Organisations need to be persuaded to buy into OH

It is important to make management aware of what OH can provide

In too many organisations, OH and health and safety are bolted on at the
end, said Dr Trevor Cattermole of the Occupational Health and Safety Advisory
Service (OHSAS), Fife.

In his talk on carrying out an OH needs assessment, he said that defining
and measuring occupational health needs within an organisation will help you
identify the needs of its internal customers, both employer and employee.

Needs assessments often arise at times of change, he explained, be it a
takeover of the entire organisation, or simply a change of senior manager.

During the talk, he described a four-tiered process that encompasses:

– European or UK legislation, with which an organisation must comply

– Authoritative advice, usually perceived as a ‘good idea’ to comply with –
codes of practice such as HSE guidance notes

– The organisation: this includes the ‘nitty gritty’ of a particular
organisation, including what they do, where they are based, whether there is
shift work involved, the number of staff and the number of sites.

– Information about the current and desired level of service. This may
include a safety questionnaire, a look at current OH activity, and gathering
information from management, staff and trade unions.

Cattermole also advocated visiting the relevant sites to see the challenges
for yourself. "I strongly believe you can’t do a risk assessment or supply
an OH service without going into an organisation and walking around. You must
poke into corners and ask staff questions."

Cattermole added: "It is important you tell management what OH can
provide and identify the gaps in their knowledge." He told delegates that
the most important thing of all is to ‘get ownership’ of the service, as you
are trying to persuade the whole organisation to buy into occupational health

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