OH provision is in decline

Having access to an OH service is becoming an increasingly rare benefit for
many workers

Just one in seven workers in the UK has access to comprehensive occupational
health support, research commissioned by the HSE has found.

The study, conducted by the Institute of Occupational Medicine, found that
only around 30,000 organisations made use of wide-ranging occupational health
services to protect and promote the health of their employees.

The findings were based on a telephone survey of 4,950 organisations in both
the public and private sectors.

Around 44 per cent of large organisations, but only 2 per cent of very small
companies, used a comprehensive service, defined as one that encompassed
defining and measuring hazards, publicity, risk management, modifying of work
activities, monitoring trends, and training.

But some 15 per cent of companies – employing around 7.5 million workers –
did offer more basic occupational health support, including hazard definition,
risk management and training.

The survey also showed that having access to an OH service is becoming an
increasingly rare benefit for many workers, despite the demographic shift
towards an older workforce.

In 1990, 50 per cent of the workforce (more than 12 million workers) had
access to an occupational health service. This has now dropped to around 7
million workers, or about 30 per cent of the workforce.

Some 40 per cent of employers spent under £1,000 a year on occupational
health, and only 9 per cent actually worked out whether they were saving money
or wasting it.

Even among employers who paid out more than £30,000 a year, 41 per cent did
not evaluate their expenditure.

Employers polled said the main reason for having occupational health support
at all was concern for the health, safety and well-being of their employees.

They also reported a fear of litigation and worries about the cost of
dealing with absence if they did not have an OH service.

Bill Callaghan, chairman of the Health and Safety Commission, said:
"With only 3 per cent of UK companies using all of what we would consider
to be the key elements of occupational health support, a lot more needs to be
done to help prevent people becoming ill because of their work."


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