OH views new role in strategy as positive step

Profession embraces health promotion role in Government’s 10-year strategy
to reduce work-related ill-health

The Health & Safety Executive has finally launched its long-awaited
occupational health strategy. Securing Health Together sets out a 10-year plan
to deliver better occupational health to the nation’s workforce.

Partnership and collaboration are at the heart of the strategy to deliver
better occupational health by 2010, which the HSE claims could lead to savings
of over £20bn over the decade.

The Health & Safety Commission and ministers from the Departments of
Environment Transport and the Regions, Education and Employment, Health and
Social Security have co-launched the strategy in cooperation with employers,
employees, trade unions, employers organisations, health professionals and
voluntary groups.

OH professionals have welcomed the 10-year strategy as overdue recognition
that health promotion is as important as accident prevention in the workplace.

The Government’s announcement came just a month after the publication of
Revitalising Health & Safety (Occupational Health, June), but has an
emphasis more on health promotion.

As expected, it will oversee the creation of a Partnership Board, designed
to ensure that employers, staff groups and health professionals work together
to meet government targets to reduce work-related ill health by 20 per cent
within 10 years.

"It has high level commitment in the Government and I think it can only
be a positive step," said Gail Cotton, president of the Association of
Occupational Health Nurse Practitioners.

It would be wrong to argue for more enforcement and statutory measures,
because the whole point is to emphasise promotion of health rather than a
disciplinary code, she argued.

"At last, the significance of health within health and safety is being
promoted and recognised," said Kit Artus, of OH specialists Cheviot Artus.
"The partnership idea is interesting because there are examples of very
good practice. Collaborative working can be extended to other employers."

Carol Bannister, OH representative for the Royal College of Nursing, also
acknowledged the "very high level of government commitment and

Although the precise role of the board and of local partnerships is vague,
OH professionals accepted that it is largely up to them to make them work.

Artus urged OH professionals to get in touch with colleagues from other
companies and find out about the networks and groups that do exist.

"A lot of it is going to be motivating people and being self-motivated
to get out of the cocoon of isolation."

This means designing health- promotion-at-work schemes that involve other
people within the organisation and professionals from the health service.

The one problem raised was the absence of data from which to start measuring
progress towards the targets.

Bannister said, "How will it be measured? It relies on doctors making a
diagnosis and filling in a report to the HSE; this is unlikely to happen
without an OH service and 90 per cent of employers do not have an OH


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