Have you noticed that whenever a discussion takes place about occupational
health nurses (OHN), the safety practitioner will often greet it with a
heavenwards look and a comment that, "they just don’t understand".
Interestingly, when the situation is reversed the reaction is often the same.
Why is there this apparent conflict and shouldn’t we all be working together?
This observation was made by Garry Saunders speaking at the IOSH Public
Services Specialist Group’s National Safety Symposium in Chester at the start
His ironically titled presentation "Occupational health – it’s so
boring!"looked at occupational health provision in the 21st century and
challenged the uneasy relationship between the occupational health nurse and
the safety practitioner.
He suggested there should be a greater understanding of the OHN’s role among
the safety fraternity which would allow for a more holistic and integrated
approach to health and safety, as called for in both "revitalising health
and safetyÉ"and "securing health together". Gone are the days,
Garry said, when health was something only considered when safety failed.
Garry turned to the 16th century for an example of how a holistic approach
could work, pointing to the Crowley Iron Undertakings in Sussex, a centralised
forge that supplied iron for making ships’ anchors. The forge administered a
joint health plan for all the households and central forge workers and a
teacher, a clergyman and doctor were all employed to care for the workers’ and
their families’ spiritual, social and physical needs.
This all-encompassing view of health should be encouraged, Garry suggested,
not forgotten and could provide a useful lesson for the 21st century.