Creating a healthy workplace is not just about complying with regulations; it’s about fostering a thriving environment where employees and businesses can flourish. For small and medium-sized trade-related businesses in the UK, partnering with occupational health professionals can be a game-changer.  Afterall small and medium-sized businesses account for 61% of employment in the UK.  This blog explores the different types of occupational health professionals that can help you manage health risks in the workplace before diving into the myriad benefits that working with occupational health professionals can bring to your organisation.

Understanding the different roles in Occupational Health

Occupational health professionals specialise in helping you to manage the health and well-being of your workforce, ensuring employees are safe, healthy, and fit for work. Their expertise spans several domains, key among them being:

  • Occupational Physicians and Nurses: Provide clinical assessments, health surveillance, and advice on fitness for work and managing illness in the workplace. They are instrumental in developing policies that support employee health.
  • Occupational Health Technicians: Often the unsung heroes, these technicians support the broader occupational health team by conducting health surveillance, screening tests, and preliminary assessments. They play a crucial role in gathering data that informs health risk assessments and interventions.
  • Occupational Hygienists: Focus on identifying and assessing hazards that can affect employee health. They play a crucial role in the identification of appropriate control measures that prevent occupational diseases by ensuring the workplace is free from harmful agents like dust, chemicals, and noise.
  • Occupational Therapists & Physiotherapists: Assist in functional rehabilitation and adaptations, helping employees return to work after injury or illness and ensuring they can perform their tasks effectively and safely.


The benefit of working with Occupational Health Professionals

Understanding the health risks of work:

Occupational Health and Hygiene professionals are very different from Health and Safety professionals!!  As a very health-biased Chartered Health and Safety Practitioner, I’d say that there is a need for both in any trade-based work. Starting with the development of a health needs assessment, it’s the health version of your risk matrix. Occupational health professionals really do understand how work can impact and affect the human body, and how that impact can be reduced and mitigated. 

Early intervention to prevent absence:

Early intervention and access to a variety of occupational health services can prevent absence.  91% of people referred into occupational health services while they were still in work, were expected to be in work one month later. Compared to just 45% of those referred between 1-2 months of absence and 27% of those who had been off for over six months.

Fitness to Work Assessments:

Fitness to work assessments ensure that employees are medically and physically capable of performing their job roles. This is particularly crucial in trades where physical fitness is essential – think long duration working at height such as harness work. These assessments can help identify health issues early, preventing long-term absences and promoting quicker returns to work.

Health Surveillance:

Some work activities require routine health surveillance once certain exposure levels have been reached – think noise, vibration, working with asbestos, lead, isocyanates, & silica, and also some chemicals.  Regular health checks and surveillance can monitor the impact of work on employees’ health, especially in industries where they might be exposed to hazardous materials. This not only complies with health and safety regulations but also demonstrates a commitment to employee welfare, potentially reducing insurance premiums and legal liabilities.  It also helps identify areas where maybe a review of the working methods and controls measured could be beneficial.

Functional Rehabilitation:

Functional rehabilitation focuses on restoring employees’ ability to perform their job tasks post-injury or illness. Occupational therapists, Physiotherapists or Rehabilitation Therapists can recommend workplace modifications or exercises that expedite recovery and reintegration into the workforce.

Return to Work Programs:

Tailored return-to-work programs facilitate smoother transitions for employees coming back from prolonged absences. By accommodating medical recommendations and adjusting work environments or schedules, businesses can reduce turnover and retain valuable skills.

Proactive Health Support:

Beyond addressing work-related health issues, occupational health services can offer broader health promotion activities, such as smoking cessation programs, mental health support, and exercise and nutrition advice. These initiatives can improve overall employee well-being, leading to reduced absenteeism and enhanced productivity.


The Impact on Small and Medium-Sized Businesses

For small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the cost of workplace ill health can be disproportionately high, both in financial terms and in lost productivity. According to the HSE, 1.8 million working people were suffering from a work-related illness in 2023/2, leading to 35.2 million lost working days. This highlights the critical need for SMEs to invest in occupational health support.  There is also government support coming through their Working Well initiative.

Moreover, the CIPD reports that the average cost of absenteeism in the UK is £554 per employee per year. By integrating occupational health practices, businesses can significantly reduce these costs. For instance, health surveillance and fitness to work assessments can prevent occupational diseases, thereby avoiding costly absences and potential legal actions.

Investing in occupational health services offers a multitude of benefits for small and medium-sized trade-related businesses in the UK. From enhancing fitness to work to providing comprehensive health surveillance and support, these professionals play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy workforce. By adopting a proactive approach to health and safety, SMEs can not only comply with legal requirements but also improve productivity, reduce absenteeism, and foster a positive workplace culture.


A bit about me & my background

Before I became a Women’s Health  Specialist….
I was an MBA-educated Senior Leader, alongside being a Chartered Health and Safety Practitioner.  I’ve worked in several technically complex and operationally diverse industries that present numerous challenges to keep people healthy, safe and well.  I have a proven track record of delivering exceptional results in many areas.

I offer workplace health and wellbeing consultancy and tailored support and guidance for organisations that may not have their own HR, Safety or Occupational Health teams but want to protect the health and wellbeing of their employees.

How can I help your workplace to be happier, healthier and more engaged?

  • Develop a wellbeing leadership framework
  • Develop wellbeing specific policies
  • Undertake a health & wellbeing gap analysis
  • Help build a picture of your health risks
  • Help you develop your wellbeing programme
  • Workshop Facilitation & Training Delivery
  • Specific training sessions for menopause for leaders, managers and employees
  • Raise the profile of women’s health in the workplace
  • MHFA & Health Champion Trainer
  • Provide ongoing support for your mental health first aiders & health champions
  • Complete complex workplace assessment (DSE/Ergonomic)
  • Return to Work Enabler
  • Take part in your wellbeing events
  • Host your menopause café

If you’d like to improve your workplace wellbeing or know an organisation that you work with that might be struggling to take the first steps or have a specific wellbeing challenge you’d like to solve, I’d love to work with you, so do get in contact.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *