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A guide to Occupational Health Assessments

Rhino Trade Insurance 05 May 2023

You’ve probably heard of occupational health. If you run a business, regardless of its size, you need to know how crucial occupational health is when it comes to protecting your staff's physical and emotional well-being.

So, what is occupational health? And is it really necessary to keep your staff well? Regardless of whether you’re the boss of just one other person, or manage dozens of staff, this business guide will teach you how to take care of them at work.

What is Occupational Health?

Occupational health is a service which cares for the health and welfare of people whilst they work. It also aims to protect employees in dangerous working environments. Various factors can affect a worker’s health, especially in the trade industry. Think of the loud noises, constant heavy lifting, hazardous materials, the pace of jobs and dealing with difficult customers. These things can take a toll on health - both mental and physical. 

In the UK, employers have a duty of care to look out for their employee’s wellbeing. A good employer should help staff members access help from an occupational health professional who will conduct an occupational health assessment if required. 

Why it's important

The importance of your employee's health and well-being is paramount to ensuring your business is a success. Neglecting your worker's health will ultimately cause a decline in work quality - not great for business.

Also, remember that health relates to both physical and mental well-being. Even if your team seem fit and well, things could be going on below the surface. Poor mental health is just as serious as poor physical health, and can be brought on by factors such as excessive stress, discrimination, inequality, a toxic working culture and feeling undervalued at work.

For instance, the pressure on one individual to deliver too much work can result in stress and burnout. This is not only a serious issue for the individual concerned, but it may also lead to sick days and have an adverse effect on your team and the wider company.

What is the objective of occupational health assessments?

The objective of an occupational health assessment is to determine what, if any, support the employee might need. This may include support such as modifying their working environment to aid comfort and prevent the deterioration of a health condition, and ease the process of returning to work following absence due to a long-term illness. 

You might find that some workers are reluctant to accept an occupational health assessment referral initially. You should reassure them that the sessions are 100% confidential and they needn't worry about their personal information being shared, even with you, their employer. 

The goal of the assessment is to improve the employee's working conditions, not to reveal private information that might be used against them. This is why occupational health assessments are 100% confidential, impartial, and objective.

What does the assessment cover, and what are its benefits?

An assessment will cover the following:

  • Absence management
  • Risk assessments to avoid hazards
  • Display screens and equipment that can affect eye health
  • Promotion of health initiatives in the workplace
  • Evaluation any disabilities 
  • Checking the ergonomics of office equipment
  • Ensuring the proper workplace injections/ immunisations are taken care of

Investing in occupational health services can:

Help your business save money.

Taking care of your employee's health and well-being can minimise sick days and their adverse impact on your company.

Keep your team happy and content

Fostering a healthier working environment will promote employee retention, thus aiding your ability to keep hold of quality staff for longer. 

Need help with your business insurance? Get a quote from Rhino in less than a minute. 

Why does a business need occupational health?

To avoid workplace discrimination, the Equality Act of 2010 significantly altered how employers are allowed to talk to their workers about illnesses, absences, and disabilities. 

As an employer, you must avoid enquiring about a candidate's mental or physical health unless necessary, such as "Can you lift heavy boxes filled with stock" or "Can you work long hours over the busy festive period"? Therefore, the employer must exercise caution when questioning their staff about the details of any private meetings before and after the occupational health evaluation.

Similarly, you are only allowed to question your employees about their sick days in certain ways; you are not allowed to demand information about their illnesses or medical conditions or ask for specific health information. After seven straight working days, you may request a ‘sick note,’ but it does not contain any specific, detailed information about their health.

To develop a plan for an employee's successful return to work, maintenance of work attendance, or a decrease in overall sick leave, you may ask them for an assessment with an occupational health advisor if you, as the employer, are concerned about how frequently an employee takes sick days, the impact of their health condition on their work, or the potential effects of medication.

How to include an occupational health policy in your business

Every occupational health policy should have the following details specified:

  • The procedure for recommending or evaluating workplace health
  • Who participates in an occupational health assessment
  • What time will it take place
  • The agenda of the assessment
  • The obligations you have as an employer and those of your employees
  • What happens following the assessment

You should include this information in employee handbooks and make the information available to all employees, so that everyone knows what kind of assistance is accessible.

How else can you cover your business?

Occupational health is even more crucial in the trades, because of various risks and hazards present within the trade industry. Working on busy sites, in noisy factories/ workshops and around toxic chemicals can all be risky to your health, and these are just a few of the potential hazards that occupational health can help assess.

On top, having the appropriate business insurance to safeguard your workers, yourself, and your company is critical. This should incorporate at a minimum:

Public liability insurance protects the costs of a claim made in connection with the job you perform. This insurance covers you if your company accidentally harms someone else, causes death, or damages their property. If legal action is taken against you, your insurance policy kicks in. It covers any costs associated with defending your case, including legal fees, defence costs, and damages you may be required to pay if found at fault. 

This insurance, which is required by law in the UK, seeks to protect any employees you hire from getting sick or hurt while working for you. A business with employees must purchase a minimum of £5 million in cover, though at Rhino, we offer up to £10 million if needed. Without this protection, you could face daily penalties of up to £2,500 and be forced to make significant compensation payments if an employee ever takes legal action. 

And there we have it, occupational health in a nutshell. As a trade business owner with employees, it's worth understanding the various avenues you can pursue to take care of your staff. Often, smaller businesses may not have a strategy or programme for occupational health; however, you should remind your employees of their rights under the Equality Act 2010, and let them know that they can speak with you about needing help or by visiting their doctor for more information.

Talk to Rhino

If you have any queries about Public Liability Insurance or how our excellent cover options will benefit your company, call the Rhino Trade Insurance crew at 0116 243 7904. For all the information you could possibly need, visit our website, and there you can also get a quote in under 60 seconds, easy! 

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