The provision of occupational health services in the UK is at an all time low. But with employees being the backbone of any organisation, Caroline Horn puts forward five good reasons to get OH...
Recent research has shown that only 30 per cent of the UK's workforce have access to an occupational health service. The survey, conducted by the Institute of Occupational Medicine for the Health & Safety Executive, also revealed the steady decline in the provision of occupational health - 10 years ago, around half the country's workforce was covered.
Finance and transport industries are among the worst providers (35 per cent). A spokesperson for the TUC commenting on the research, stated: "Worryingly, in some sectors, the main reason given for having no occupational health support was that there were no relevant hazards.
"This included more than 20 per cent of finance sector employers, although their staff suffer from stress and RSI; more than 15 per cent of transport companies, where staff suffer from musculo-skeletal disorders; and more than 10 per cent of retail companies, whose staff are also prone to musculo-skeletal disorders."
Owen Tudor, health and safety specialist for the TUC, says: "The situation is getting worse for two reasons. Companies are downsizing and outsourcing, and healthcare is one of the central functions they can easily get rid of. And external occupational health services are more vulnerable to future cost-cutting exercises.
"The second reason is that in the UK, we tend to cut costs to improve profitability, instead of thinking: 'let's increase production by ensuring that our staff are at work, and well'."
Chief executive of the Businesshealth Group Ed Radkiewicz, says: "A company will typically spend around 15 per cent of the value of its IT system on maintenance to avoid breakdown. But the workforce represents the largest cost in a company - and often, it will spend very little on its health maintenance."
Part of the problem, says Janice Kaye, managing director of OH service provider MMS, is that companies are notoriously poor at absentee analysis.
"If companies don't know what their problems are," she asks, "then how can you convince management to put their money up front to solve the problem?"
Radkiewicz adds that many businesses don'