What is Occupational Health?

What is Occupational Health?

Many people ask me to define what Occupational Health is, and this is difficult to explain in a few sentences – so I have put together a short video which gives an overview of what I do

Many Kinds of Occupational Health Services

There are many types of services dependent on the industry. Here are some examples:

Local Government

Here the focus is on absence management, stress, preplacement medical screening


Here the focus is on health surveillance; checking workers’ health for signs of ill health because of the work they do


Here the focus is on fitness for task and drug and alcohol testing services


Here the focus is on vaccinations, absence management, stress

Food Production

Here the focus is on fitness for work, absence, health screening and surveillance

Office Workers

Here the focus is on the correct set up of computers, stress and absence

And so on.

Some industries must have health checks by law, such as railway workers and divers.

Different Models of Occupational Health Services

There are also different ways of providing occupational health services

  1. In house, the medical staff are directly employed by the business
  2. Contractors,  set up with a service level agreement and targets to meet
  3. Ad hoc, business hire an occupational health service if required, on a case by case basis
  4. A mixed delivery, the company uses both in-house and contractor services to deliver health care to the workers.

Certification of Occupational Health Services

The safe, effective quality occupational health service standard is a national accreditation service for occupational health services. The Faculty of Occupational Health Medicine oversees quality,  and the list is kept on the SEQOHS public listing of companies here.

There are also Doctors who need more training to carry out medical checks for certain occupations and risks:

  • Appointed Doctors for high-risk activities such as working with asbestos and lead
  • Approved Doctors for specialist medicals for divers and seafarers
  • Hand-arm vibration assessment.

Doctors and nurses working in occupational health usually have an extra qualification in the speciality.  To check on this go to the General Medical Council and Nursing Midwifery Council website respectively.

There are also many roles in the workplace where a health qualification is unnecessary, for example, ergonomic assessments and counselling.

Occupational Health is a complex and widely misunderstood speciality.  For more information go to the HSE website or why not drop me a line using the reply form here.

See also the other guidance from Working Well Solutions

Manager’s Guide to Dealing with Absence in the Workplace

Also Hiring Occupational Health Services

And for employees or anyone asked to go to Occupational Health for an appointment click here for a full explanation

Or go to the Health and Safety Executive website here for more information


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