet many businesses only turn to occupational health services when it is too late. Seeking the assistance of an occupational health professional when someone in your employment is unwell or injured is not really making the most of what can be a very proactive service.
So, before we look at how you can make better use of occupational health services for employers, let’s explore some worrying statistics about the state of health and fitness in the workplace.
In 2016 there were 1.9 million worker deaths around the world according to data from the World Health Organization and International Labor Organization. Most of these deaths were linked to cardiovascular or respiratory diseases. The workplace risk factors that were identified as being contributory to these workplace deaths include:
- Working long hours
- Exposure to air pollution
- Exposure to noise
Research has shown that those who work at least 55 hours per week have a 35% higher risk of dying from stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from a heart attack compared to those who work 35-40 hours per week. It is also true to say that the Covid 19 pandemic has contributed to these longer working hours with the practice of working from home blurring the lines between work and home, not to mention the added work-related stresses of job losses and returning to the workplace.
So, are we heading for an occupational health crisis and what can your business do about it?
What are occupational health services?
Occupational health professionals help to keep people at work, keeping them happy and safe whilst they are in the workplace and also identifying and helping businesses to manage any risks that may be associated with workplace illness or injury. Given that 170 million days every year are lost to sickness absence these services are essential to keeping your business productive and the economy moving.
How can they support your business?
Occupational health services can be tailored to the needs of your business, helping you to:
- Reduce the number of sick days taken
- Remove and protect workplace health risks
- Screen and monitor employees in the early stages of ill health and devise solutions to help keep them at work
- Diagnose and advise in the case of staff being unable to work due to illness or injury
- Provide wellbeing services and guidance on health and lifestyle
These services can also help ensure your business complies with the necessary employment legislation and HSE regulations.
If you operate in an industry where the health and safety risks are high then you can seek support from an occupational health provider that specialises in offering medicals tailored to your occupation. These might include specialist medicals for diving, aviation or those working in confined spaces. Similarly, if your working environment operates on a shift basis and you want to ensure the impact of these practices do not negatively impact the health of your employees then you should seek an occupational health support provider that specialises in shift and night worker medicals.
Why you can’t afford to ignore occupational health
It has long been argued that a proactive approach to occupational health – i.e. the employment of these services on an ongoing basis to support employees and businesses – is key to creating more productive workplaces filled with happier people. You may use the cost of occupational health services as an excuse not to use them, but when you consider the alternative, which is more absences due to sickness, the risk of injury in the workplace or the loss of previously healthy employees, it is a very small price to pay.
Heathrow Medical offers a range of occupational health services for employees. More information can be found on their website www.heathrowmedical.com.