Occupational health: essential information for new and temporary staff

OH checklist

As an experienced occupational health (OH) adviser working independently, Diane Romano-Woodward sometimes take on roles at short notice where a member of staff has suddenly become unwell. So that staff can “hit the ground running” and provide a service in new locations with very little preparation or support, she details below a wish list of what it would be nice to know before stepping into any department.

This is exactly the same documentation a manager would need to provide to a new permanent starter. Therefore, it is worth gathering the information in advance as it would also be useful in a crisis that would require temporary cover and, by its very nature, is unplanned. Under those circumstances, the manager will have other challenges in trying to manage client expectations and recruit temporary assistance, therefore it is wise to gather this information now.

Companies should keep a copy in the department and also give a copy to visiting staff, such as OH physicians. When a temporary worker is found, the list can be emailed to the agency to forward to the OH adviser as it contains useful travel advice. If information on make and model of equipment is provided in advance, then the temporary OH adviser is able to look up instructions on the internet.

While gathering the information about location of equipment, consider whether it is organised in a logical order and place it near where it will be used. Take the opportunity to see your department as others do. For example, are there the remains of sticky tape and Blu-Tack on the walls where posters have fallen down? Is there a layer of dust on the trolleys? Is it possible to remove an item without having the contents of the cupboard spill out?

Also make it clear in advance what evidence of training the OH adviser is required to bring on the day, such as up-to-date immunisation/anaphylaxis/cardiopulmonary resuscitation and OH training diploma or transcript.

Here is a list of essential information and an aide memoire for new and temporary staff.

Getting to the post

  • Web link to map.
  • GPS postcode.
  • Parking details.
  • Reception location.
  • Photo identification requirement.
  • Route to OH department.
  • OH telephone number and named contact.

Emergency and security details

  • Location of panic alarms in consulting rooms and who will respond.
  • Location of key safe or filing cabinet key security.
  • Ensure all keys are clearly labelled (eg Room 4: Drug fridge).
  • Door-lock codes.
  • Key for window locks.
  • Location of adrenaline and oxygen if applicable.
  • Details of who will dial 999/111 in the event of emergency, eg anaphylaxis.
  • Location of first-aid kit and first-aiders.
  • Last one out checklist for closing the department.
  • Fire exit and meeting point – date and time of routine alarm.

In the department

  • Administrators and nurse contact details (with photographs if possible).
  • Plan of department with rooms named/numbered.
  • Safe storage of OH adviser bag and coat.
  • Toilets: for both staff and clients.
  • Food preparation area, fridge for food storage.
  • How to use microwave oven (from experience this is often not clear, and typed instructions nearby would be helpful).
  • Details of canteen or local place to purchase food, eg supermarket or petrol station.
  • Drinking water.
  • Tea and coffee making facilities and expected contribution.

Useful numbers

  • HR professional who understands OH.
  • Safety officer/department.
  • OH physician (and also usual days of attendance).

Computer use

  • Login details.
  • Location of printer/paper/spare cartridges.
  • Screen and keyboard cleaning supplies.
  • Photocopier.
  • Codes for use if required.

Clinical aspects

  • Details of any evidence that the OH adviser needs to provide, eg immunisation training certificate.
  • Location of policy/procedure files.

Information about process for:

  • Display screen equipment eyesight test and spectacles.
  • Safety spectacles.
  • Safety shoes.
  • Safety/alternative gloves.
  • Any occupation-specific process, eg for the police, the provision of alternative equipment carrier.

Clinical record/notes

  • What client identifiers are required on both sides of each page?
  • Date and time of consultation and page numbering.
  • Signature at the bottom of each page.
  • Printed name and qualifications at the end of the record for the consultation.

Management reports

  • Details of style and expected content of reports, including standard phrases or templates.
  • How consent to provide and release report is obtained.
  • Who reports should be addressed to and who should get copies.
  • How reports are sent, eg email, paper copy.
  • If password protected, what password should be used?
  • How are review appointments arranged, eg by administrators at the end of consultation or later by email?

Triaging new referrals

  • Any types who must see OH physician?
  • How are appointments made?


  • Location of original copies, eg to provide a report or to release a report before being seen.
  • Access to Medical Records Act 1998 and covering notes.
  • Standard format of GP/specialist request letter.

Health surveillance

Lung function

  • Screening questionnaire(s).
  • Location of spirometer and instructions, make and model.
  • Location of validation syringe.
  • Where are calibration slips stored?
  • Where are mouthpieces and spare paper kept?
  • How is paper roll replaced?
  • How is equipment cleaned between clients and at other intervals (weekly/monthly)?
  • Location of cleaning supplies.

Hearing tests

  • Screening questionnaires.
  • Location of instructions, make and model of audiometer.
  • Location of electro acoustic ear simulator or other process for daily/weekly validation.
  • Location of auroscope and spare batteries.
  • Where are disposable heads or what is the cleaning process?
  • Cleaning of audiometer headset.
  • Instructions on how to enter a previous test for ongoing health surveillance.
  • How to save data and print if required, or attach to electronic record.
  • Location of printer, paper and spare ink cartridges.

Vision screening

  • Location of vision screener and instructions, make and model.
  • Location of results sheets, eg for Keystones and spare bulbs.
  • Location of Snellen chart and 3m or 6m mark where client stands to undertake testing.
  • Location of colour vision screener, eg Ishihara or City University.

Body mass index (BMI)

  • Location of height measurer.
  • Location of scales.
  • Calculator or BMI chart.
  • Blood pressure equipment.
  • Location of sphygmomanometer and alternative large cuff.
  • Spare batteries.

Urine testing

  • Urine testing pots and dipsticks.
  • Gloves.
  • For drug testing: specialist equipment and details of how to send to laboratory.

Other equipment

  • Grip dynanometer.
  • Tape measure for display screen equipment chair measurement.
  • Camera for photographing skin and workstation set up, including card with date and person’s name.

Vaccinations and blood tests

  • Location of drug fridge and keys.
  • Details of how to reset maximum-minimum thermometer.
  • Daily temperature check log.
  • Stock control sheets.
  • Location of injections tray, syringes, needles blue/green, cotton wool, plasters, paper tape, tourniquet.
  • Location of Vacutainer tubes, carriers, needles or alternative.
  • Blood test forms and examples of how to complete.
  • Spare sharps bins.
  • Body fluids incident report form.
  • Contact number of microbiologist, or Health Protection Agency for advice on body fluids.
  • Record of accidents, blood tests and vaccinations.
  • Details of how bloods are sent to laboratory and lab phone number for advice.


  • Is it available, how is it accessed, eg referral form or self-referral?
  • Contact number/email/website and username and password if required.
  • Location of referral forms.
  • Information about cognitive behavioural therapy or other specialist psychological therapies available, and how to access.


  • Is it available and who can have it?
  • Does the client have to contribute financially?
  • Is there a consent form?
  • How many sessions, if there is a fixed number?
  • What referral form is used and how it is sent (fax number/email address as appropriate)?
  • Where consent forms and referral forms are located.

Waste disposal

  • Name of company that removes clinical waste and frequency of collection.
  • Contact number for ad hoc disposal.

Supplies/consumables ordering

  • Name of usual supplier’s website/contact details.
  • Details of person who submits order, eg nurse/administrator.
Diane Romano-Woodward

About Diane Romano-Woodward

Diane Romano Woodward RN RSCPHN-OH BSc M Med Sc. (Occ Health) is occupational health adviser at Sunny Blue Sky Limited and president elect of the Association of Occupational Health Nurse Practitioners (UK).
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