A look at why occupational health matters to you and your employees
Occupational Health is a broad multidisciplinary field whose importance cannot be understated.
In order for you to better understand the role and importance of occupational health, we’ve put together a number of key questions people ask.
What is Occupational Health?
In 1950, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), defined Occupational Health as:
“Occupational Health is the promotion and maintenance of the highest degree of physical, mental and social well-being of workers in all occupations by preventing departures from health, controlling risks and the adaptation of work to people, and people to their jobs.“
In 1995, the Joint ILO/WHO Committee on Occupational Health revised the definition as follows:
“The main focus in occupational health is on three different objectives: (i) the maintenance and promotion of workers’ health and working capacity; (ii) the improvement of working environment and work to become conducive to safety and health and (iii) development of work organizations and working cultures in a direction which supports health and safety at work and in doing so also promotes a positive social climate and smooth operation and may enhance productivity of the undertakings. The concept of working culture is intended in this context to mean a reflection of the essential value systems adopted by the undertaking concerned. Such a culture is reflected in practice in the managerial systems, personnel policy, principles for participation, training policies and quality management of the undertaking.”
As can be seen from the revised definition, the field of Occupational Health applies quite broadly to any and all organisations. It can also be seen that the aims of occupational health programmes are not just for the benefit of an organisation’s employees but the organisation as a whole.
Why is Occupation Health important to you and your staff?
Occupational Health may at times be looked upon as an expense, as something that has to be done to maintain compliance with legislation or industry guidelines. However, Occupational Health is really an investment in the future success and prosperity of your organisation and its people.
The fact is, workplace hazards and risks affect the organisation, its people, their families and friends and in varying degrees other companies and the economy at large.
A single worker becoming ill can lead to other workers becoming ill, this, in turn, affects production, which affects income. The impact does not stop here, a worker that is unable to work for an extended period can become a burden on family members too as income may be lost. Should illness lead to death, the impact increases even further. Besides the financial and production impacts, there is also an emotional impact that has to be taken into account.
The far-reaching costs and the negative impact that workplace hazards can create cannot be underestimated. Everyone in your organisation has the potential to be impacted and at risk whether directly or indirectly.
Thus, it is important to assess your workplace for risks and hazards and prepare accordingly.
What is involved in an OH Assessment?
An Occupational Health Assessment is a medical examination performed by a specialist occupational health practitioner. While each assessment may vary according to different industries and work environments, the goals are the same.
- To better understand the work environment and its relationship to health and safety
- To make recommendations for improvements and safety measures when working within this environment
- To detect any existing health conditions or potential conditions and determine fitness to work
- To make recommendations for treatment to ensure any conditions are handled to the benefit of the staff member and the organisation
A proper Occupational Health Assessment is the first step to creating a workplace environment that is not only productive but creates a sense of safety for all. Additionally, it plays a vital role in achieving and maintaining compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act.