Guidance Note 15 – Occupational health

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Occupational health

Every year in Britain alone, more than two million people experience symptoms of ill-health believed to have been caused or made worse by work and around 33 million working days are lost to illness. Yet occupational ill health is preventable and many of these costs can be reduced by employers taking effective steps to control health risks at work.

Occupational health is concerned with the prevention, monitoring and treatment of work-related disease and ill-health. It covers a broad range of health-related issues, including:

Occupational health hazards

Health hazards can be:

The role of occupational health professionals involves identifying, monitoring, eliminating, preventing and managing the risks arising from these activities.

The costs of occupational ill-health

The costs of occupational ill-health to employers can be vast and encompass the following:

Benefits of occupational health services

Occupational health services

The following activities fall within the scope of occupational health and safety:

Post Sickness-absence Review

Following long-term sickness absence, review may be conducted to see if individuals remain fit enough to carry out their current roles. This should provide the employee with the opportunity to discuss any continuing health concerns they may have. It may also highlight any further issues, such as a disability or sensitivity, that warrant a change in the workplace access arrangements, or exposure to specific individuals or levels of work pressure.

If the returning employee’s health indicates changes to the work environment, procedures or hours worked, it is beneficial to provide their work colleagues with awareness training or instruction.

Some employers provide staff with immunizations if they travel abroad in their job role. Foreign travel health requirements can vary, and so it is recommended that clinical advice be sought before travelling to exotic locations. Other immunizations with potential workrelated dimensions include TB, tetanus, hepatitis, rabies and influenza.

Many organisations now provide a confidential counselling service to staff, often via a permanent health insurance scheme.

Health Education
Information on diets, smoking, drugs, alcohol or sex education may be provided by occupational health services, in an effort to educate the workforce how to reduce the risk of ill-health.


Various occupational health providers offer special treatments to staff, such as physiotherapy, chiropody, reflexology or dentistry.

The principal aim of rehabilitation is to return staff who have suffered ill health, injury or the onset of disability to their original job or other productive work. Rehabilitation may involve changes to work practices, hours or the provision of specially adapted equipment, services or of the working environment itself.

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