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How occupational health can be a game changer for SMEs

Posted by Ann Caluori | Sun, 19/06/2022 - 17:23


Guest blog for Occupational Health Awareness Week by Alice Monk, Director of Communications, All Health Matters


Did you know that occupational health (OH) advice can override GP advice? So you don’t have to accept the next GP fit note that lands on your desk at face value.


If people can work, they should

Some health problems do require time off work, however, studies show that work is good for you so if someone can work without it causing them harm then, arguably, they should.


OH services can be enlisted on an ad hoc basis for a small fraction of the cost of sickness absence. In the best case, they can help get the employee back to work sooner by suggesting reasonable adjustments.


Realistically, this isn’t the case in every situation, but at the least, an OH report can offer insight into when an employee might be able to return, whether it’s possible to get them back sooner, and if there are likely to be any ongoing complications. All this information can help you plan rather than muddling through in the dark.


It’s up to the employer to decide if the advice and adjustments suggested by OH are ‘reasonably practicable’. You don’t have to do what an OH report says – you just need to consider it in the wider context of the business and find the best course of action, on balance, for everyone.


Proactive OH can help reduce sickness absence

The real secret weapons of OH are the proactive services that can help prevent sickness absence in the first place.


Post-offer/pre-placement health screening

Legislation, rightly, protects individuals from health-related discrimination, so many employers feel they cannot ask about health when hiring. By using an OH pre-placement screening process you can safely out-source (relevant) health questions to a confidential third party and get the information you need to support your new hire.


This means managers get the advice they need to help keep the employee safe at work, reducing the likelihood of absence related to existing issues that might otherwise have gone unmanaged.


Sometimes not asking about health can be just as harmful as asking the wrong way.


DSE assessments

For workers who use computers and screens regularly, DSE assessment are a statutory requirement. Assessments check to make sure workstations are set up correctly and are not likely to cause harm to the user, preventing issues from occurring.


Health surveillance

Health surveillance is often required by law when people work with vibrating tools, dust, fumes, noise, and other hazards, and are at risk of health complications from their work. Health and safety aims to mitigate risk by providing appropriate PPE and safety controls, but OH steps in to perform health surveillance medicals to make sure those controls are working.


A health surveillance programme offers businesses and employees great protection and confidence that everyone is working safely. It also serves to provide evidence in the event of a future compensation claim.


Your people are worth the investment

SMEs are short of time, resources, and infrastructure such as HR departments. Whilst most employers care about their employees, they’re not expected to know the intricacies of human health.


But just like hiring engineers to code your app, or a mechanic to maintain your fleet, SMEs could benefit from occupational health to keep their people in tip top condition.


Your people are worth the investment, and the returns are likely to pay off in the long term.


This is the fifth in our series of guest blogs for Occupational Health Awareness Week 2022 (19-24th June). Alice Monk is Director of Communications at All Health Matters.