Excellence in administration

  • ISSA Guidelines:
  • Workplace Health Promotion

Excellence in administration

  • ISSA Guidelines:
  • Workplace Health Promotion

Workplace Health Promotion -
C.3. Services Targeting Employees

Supporting the development of occupational health services

In this section, the generic term “occupational health services” has at its core occupational health physicians and nurses but also includes additional disciplines such as ergonomics, physiotherapy and occupational therapy. The importance of occupational health services in protecting and promoting employee health must not be underestimated. It is also very important that employers understand the very positive role that occupational health services play in promoting employee performance and, in turn, organizational performance.

Occupational health services involve a wide range of activities, such as pre-employment medical checks, monitoring exposure to hazardous substances and noise, lifestyle screening, rehabilitation and return to work, medical redeployment and workplace health promotion. The social security institution should promote and encourage the role of occupational health services in ensuring a safe and healthy workplace.

However, the proportion of employees with access to occupational health services varies considerably from one country to another and even among similar companies in the same country. In some countries, access to occupational health services is mandatory while in others, it is not.

In many places, occupational health services staff are highly trained and work in multidisciplinary teams. In others, services are provided by staff with “an interest” in occupational health medicine. This may be commendable, but access to specialized training and professional development may not be available to such staff.

Social security institutions have a key role to play in developing and maintaining good occupational health practice in their client enterprises/organizations. This can be fulfilled in a number of ways:

  • Building capacity in existing services through training and professional development for occupational doctors, hygienists, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and ergonomists;
  • Encouraging the establishment of occupational health services in enterprises/organizations where none exist;
  • Creating an occupational health service that delivers fee-based services to client enterprises/organizations. Ideally, the service would be multidisciplinary and built on the principles of best practice.

Developing occupational health staff offers considerable benefits to social insurance institutions and their client enterprises/organizations. Over time, rates of sickness absence will reduce, return-to-work and attendance-management processes will be more efficient, employees on long-term absence will be reintegrated and rehabilitated more smoothly, and performance will improve. Furthermore, in developing occupational health services, special attention must be given to providing equal access for workers, as work organization factors such as subcontracting and hiring temporary or short-term staff can hamper access to occupational health services.

Supporting the development of lifestyle health screening

Lifestyle health screening for employees is valuable in identifying risk factors for chronic diseases. At its most basic, health screening would include measurement of height and weight and, perhaps, blood pressure. At a more complex level, it would also include blood or urine tests for a range of indicators including cholesterol, glucose and protein. Many enterprises/organizations which provide health screening for employees tell of staff members having been identified as being at serious risk of illness, but whose risk factors for chronic disease have declined after referral and treatment – and who have remained employable.

Supporting counselling and employee assistance programmes

For employees facing major stressors, access to counselling and employee assistance programmes (EAPs) can be of huge benefit and may preserve the person’s ability to continue to work or, if absent, return to work more quickly. Such support can also increase the person’s resilience, equipping them to better deal with future challenges.