Only 1 in 7 UK Workers Benefit from Occupational Health Programs

Most workers in the UK don't have the benefit of a comprehensive occupational health program either at their workplace or provided through their employer, according to research by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The research, conducted by the Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM), found that only around 30,000 employers made use of wide-ranging occupational health (OH) programs to protect and promote the health of their employees.

"This survey gives us a detailed view of the use of occupational health support in the UK. It also gives us a baseline to assess how well we are achieving our Revitalizing Health and Safety goal of encouraging better access to occupational health support," said Bill Callaghan, chair of the Health and Safety Commission."

He added that with only 3 percent of UK companies using what the government considers the key elements of occupational health support, a lot more needs to be done to help prevent people from becoming ill because of their work.

The findings of the survey are based on telephone interviews with 4,950 businesses of varying sizes from both private and public sectors. Comprehensive occupational health support is defined as encompassing:

  • Hazard definition
  • Risk management
  • Sharing information with employees
  • Modifying work activities
  • Providing training on OH related issues
  • Measuring workplace hazards
  • Monitoring trends in health

The survey also showed that around 44 percent of large companies, but only 2 percent of very small companies, used this kind of support. However, some 15 percent of companies, employing around 7.5 million workers, make use of more basic occupational health support covering hazard definition, risk management and training.

Employers said the main reason for having occupational health support was concern for health, safety and well being of employees. Also reported was concern about litigation and costs of absence.

"Our approach will remain focused on the work needed to provide everyone with appropriate occupational health support regardless of the size or type of organization they work for," Callaghan added.

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