Occupational Health Gone Wrong? To Be or Not to Be

It’s not what you think

I’ve had one of those breakthrough moments.   You know – when the scales fall away and you see so clearly it’s painful.   About what occupational health (OH) is.

occupational health letters in a circleThe short and real answer.  And I’ve been asked what occupational health is so many times I could recite it my usual response backwards.

The problem, you see, is with the question, I’ll say it again – it’s the question. People aren’t asking me what I thought they were asking. I’m embarrassed and feeling amazed that this thought has never occurred to me before but it has changed the way I sell what I do forever.


The sad thing is that we, the occupational health professionals, have brought this on ourselves. We started it.  We call ourselves Occupational Health. But, hear me fellow professionals, the title occupational health on its own, has to go – no more.  It is grammatically incorrect and, more importantly, how can you be clear on what you do when we are in fact, a concept?   Stay with me now I am trying to explain.

Here goes

Think of all the occupations in the world – work you get paid for or enjoy doing.  A butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker?  Occupational health covers the health risks linked to that job.  A miner’s sooty face, bricklayers stooped back or a managers sleepless night. Medical professionals like me can change all that (in theory mind you) because of our understanding physiology, health risks, chemical impacts and how personal health impacts on workers.

I know how to make you better or work more tolerable.  I know how to stop it happening to others in the same jobs or occupations around the world.  I know about employment law and I know about practicalities in different industry sectors.   I can work on an ethical and moral level with employers and line managers.

But I am not Occupational Health, that is a noun about a concept.  I work IN occupational health.

What Am I – If Not Occupational Health?

I am a professional health adviser that prevents health problems linked to specific jobs or occupation, which, is rather a mouthful.

Or what about this: Occupational health medical services protect and enhance the working lives of workers in all occupations. This service is a private health service purchased for workers by employers and concerned about the work they do. This work might damage their health. They also want to make sure that the business is providing competent and immediate advice on any aspect of health at work.

Someone, somewhere a long time ago must have got so tired of saying all that and shortened it to just Occupational Health – no wonder there is confusion! REALLY!  Think about it?

I had to share – it’s so enlightening and now we know the problem, surely we can fix it. Can we fix it?  Yes, we can. Do we need to call ourselves workplace health professionals from now on – surely everyone will be able to understand that?

If anyone is unsure about occupational health here is a video explanation of what occupational health medical services can do.  But come to think of it I will have to change the title…

Comments welcome  – do you agree?

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