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December 4, 2009

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Occupational health- Leading the world’s workplaces back to health

IOSH’s initiative to upskill health and safety professionals so they can have a more active role in occupational health was given a global platform at a recent round-table discussion in Geneva, Switzerland.

The ‘Workers health in a climate of change’ discussion took place at the World Health Organisation (WHO) in October and was chaired by Maria Neira, director of the WHO Department for Public Health and Environment, and Sameera Al Tuwairi, director of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Programme on Safety and Health at Work and the Environment. Participants from across the globe attended to hear Dame Carol Black, the UK’s national director for health and work, outline the UK’s strategy on keeping working-age people healthy and highlight the plans for a new ‘fit note’. She added that currently the UK was rather poor at retaining people with disabilities or chronic diseases in the workplace.

Jill Joyce, IOSH’s senior policy and technical advisor, told attendees about IOSH’s work to encourage and support health and safety practitioners to become more involved in workplace health issues. She explained that suitably trained health and safety staff in organisations could act as advocates on health and well-being issues, focusing on prevention and early intervention. The key is to help health and safety professionals to communicate more effectively on health protection and promotion in the workplace, and to teach them how to influence decisions. Jill said that a multidisciplinary approach was needed so that the normal response from employers to occupational-health issues is to provide support and adaptations, which not only make economic sense, but can help people return to work after illness, or with a disability.  Dame Carol said that the Department for Work and Pensions fully support IOSH’s initiative, while other delegates around the table said they thought the UK model could be a useful template for their countries to consider.

IOSH has produced two new free guides on health, well-being and rehabilitation, ‘A healthy return’ and ‘Working well’, both available to download at www.iosh.co.uk/techguide IOSH also provides a free online occupational-health toolkit covering stress, MSDs, inhalation disorders and skin disorders, at www.ohtoolkit.co.uk

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