The importance of occupational health

 

Occupational health is a specialist branch of medicine that focuses on the physical and mental wellbeing of employees in the workplace.

Occupational health can be an area of difficulty for many employees, whether in training or not.  Part of the anxiety might come from a lack of knowledge of what to expect.  Long-term illness or disability can contribute to performance issues, and can tend to attract scrutiny from occupational health physicians.

Occupational health specialists can assist by:

  • advising on reasonable adjustments and what they might be;
  • confirming in writing whether an individual’s condition satisfies the legal criteria of a disability,
  • and therefore, deciding upon whether the Equality Act [2010] applies;
  • assessing the functional capability of an employee against the demands of the job;
  • advising what duties the employee would be able to ‘cope with’; and
  • devising a rehabilitation programme specifically aimed at returning the employee to work.

 

The aim of occupational health is to prevent work-related illness and injury by:

  • encouraging safe working practices to meet health and safety compliance and to avoid work-related health problems:
  • studying how employees can work better;
  • monitoring the health of the workforce;
  • supporting the management of sickness absence, including managing difficulties in coping on return after being absent;
  • supporting health promotion and education programmes;
  • providing advice and counselling to employees around non-health-related problems; and
  • advising on reasonable adjustments to your working conditions.

It is important for every doctor with a disability to have access to appropriate and timely occupational health advice and support, to prevent short-term sickness becoming long-term. This is also a public policy imperative, to reduce the risk of people falling out altogether of the employment market.

Doctors may acquire a condition or disability at any stage of their career.

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