Occupational Health Awards 2008: shortlisted teams

Award: Risk Management and Ill-Health Prevention:

Darlington Borough Council

About the organisation: The council employs 4,500 people with a budget of almost £100m.

The challenge: Violent and aggressive incidents involving staff increased in 2003-04, and the council recognised its responsibility to minimise the risk to employees.

What the organisation did: In 2005, tackling the problem became a corporate objective and a review of risk took place. This led to new IT systems to record incidents including a geographic information system (GIS), and the introduction of identity badges and training across the authority. As a result 200 employees have been trained, and there has been a 44% reduction in violent incidents.

Judge’s comment: “This entry outlines a strategy to reduce violence to local authority staff. It includes both macro and micro interventions, including the introduction of ‘identicom’ alarm badges for lone workers. The development of a robust recording system facilitates the analysis of the geography of violent or aggressive incidents.”

Lotus Cars

About the organisation: Group Lotus has two operating divisions and is an internationally recognised engineering consultancy and car manufacturer employing about 1,000 employees.

The challenge: Cars are mainly hand-built by skilled craftsman, with the risk of developing musculoskeletal injuries and stress-related disorders.

What the organisation did: A new multi-disciplinary clinical team revamped the health surveillance programme and introduced health assessments for all new staff. A triage system was developed to fast-track employees to physiotherapists, including treating individuals on-site while they were on sick leave. Workshops were held for managers on stress. Awareness of health issues has increased.

Judge’s comment: “This entry highlights the approach made by a small OH team in managing a range of occupational health issues, including workplace stress and musculoskeletal disorders. Their interventions have raised the profile of a quality OH service.”

Sarsen Health

About the organisation: Sarsen Health provides health management services to the construction industry, with services aimed at small to medium-sized companies.

The challenge: The company was involved in evaluating the building industry OH scheme Constructing Better Health, and found that managers in the sector did not feel OH services were of real benefit, and some were not in favour of introducing services.

What the organisation did: The team focused on persuading operational managers of the benefits and critical success factors of workplace health management, working in partnership with construction firm Durkan Group. Health assessments were carried out for 39 staff, with those needing regular surveillance identified, control measures improved, and protective equipment introduced.

Judge’s comment: “This entry demonstrates an innovative approach to OH provision within a highly hazardous working environment. The project demonstrates innovation, teamwork and effective leadership within this highly specialist sector, linking well with the Constructing Better Health initiative.”

Judge: Anne Harriss, reader in educational development and course director for OH nursing programmes, London South Bank University

Anne Harriss started her teaching career within the Institute of Advanced Nursing Education at the Royal College of Nursing and was the course director for the first BSc (Hons) OH nursing degree in the UK. Harriss has had a varied career in occupational health practice in the UK and overseas. She has a particular interest in risk assessment and attendance management.

Award: Mental Health and Stress Management

Bradford and Bingley

About the organisation: Bradford and Bingley is a lending bank with 3,200 staff, including 500 line managers in three central offices and 195 bank branches.

The challenge: An investigation by a local authority environmental health officer led to a programme to embed new arrangements for managing stress.

What the organisation did: The company developed a stress management plan that empowered line managers to tackle stress locally, leading to a 41% reduction in stress-related absence, equating to £300,000 in lost wages. A risk assessment tool was developed and overseen by a steering group, and all line managers were trained from the chief executive down.

Judge’s comment: “This is a well-presented application, clear and logical and covering all the essential judging criteria. It claims innovation through the use of a new ‘risk assessment tool’, but this appears to be just an application of the Health and Safety Executive standards. The emphasis is on prevention and risk reduction and there is little on individual treatment and management, which is a possible weakness. There is good evidence of an effective team approach in steering the project and good commitment from senior managers to give the necessary leadership support. There is also highly effective use of very limited resources.”

Metropolitan Police Service

About the organisation: The Metropolitan Police Service employs 31,000 officers, 14,000 police staff, 414 traffic wardens and 4,000 Police Community Support Officers, and serves a population of 7.2 million.

The challenge: With stress a major problem in the police, the force wanted to equip managers with the skills to manage stress in themselves and their staff and to bring the Health and Safety Executive Stress Standards to life.

What the organisation did: The OH unit devised ‘The Camel’s Back’ stress awareness training programme, using professionally acted real-life scenarios, using a project team including a range of stakeholders in the force, including police officers. Stress has been reduced by 17.4% in the year since 2006-07, and less than one day per year per officer is now lost to stress.

Judge’s comment: “This is a very impressive submission. It sets out the problem clearly and describes a well-organised and innovative approach to training managers to recognise and deal more effectively with stress in the Metropolitan Police workforce. The intervention was delivered through the Met’s newly established leadership academy and the project team was admirably multidisciplinary, with coverage across all the relevant professional viewpoints.”

Musgrove Park Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

About the organisation: Somerset Occupational Health is an NHS Plus-accredited service based at Musgrove Park NHS Foundation Trust, which employs 4,000 staff.

The challenge: The trust needed to meet the government’s Health, Work and Wellbeing agenda and develop a system-based and more proactive approach to employee wellbeing.

What the organisation did: The OH team developed an education tool, Wellbeing Circle, and working with HR and health and safety managers produced a half-day interactive training session on stress and wellbeing. Other innovations include a case conference approach and an intranet-based communication tool.

Judge’s comment: “This presentation describes the work of an NHS OH service that has grown and now delivers services to a number of other local NHS providers. It deploys an impressive range of interventions, including case conferences for active sickness management and a computerised cognitive behavioural therapy package for depression.”

Judge: Professor Geoff Shepherd, policy adviser to the employment programme team at Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health

Geoff Shepherd trained originally as a clinical psychologist. He has worked most of his professional career in mental health services in the NHS as a practitioner, manager and researcher. He has a longstanding interest in work and employment issues for people with mental health problems, and now works part-time as a senior policy adviser to the work and employment team at the Sainsbury Centre.

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