Occupational health technicians are set to get a more prominent voice within the profession through the formation of a new Association of Occupational Health Technicians.
A number of OH providers, led by Gateshead-based Company Health, have been meeting over the past few months to discuss how such an association would work, what its role, membership and remit should be, and how it would be structured.
It has already received backing in principle from the Department for Work and Pensions, Department of Health, NHS Plus and the Commercial Occupational Health Providers Association, among others.
In October, a questionnaire was circulated to OH practitioners and technicians to gather views on what sorts of benefits or services they would want from such an association.
While the final shape and role of the association has yet to be decided, its activities are likely to be focused on setting standards of practice, training and qualifications and acting as a networking and lobbying forum and voice for technicians within the profession.
It could also have a role in providing professional insurance support, particularly indemnity insurance for technicians as part of their membership.
The questionnaire gathered views on whether, or how much, people would be prepared to pay for membership, and whether it would be appropriate for it to provide accredited training courses, publish best practice guidelines, run conferences and even play a role in recruitment.
The role and remit of OH technicians within the profession has long been controversial. Some practitioners argue that delegating more mundane OH tasks to technicians, as long as the oversight process is sufficiently rigorous, is vital if the profession is ever to achieve its full potential.
But others remain concerned that, for employers, technicians are often simply seen as a cheaper alternative, and an excuse not to invest in a proper OH service for their workers.