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What is an Occupational Health Assessment?

Occupational health is a specialist area of medical practice which looks at the interaction between work and an employee’s physical and mental wellbeing. It aims to prevent illness and injury from work, promotes safe working practices and helps employers manage sickness absence.

An Occupational Health Assessment is an appointment with an occupational health physician or nurse where the focus is on the employee’s medical complaints and associated workplace absence. It can be an integral part of a return to work process following sickness absence or a management referral to help with a performance issue.

There are a number of different types of Occupational Health Assessments depending on the job role, any potential hazards an employee is exposed to and any existing medical conditions. A typical assessment would include a thorough review of an employee’s health history and an examination where appropriate.

The type of assessment will be determined by the reason for the referral and the resulting report is usually sent to the employee’s employer with recommendations. For example, a musculoskeletal assessment may recommend ergonomic workstation adjustments, whereas a fitness for work assessment will give clear advice on when an employee is fit to return to their current role and the restrictions that should be placed upon them.

Many employees can feel nervous about an Occupational Health Assessment, particularly if they’ve been referred by their manager. They can fear that they will be ruled out of the role completely or face other consequences. However, a good occupational health professional will always aim to support the employee to move forward from the situation that prompted the assessment in a way that is not only commercially viable for their employer but also ensures they are able to return to and continue with their role.

It is important for businesses to realise that if they have an employee absent from their role, it will ultimately have an impact on their bottom line. Whether that’s through lost productivity, missed deadlines or extra costs to the business in terms of recruitment and training. It’s therefore in everyone’s best interests to minimise sickness absence wherever possible.

There are a number of things that can contribute to poor health and well-being in the workplace including work overload, stress, bullying, discrimination, low self-esteem or simply feeling undervalued at work. These factors, if not addressed, can have a serious impact on an employee’s mental and physical health. This can have a direct effect on their ability to perform effectively in the workplace and it’s important that businesses understand and take steps to mitigate these risks. Aside from the obvious benefits to the business, the wellbeing of their employees is crucial to society at large. Employees contribute to the health service through their taxes and if they can’t work due to ill health, that can have a significant impact on the wider community. This is why it’s so important for employers to invest in their staff through an Occupational Health Assessment.

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