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This report covers the UK occupational health market. Occupational health is defined as healthcare provision provided in the workplace and includes both specific health and safety care and broader issues of health, fitness and preventative health care, often referred to under the heading of wellness. It remains the case, however, that a feature of the sector is a lack of clear definition and understanding of what constitutes occupational health and the boundaries of the sector are far from clear. Effectively occupational health comprises health services to employees that are paid for by the employer.
There remains much debate and confusion over the precise definition of what constitutes occupational healthcare and the boundaries of the sector remain vague. According to the joint International Labour Organisation/World Health Organisation Committee on Occupational Health, occupational healthcare is aimed at the following:
“The promotion and maintenance of the highest degree of physical, mental and social wellbeing of workers in all occupations; the prevention amongst workers of departures from health caused by their working conditions; the protection of workers in their employment from risks resulting from factors adverse to health; and the placing and maintenance of the worker in an occupational environment adapted to his/her physiological and psychological capabilities.”
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) suggests “The term 'occupational health' conveys different things to different people. For some, it means simply the prevention and treatment of illness that is directly related to work, in which health education has no place. Others will emphasise fitness for work issues separately from health and safety. However the impact of any sickness absence on SMEs and their employees does not brook such fine distinctions. In those terms, it is of little importance whether the sickness is the result of an accident at work, long term exposure to risk or the conflicting demands of home and work. Only a holistic approach can make a difference to health inequalities.”
The HSE therefore reports that occupational health can embrace:
- the effect of work on health, whether through sudden injury or through long term exposure to agents with latent effects on health, and the prevention of occupational disease through techniques which include health surveillance, ergonomics, and effective human resource management systems
- the effect of health on work, bearing in mind that good occupational health practice should address the fitness of the task for the worker, not the fitness of the worker for the task alone
- rehabilitation and recovery programmes
- helping the disabled to secure and retain work
- managing work related aspects of illness with potentially multi factorial causes (e.g. musculo-skeletal disorders, coronary heart disease) and helping workers to make informed choices regarding lifestyle issues