The promotion of WORK ABILITY is seen as an important role for occupational health professionals. This includes the prevention of occupational and work-related ill health and the focus on certain life style issues that are relevant to the employability of staff.

Health and safety legislation is concerned with the protection of workers from unsafe working practices. Occupational health professionals work together with health and safety officers to assist organisations to fulfil their statutory duties. The development of a proactive safety culture means ensuring that staff know how workplace hazards may affect their health or well being AND how they can take steps to both protect and promote their health. Assessment of risk should include an evaluation of the physical and psychological capabilities of staff for the activities involved in their jobs. There is an increasing awareness that the work-life balance is important for well-being.

Health at work issues should be included in the induction of new employees into the workplace. Training of in-post employees is an essential part of the management of health and safety. In the NHS, issues such as infection with blood-borne viruses and latex allergy may be included.

A new development is the adoption of a bio-psycho-social model for the assessment of fitness for work. The IMPROVING WORKING LIVES standard aims to address the multifactorial nature of ability to work. In an era of skill shortages there is business case for encouraging healthy lifestyles with a view to prolonging work ability. Issues that may be covered include:

  • Understanding and responding to workplace stresses
  • Taking exercise
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Smoking cessation
  • Diet
  • Cancer awareness
  • Spinal awareness

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The development of a proactive safety culture means raising awareness of health issues

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