Focussing on bringing awareness of occupational health (OH) to SMEs, Occupational Health Awareness Week (18th - 24th September 2023) is a campaign led by the Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM) and COHPA to put OH in the spotlight.
SMEs are five times less likely to seek OH support than larger businesses, yet are disproportionately affected by employee sickness absence.
Lack of awareness and misunderstandings contribute to this lack of OH engagement, and this week's campaign offers resources to SMEs to help share the many benefits of having OH support and the positive difference it can make to a small or medium-sized business.
COHPA's "A Guide for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs)" is a great source of information.
This video explains the importance of occupational health for SMEs:
What is occupational health?
Occupational health looks after the health of employees.
Life and work aren't separate things, and employees have changing health needs throughout their working lives. From a first job to retirement, a lot can happen in between. Occupational health helps employees and businesses navigate that journey by offering impartial advice on health matters and supporting employee wellbeing.
Typical services offered by occupational health may include:
Pre-placement / post-offer health screening at the start of employment
Health surveillance where occupational hazards exist - ensuring health & safety measures are working and health isn't being adversely affected by work
Fit to work medicals - ensuring employees are fit to do specific roles safely
Management referrals - when an employee is experiencing a health issue and employers need advice about how to support them at work or help them return
DSE Assessments - checking computer/VDU users' workstations are set up correctly for the individual, to minimise risks of ill health health
Drug & alcohol testing - in line with company policies
Vaccines - where occupational hazards exist, for business travellers, or annual flu vaccines
Health promotion and education - encouraging healthy lifestyles and empowering employees with the knowledge to make healthy choices
Whilst OH professionals include specialist doctors and nurses, OH is not like a GP service. OH clinicians, in general, cannot diagnose, prescribe, or treat medical conditions and offer an advisory service only. Many OH service providers offer onward support such as counselling and physiotherapy, either in-house or through trusted partners.
It's important to remember that OH advice is purely that - advice. OH cannot tell an employer what to do. Employers need only to consider the advice given within the wider context of their business and have the final say over how much of the advice they can reasonably take.
Research shows that companies who invest in occupational health (OH) benefit from added value through reduced sickness absence and improved productivity.
OH also contributes towards improved corporate image, better quality of life for employees, and avoidance of litigation.
Occupational health is much more than you think: