Occupational Health Assessments at work
Occupational Health Assessments at work are required when there are health issues. Commonly, back pain and other painful or fatigue inducing conditions, but also for neurological, heart and respiritory conditions and for mental health or memory concerns.
It may be that an employee is struggling to do the work tasks due to various reasons, such as:
- An injury occurred, recently.
- Diagnosed with a new medical condition.
- Age-related aches and pains.
- Awaiting treatment, such as surgery.
- Have been on sick leave, so have not done the tasks for some time.
- Experiencing stress or another mental health difficulty.
- Memory and concentration difficulties.
Costs of ill health and injury
Injuries and ill health in workers in Great Britain cost around 16.2 billion in 2018/19. (2018 prices)
£10.6 billion – ill health and £5.6 billion – injury.
£3.16 billion (20%) costs to employers. £9.56 billion (59%) costs to individuals. The rest, £3.5 billion (22%) costs to government. See HSE Costs to Britain report
Poor mental health costs UK employers up to £45 billion a year (reported dated January 2020) before the coronavirus pandemic.
Fit Note and Reasonable Adjustments
Employers may have correspondence from the individual’s GP. A ‘Fit Note’ may have been completed by the GP indicating the individual ‘may be fit for work’. It may indicate that ‘reasonable adjustments’ under the Equality Act 2010 are required, such as a phased return to work, altered hours, amended duties or workplace adaptations.
An employee may be working, but with a medical condition so ‘reasonable adjustments’ may also apply.
Specialist medical letters may be available and appointments may be ongoing for treatment and rehabilitation. Healthcare may be provided by NHS services or privately.
Generally the GP cannot provide an opinion on what the individual worker can or cannot do, as this requires specialist assessment by a workplace health specialist service, often known under the ‘umbrella term’ of an Occupational Health Service.
Individuals require an indepth personalised Occupational Health Assessment to review their medical situation, what symptoms they experience, what activities and postures they can and cannot do. The assessor should have a good understanding of what the job role involves, from the employer and the individual themselves. How many minutes per day the individual has to be in different postures and perform specific tasks.
Types of Occupational Health Services
Occupational Health Services may be available internally, within your organisation or they may be contracted in.
The services can vary greatly.
Some may have a team of health professionals available to advise and provide a service on many different matters.
From prevention advice and treatments, such as flu vaccinations, pre-employment medicals, healthy lifestyle advice etc.
To the other end of the scale, providing complex case management advice and assessments. Such as assessing physical ability to perform tasks, mental health assessments, reasonable adjustments and advice on decisions such as ill health retirement (IHR) etc.
Some Occupational Health teams consist of OH specialist nurses and doctors, known as Occupational Health Physicians. Only a doctor can diagnose a health condition. Often the GP or NHS /private specialist service doctors will have done this.
The team can also include physiotherapists, psychologists, occupational hygienists and occupational therapists.
Generally the team will have a wide skill mix, due to their past work roles, so they can compliment each others range of expertise.
Some work from their own premises, holding appointments away from the workplace. Others conduct their services at the workplace.
Occupational Health Services are also delivered by smaller uni-professional teams. Health Care Professionals can advise on work and health matters, where it falls within their expertise.
Occupational Therapists are experts in assessing physical and mental health, function and ability. They can also look at the job task area to perform detailed more assessments of the job demands, including the environment and equipment in use. This can assist when deciding on solutions and reasonable adjustments which are required.
Occupational Therapists find practical solutions so individual’s can be independent in activities and work to their full potential.
Occupational Health Assessments at work
The type of Occupational Health Assessment will depend on the individual’s health need and what job they perform. There are a number of options:
For sedentary workers with physical issues:
A DSE Risk Assessment may be sufficient for an individual with recently experienced intermittent aches and pains, not requiring longer term treatment or diagnosis. It may be the symptoms are related to the seating in use and postures adpted for performing tasks.
An Ergonomic Assessment of a workstation is required for an individual with more ongoing health /medical issues often affecting the hands, arms, shoulders, neck and back. They may have had a DSE Risk Assessment prior to this assessment and issues have not resolved. This assessment is in more depth than a DSE Risk Assessment. eg They need measuring for a different chair or other equipment like a different mouse or keyboard.
For Active Workers with physical issues:
For workers who perform physically active jobs, a Functional Capacity Evaluation will find out if they can do the physical tasks, such as standing for long periods of the day and performing manual handling tasks.
Remember: A physical health issue, can also have a mental health impact and the other way around! An in-depth Occupational Health Assessment will consider all of the impact on the individual and provide practical advice.
For workers with Mental health or Cognitive issues:
For workers who have mental health needs, a Mental Health Assessment will find out more about their health situation and advice on their ability to perform their work tasks.
Those individuals experiencing cognitive changes, and memory issues, concentration difficulites, a Cognitive Assessment can assess they ability to perform tests and advise on their ability to perform work tasks.
Management Training & Support
Also, management require training and support so they feel confident in supporting the health needs of their team.
For example, Business In the Community (BITC) have a Musculoskeletal Health Toolkit for Employers & also a Mental Health Toolkit for Employers both of which are a useful resources and they have many more.
Open conversations with individuals and flexibility in the working pattern to allow them to attend appointments, will all help. If they are better supported in their health & wellbeing needs, they will be happier and perform better!
Benefits of supporting wellbeing
There is a business case and a moral case when considering supporting individuals’ wellbeing. Employers have a Duty of Care to their employees.
The business benefits from reduction in sickness absence costs and recruitment costs (including interview and training of new employees). It also can reduce strain on the rest of the team.
Occupational Health Assessments at work
See the range of Healthywork’s Occupational Health Services (held Face to Face or some can be held via Video call)
See our Case Studies:
See our blog articles related to this topic:
Contact Us for further advice and a quotation.
See our Useful Links page which includes diagnosis specific advice from organisations which can help.
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