Advisory service aims to help smaller businesses

A government-backed OH advisory service for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) is due to be up and running from next month [February].

The Workplace Health Connect service – which is intended to offer businesses free, impartial advice on workplace health, safety and return-to-work issues – will be piloted in the north-east and north-west of England, West Midlands, Wales and Greater London.

The two-year pilot is being run by the Health and Safety Executive, after which an evaluation will take place.

The service is being aimed at businesses in England and Wales with more than five workers and no more than 250, and intends to work with both workers and employers.

But health and safety minister Lord Philip Hunt said that, while the pilot was free, in the longer term, SMEs should not expect to see any state subsidy or other financial inducement to encourage them to spend more money on occupational health.

“I am not convinced about the arguments over funding,” Hunt told Occupational Health. “This should not be seen as a charge on business – this is helping business manage its workforce more effectively.”

Sayeed Khan, chief medical officer at the Engineering Employers’ Federation, said the scheme could provide cost-effective regional advice.

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