Occupational Health: Core Areas of Knowledge and Competence, Part Two

OHA’s can lead by assisting managers to control sickness absence more effectively. The nurse could be involved in helping to educate line managers and managers in how to utilize the OH support, in how to refer employees, which sort of information is going to be demanded, what to expect from occupational wellness. By creating transparent referral processes, ensuring that medical confidentiality is preserved and that the employees’ rights are respected the OHA can do much to ensure that employees referred for assessment due to sickness absence are comfortable with the process.

Improving and sustaining working ability benefits many groups, the individual, the organization and society, as costly absence and other health care costs are avoided.

In many cases the OH nurse has to work within the organization as the clients advocate in order ensuring that managers appreciate fully the value of improving the health of the workforce. OH nurses have the skills necessary to undertake this work and may develop areas of special interest.

The occupational health nurse may develop pro-active strategies to help the workforce maintain or restore their work ability. New workers, older workers, women returning to work following pregnancy or workers who have been unemployed for a prolonged period of time may all benefit from health advice or a planned programme of work hardening exercises to help maintain or restore their work ability even before any health problems arise. Increasingly the problems faced by industry are of a psychosocial nature and these can be even more complex and costly to deal with. OH nurses, working at the company level, are in a good position to give advice to management on strategies that can be adopted to improve the psycho-social health and wellbeing of workers.

Health and safety

The OHA can have a role to play in developing health and safety strategies. Where large, or high risk, organizations have their own in-house health and safety specialists the OHA can work closely with these specialists to ensure that the nurses expertise in health, risk assessment, health surveillance and environmental health management is fully utilized into the health and safety strategy. Occupational health nurses are trained in health and safety legislation, risk management and the control of workplace health hazards and can therefore make a useful contribution to the overall management of health and safety at work, with particular emphasis on’wellness’ hazard assessment.

Hazard identification

The nurse often comes close contact with the employees and is conscious of all adjustments to the working environment. Due to the nurses experience in the effects of work on health they’re in a fantastic position to participate in risk identification. Risks may arise because of new procedures or working practices or might arise from casual modifications to existing procedures and working practices which the nurse could easily identify and evaluate the possible risk from. This action requires and pre-supposed routine and regular work area visits from the occupational health nurse to keep an current knowledge and comprehension of working practices and processes.