Occupational Health Awards 2007: Specsavers Award for Achievement in Occupational Health

Category judge: Greta Thornbory MSc, RGN ROH PGCEA CMIOSH

Greta Thornbory is an OH and educational consultant with 30 years’ experience in OH practice and teaching. She has worked with government departments, professional bodies and pharmaceutical, educational and other companies on a variety of OH and safety projects. She also worked for the Royal College of Nursing for 12 years as a senior lecturer and programme director of both occupational health and continuing professional development. She is now consulting editor of Occupational Health and co-author with Joan Lewis of Employment Law and Occupational Health: a Practical Handbook, published in 2006.

Shortlisted teams:

Building Health

About the organisation: Nichola Elvy set up this company three years ago to deliver on-site OH services to the construction industry.

The challenge: Much of the work in construction is sub-contracted, and workers move around the country. Meanwhile, legislative changes mean more health surveillance is needed.

What the team did: The team provides a wide range of health assessments, and has been elected as associate members of the The National Federation of Demolition Contractors in recognition of its impact on the industry.

Judge’s comment: “Nichola Elvy has used her knowledge, skills and experience, despite personal problems, to offer an OH service to a group of workers who previously had no, or very limited, access to OH. She has built a team which offers this service throughout the UK and has shown innovation and leadership, and her team’s work has made a substantial impact on the health of this industry.”

Kent Police Force

About the organisation: Kent Police Force employs 6,200 officers and staff.

The challenge: In 2002, the Home Office set targets to reduce absence to 64 hours per head for officers and 66.6 for staff. At the time, the force’s rates were 94 hours for officers, and 88 for staff.

What the team did: The force carried out a quality of working life audit and set up a working party and the W8wise@work scheme. Absence for officers is now down to 70.5 hours and 63.9 hours for staff.

Judge’s comment: “This initiative to reduce sickness absence and concentrate on positive attendance in a difficult industry fraught with a historical culture is well-thought out and demonstrates a good use of resources among a complex team of people.”

Royal Mail Group

About the organisation: Royal Mail Group employs almost 193,000 people in the UK – almost 1% of the working population – and the scale of its OH services differs from other organisations.

The challenge: The team recognised that many absence problems are due to problems at home, often caused by other family members.

What the team did: The HELP Counselling and Advisory Service was made available to employees’ dependants, leading to a big increase in the number of calls due to a wide range of initiatives to raise awareness among employees.

Judge’s comment: “The Royal Mail OH service is a long-standing service. It is good to see that it is taking the initiative to make substantial changes and recognising that there are many ways to help and support employees. The initiative showed thought, leadership and teamwork, as well as the use of up-to-date methods and technology for the benefit of the workforce.”

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