Health and safety pros told to broaden remit

Key speakers at last month’s Institute of Occupational Safety and Health conference called on delegates to take a wider responsibility for workplace health in line with the government’s health and welfare proposals.

Dr Bill Gunnyeon, chief medical adviser at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), called on health and safety practitioners to broaden out from their specialist role, and to look beyond dealing with injuries to focus on the long-term rehabilitation of staff.

“We need to take responsibility for the bigger picture rather than our specialist role,” Gunnyeon said.

He called on all those involved in workplace health to develop partnerships and said the issue would be debated at a stakeholder conference, organised by the DWP, in May this year.

“We still tend to work in silos,” he warned. “If we look at the occupational health and safety area, we tend to look at health and safety practitioners, OH, therapists – all suspicious of each other’s motives and what we’re trying to do.”

Dr Sayeed Khan, commissioner at the Health and Safety Commission, called on IOSH members to use their regional structure to help spread the word about the government’s Workplace Health Connect service, which offers OH services to small and medium-sized employers.

Khan also asked IOSH to consider developing a training programme in workplace health promotion. This would enable practitioners to look beyond clinical issues at workplace organisation in helping people remain in employment, in line with government proposals for improving workplace health outlined in the Health Work and Wellbeing strategy document. He called on practitioners to gain information from GPs about employees’ functional ability, and then advise managers on workplace modifications.

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