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No matter what the vocation or workplace structure, most occupations have at least the potential to put staff at risk of work-related illness or injury. Jenny Mason, Occupational Health Service Lead at RehabWorks, explores employers’ obligations to protect workers in all industries.

full remit of services, after carrying out a detailed

‘Needs Analysis’ assessment, and will

make sure businesses meet the legislative requirements of

the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Equality Act (Disability Discrimination Section) 2010.

Organisations should not only consider their legal obligations, but also the impact that compromising on the management of workplace health will have on the business and its finances. It’s only ‘after the horse has bolted’ that many businesses

Step inside the work environment of certain industrial or manufacturing businesses and the risks posed to employees are abundantly clear at first glance. The presence of machinery and high-stacked storage facilities, the use of noisy apparatus or hazardous chemicals – all of these make the dangers evident.

But even outside of high- risk workplaces, in relatively uncomplicated offices where staff perform hazard-free duties, today’s company owner knows that work- related illnesses and injuries are an important area for consideration.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) not only charts physical injuries incurred in the workplace, but everything else from stress and anxiety, to vibration-related disorders. This wider catalogue of potential illnesses and disorders means that most companies – whether large or small – have staff health risks to consider and an obligation to ensure they keep workers safe and well.

One step organisations can take to help negotiate the health and safety landscape is to appoint an Occupational Health Service Provider. This supplier will typically provide a

realise the cost of not having things like effective absence management in place fromday one.

The HSE provides useful guidance notes for employers and occupational health professionals on managing the risks associated with certain aspects of work-related diseases. However, it is impossible to identify every hazard employees might be exposed to as they fulfil their duties.


When dealing with manufactured products and chemicals, a COSHH data sheet is provided to enable employers to identify potential health risks. Those are one thing, but what happens when the potentially harmful product is a naturally produced aeroallergen?

Imagine working in an animal or agricultural environment – clearly


rabbits, mice, guinea pigs and rats do not come with COSHH data sheets about exposure levels. Numerous academic studies have been produced to highlight the risks for laboratory animal workers, but less so for other animal workers.

Without health data, it is impossible to determine from simple exposure estimates what health problems are prevalent among animal workers and might be a result of the inhalation of animal hair, dander, and other materials. However, a measurement of the exposures can be compared with other industries and the results used to justify additional research into health problems in the industry.

In any sector, the focus should always be on the hazard and the worker, not necessarily the environment. A robust health surveillance assessment programme is crucial, with this being delivered by qualified Occupational Health Clinicians. The HSE recommends one of two levels of health surveillance: higher-level or lower-level.

Higher-level is recommended for workers that are exposed to substances that may cause sensitisation through inhalation or skin contact or those with an already confirmed case of asthma. Lower- level surveillance is recommended when the exposure levels are either occasional or there is a potential risk of exposure.

In both cases, it is important to re- evaluate and review this process on a regular basis. It does not necessarily require a new provider to look at potential hazards with a fresh pair of eyes.

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