Occupational Health Awards 2009: Shortlisted teams

Health Promotion and Wellbeing Award

Judge: Dr Charlie Vivian, director of quality, NHS Plus

Dr Charlie Vivian is a consultant occupational physician, working for the NHS in Gloucestershire. He is also director of quality for NHS Plus, whose key aim is to improve the quality of OH delivery across its network of OH departments in England.

Team: Bangor University

What they did: The OH practitioner led the ‘Pathways to Health’ programme of health assessments and actions to improve staff health.

Impact on staff and the organisation: The number of long-term sickness absence cases fell from 104 in 2007 to 75 in 2008, and health improved over a range of risk factors.

Judge’s comment: “Excellent leadership for the project was demonstrated. A health assessment was conducted individually, resulting in assessment of smoking, alcohol, diet, exercise, back pain and mindfulness. Benefits were demonstrated in reduced sickness absence within the university, and lower levels than comparable organisations. The enthusiasm for the project leapt out.”

Team: BT

What they did: The Work Fit programme makes use of BT’s products and services to communicate that small changes can have a big impact, and staff have been supported with a series of programmes.

Impact on staff and the organisation: Thousands of employees have participated in the programme which covers a wide range of health issues, and staff surveys show a positive effect on morale.

Judge’s comment: “The programme has buy-in from the board and unions, and is an integral part of the health and safety strategy. BT’s communications expertise is used to get the message out. A key aim is ‘to help you help yourself’. This increases autonomy, improving the internal locus of control. The range of interventions includes weight loss (which was maintained), smoking, positive mental health, and cancer awareness. This has all been achieved at low cost.”

Team: E.ON

What they did: The OH team developed a health strategy and worked with business managers to deliver innovative campaigns to increase physical activity and raise awareness of health issues, including an internet-based OH toolkit.

Impact on staff and the organisation: Absence was reduced over a nine-month period with savings of about £5m, and 86% of staff surveyed made life changes as a result of the Health on Tour initiative.

Judge’s comment: “Their first rule is: ‘We don’t hurt people.’ This neatly fits with the first principle of medicine: to do no harm. The team demonstrates a commitment to practical action, rather than simply ‘talking the talk.’ The initiative was supported across the organisation, and led by OH. They showed an impact in reduced sickness absence, and behavioural change.”

Team: New Charter Housing Trust

What they did: The New You initiative concentrates on five themes: breaking habits, healthy eating, relaxation, think fit, and work-life balance. Therapies have been taken up by employees.

Impact on staff and the organisation: Absence rates of 3.69% in 2008-09 have saved £460,000, and there has also been a 40% decline in staff resignations in the past year.

Judge’s comment: “The trust has demonstrated tremendous progress. In 2000, they were a demotivated organisation, recently outsourced by the council. Most recently, their employee satisfaction rate was 85%. They have developed an excellent and comprehensive wellness programme with a variety of initiatives, including diet, exercise and flexible working.”

Risk Management and Ill-Health Prevention Award

Judge: Dr Tony Stevens, president, Society of Occupational Medicine

Dr Tony Stevens has been a medical director since April 2007, currently working in the Belfast Trust. He is responsible at board level for quality and safety of care, and risk management, which includes infection control. He has been president of the Society of Occupational Medicine since October 2008.

Team: Gateshead Primary Care Trust

What they did: The trust introduced the clinical ergonomic service which recognises the links between physical and mental health problems and the impact of poorly designed systems of work. Collaborative working with other departments was key.

Impact on staff and the organisation: Attendance rates at training sessions have increased, and early indications are that staff are reviewing their posture and work facilities.

Judge’s comment: “The submission describes the introduction of a clinical ergonomics service within an NHS trust. It demonstrates recognition of the importance of a proactive approach to managing manual handling risks within the health service, focusing on improved delivery of training.”

Team: The Lisheen Mine

What they did: The company introduced an integrated risk-based approach to occupational health and safety and worked with departmental managers to implement it.

Impact on staff and the organisation: Lost-time injuries, first-aid cases and medical aid cases have reduced steadily, and the mine has become a safer and healthier place to work.

Judge’s comment: “This well-presented submission clearly set out the challenge facing management and the process undertaken to deliver improvements in OH and safety using a risk-based approach. Areas of risk were identified, line management were engaged and a clear process is described. This submission importantly included objective data including outcome data in respect of time lost due to injuries and musculoskeletal injury.”

Team: Lotus Cars

What they did: The OH team revamped the health surveillance programme and introduced health assessments to identify musculoskeletal problems, and used a triage system to fast-track employees to physiotherapists. Training was introduced on stress awareness.

Impact on staff and the organisation: Awareness of health issues has been raised, the OH department is more accessible, and employees are making more informed choices about their health.

Judge’s comment: “This submission represents an innovative approach to engaging management in occupational health and safety at a time when the organisation was undergoing considerable change. The focus was placed on musculoskeletal and stress-related problems using established HSE tools.”

Team: Premier Foods

What they did: Manufacturing processes were reviewed and formal manual handling and upper limb assessments introduced. Other departments were involved in a review of working practices.

Impact on staff and the organisation: A degree of automation was introduced into the process and the manual handling risks were eliminated.

Judge’s comment: “This submission offered an objective approach to reducing risk from manual handling. The OH team was actively engaged in re-engineering a production process. The submission demonstrates how an economic argument can complement a risk-based approach to engineering out manual handling risk.”

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