Occupational Health in Business – Managing the Risks

Across all industries, over 1.5 million people suffer from ill health either caused, or made worse, by work.

It is important for any business to be aware of the Occupational Health requirements of their staff, which can often be more difficult to manage than other Health & Safety issues that impact on a business.

Undertaking occupational health assessments is a first step to engaging with your employees in respect of any health issues they may have that could impact on their ability to do their job, be that physical or mental health related.

Some of the main causes of occupational health issues are:

  • Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) including Work-Related Upper Limb Disorders (WRULDs)
  • Work-Related Stress
  • Occupational Asthma
  • Occupational Dermatitis
  • Rhinitis
  • Noise Induced Hearing Loss
  • Repetitive Strain Injury


What can I do to minimise the risk?

We would recommend you have an occupational health policy for your business which includes:

Prevention Measures

Codes of practice for COSHH, work station assessments, manual handling guidelines.

Also, (and I really cannot stress this enough) keep and regularly update risk assessments and give your employees training that is recorded!!!!!

You should also include procedures whereby employees can confidentially discuss any health issues that they are having so that they don’t feel their job is on the line if they confide in you. This is especially important in the case of any mental health issues.

Absence Monitoring

Have a procedure for this including back to work interviews for long-term illness and check employees absence history for patterns. For example, if an employee is having a lot of time off for back problems, discuss with them what can be done to alleviate this – maybe a new chair if office-based for example.

Health Promotion

It may seem a little patronising to ‘educate’ your staff on things like healthy eating, the dangers of drink and drugs and things like that but it can be effective if done right!

Sometimes, it’s as easy as making sure healthy options are available if you have a staff canteen for example or maintaining a smoke-free site.

Occupational risk Assessments

Dependent on the industry you are in, you may already have a requirement to undertake occupational health screening. Even this isn’t the case, it may be a relevant to ask employees and prospective employees to complete an occupational health questionnaire so that any areas of concern can be addressed before they become a problem that may impact on both the business and your employees.

As with all risks your business faces, adequate risk management is key to ensuring your business won’t be negatively affected. Speak to your insurance broker about Health & Safety tools available – some might even come as free extras within your policy

By contrast, time will run against a person who does have mental capacity at the date of the incident but subsequently develops a mental disorder. This is because if the individual has ever had mental capacity at any time since the incident then the limitation period has started to run. Once the limitation period starts it does not stop; any period of capacity means the limitation period has started. The limitation period is never "suspended" once it starts.

When considering whether to extend the perio