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Occupational Health

Welcome to our Occupational Health Glossary, your one-stop resource for demystifying the terminology and concepts in the field of workplace health and safety.


This glossary is designed to provide you with clear and concise definitions, explanations, and insights. Explore the world of occupational health with us and gain a deeper understanding of the crucial aspects that contribute to the well-being of workers and the success of businesses.

Audiometry: Audiometry is an assessment undertaken to assess an individual’s hearing category; this is generally done on an annual basis to meet necessary health surveillance requirements. Depending upon the results individuals may be recalled for a retest, to confirm results which are not within the normal range or be referred to speak with either an occupational health nurse or occupational health physician as required.


Biological monitoring: Biological monitoring is usually the assessment of blood or urine for evidence of substances (or their metabolites) to determine whether a person has been or is being exposed to that a substance which may be harmful to their health. It is a vital step in keeping employers within some industries safe from harm.


Case conference: A case conference is a face to face, or virtual, meeting between the employee, an Occupational Health (OH) professional, the line manager and an HR representative. A case conference allows the health issues, which OH may already have provided guidance to the employer and employee via written reports, to be further discussed, and facilitate progression towards a solution agreeable to all parties. Case conferences are an effective tool to resolve or avert long-term problems with fitness for work.


Discovery audit: A discovery audit is a workplace visit, undertaken at the request of the employer, by an experienced occupational health clinician (occupational health advisor or occupational health physician) for the purposes of exploring the occupational health and safety issues in the workplace and providing the employer with clear guidance as to how the hazards can be managed effectively to meet the relevant health and safety legislation.


Driver medical: The generic driver medical will involve the individual being asked a series of health questions to establish whether they have any underlying health conditions and where they do whether this is likely to impact upon them day to day. They will also be asked whether they are currently taking any medication which may impact upon their fitness to drive for example by making them drowsy. The assessment involves a screening vision assessment for near and distance vision and taking the individual blood pressure.


Driver medical (professional role): HGV or PCV drivers, employees will need to undergo a medical examination with a doctor when applying for their initial driving licence and upon its periodic renewal. These appointments are undertaken by an occupational health physician in line with guidance from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).


Display screen equipment (DSE) assessment: A DSE assessment is a means of an employer ensuring that individuals working at home or in the office can achieve a comfortable, sustainable posture while working with DSE, and where necessary be advised about the provision of any necessary equipment.


Early intervention: Our early intervention service involves an occupational health advisor contacting an employee within the first few days of any absence from work. After speaking with the individual about their health issues, and with the individual’s consent, a short report is sent to the employer advising them of any necessary action they should take to support the individual and of any action currently being taken by the employee to help themselves i.e. visit their GP or minor injury unit, or use over the counter medication. This is an effective way of employers identifying when employees may benefit from a management referral.


Ergonomic assessment: An ergonomic assessment is a process of evaluating the individual’s workplace to ensure that it fits the needs of the employees. It should be considered of benefit to help optimise the working environment of staff within both office and industrial environments. These assessments are undertaken by one of our experienced occupational health advisors or one of our ergonomists.


Fork-lift truck (FLT) medical: For most workplaces, a standard of fitness assessment equivalent to that for the Group 1 entitlement (ordinary driving licence holders) would be appropriate for staff, however for more hazardous working conditions including working at night or moving highly toxic or explosive materials it may be more appropriate for staff to be assessed to the Group 2 entitlement (heavy goods vehicle licence holders).


Functional assessment: A functional assessment, is a workplace assessment undertaken by the line manager or individual responsible for health and safety, often following advice from the occupational health clinician, to denote when an individual was observed undertaking a specific aspect of their role to determine whether the individual can undertake a task safely and establish or consider the provision of additional control measures to facilitate the employee doing so.


Hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS): This assessment is undertaken to assess an individual for symptoms of hand arm vibration syndrome, generally these are undertaken on an annual basis to meet necessary health surveillance requirements. Those newly exposed to vibration are advised to be assessed prior to exposure then at 6 and 12 months.


Health surveillance (HS): Health surveillance is the ongoing and systematic collection, analysis, interpretation of health data for the purpose of prevention of harm in the workplace. Health surveillance is essential aspect in preventing and reducing work-related ill health.


Ill-health retirement (IHR): The IHR assessment process involves an independent occupational health physician assessing whether an employee can claim their workplace pension under the ill health retirement scheme. The relevant pension scheme will need to be satisfied that you are no longer capable of undertaking gainful employment or undertake your job until your normal pension age.


Management referral: A management referral is made to occupational health by an employer when further guidance about the individuals health in the workplace is required. The contents of the referral should ideally be shared fully with the employee and consent to share information about the employee should be obtained prior to the information being sent to occupational health.


Occupational health advisors (OHA’s): OHA’s are nurses with additional training and/or qualifications enabling them to provide guidance to both employers and employees on health issues in the workplace.


Occupational health musculoskeletal (MSK) specialists: MSK clinicians are nurses or professions allied to medicine i.e. physiotherapists, who have additional skills and knowledge on how the management of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) in the workplace and who are allocated additional time to assess the musculoskeletal issues of employees, these assessments are of particular benefit where individuals are struggling to return to or remain in work due to MSD issues.


Occupational health physicians (OHP’s): OHP’s are doctors who have undertaken additional specialist training in the management of health in the workplace. Some physicians will have undertaken further training and be registered with the necessary organisations to enable them to undertake asbestos, blood lead, or radiation medicals, and/or hand arm vibration Tier 4 assessments.


Occupational health technicians (OHT’s): OHT’s are health care workers who work within agreed protocols and are supervised and trained by our experienced OHA’s and OHP’s to undertake many of our core services including health surveillance and safety critical medicals.


Occupational mental health practitioners (OMHP): OMHP’s are registered mental health nurses (RMN), or nurses with additional skills and knowledge who are allocated additional time to assess individuals with more complex mental health issues which may not be responding to guidance provided by the generalist OHA’s


Occupational health workplace needs assessor: Workplace needs assessors are health care workers, who have usually worked as an OHT for several years, they have undertaken additional training to enable them to assess and support individuals with neurodiverse conditions in the workplace.


Plant operator medical: See Safety critical medical, this name may be used by some OH providers instead of safety critical medical.

Preplacement (PP)/on employment medical questionnaire: These are undertaken by occupational health clinicians on behalf of employers to ensure that an employee is fit to undertake their role within a specific working environment and enables the employer to be advised of any relevant health issues and/or any workplace adjustments which may help the individual to undertake all aspects of their role. Ideally this is undertaken following an offer of employment and prior to any start date, and employers should advise potential employees that any offer is conditional depending upon the outcome of the health assessment process.


Our PP process requires that you initially complete a health questionnaire online, which will be relevant to your role/employer, and which will be only visible to occupational health.

If you tick YES to any of the questions asked in the questionnaire, you will be asked to provide additional details to enable the clinician (nurse or doctor) to determine whether a follow up call may be required or not.


Where a call with a nurse or doctor (which will depend upon the complexity of your underlying health conditions) is arranged, this call will generally last between 5 – 20 min and will be arranged by our Admin team. The clinician will ask you about your health and your role in work and discuss any potential impact of your health upon your role or vice versa. They may recommend ,with your consent, advising your employer of key aspects of your health issues to help your employer understand your health issues. They may also make recommendations to your employer about adjustments which may be of help, these are often inexpensive and readily available, and employers are often able to implement many of the suggestions made by the occupational health clinician.

Infrequently a follow up consultation may be advised, the decision as to whether this is subsequently booked with occupational health will rest with the employer.


It is very rare for an individual to be unfit for a role following completion of a preplacement/on employment medical questionnaire, any decision to make such a recommendation to an employer will generally be made by an occupational health physician (doctor), and only taken given full consideration of the individuals health conditions and consideration of any potential health and safety risk to the employee, colleagues and/or members of the public.


RIDDOR: RIDDOR stands for the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations, it requires the employer to report deaths and injuries occurring in the workplace.


Safety critical medical (SCM): A safety critical medical is required where the ill health of an individual may compromise their ability to undertake a task defined as safety critical, thereby posing a significant risk to the health and safety of others. The medical involves a comprehensive medical questionnaire, blood pressure, height, weight, audiometry (hearing assessment), spirometry (respiratory assessment), skin assessment and Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVs) Assessment (if required).


Skin assessment: A skin assessment is generally undertaken on an annual basis to meet necessary health surveillance requirements. Depending upon the respiratory irritants that the employee is exposed to more frequent assessment may be made in the first 3 – 6 months to detect potential symptoms.


Spirometry (respiratory assessment): Spirometry is undertaken to assess an individual’s respiratory health, they are generally done on an annual basis to meet necessary health surveillance requirements.


Vehicle assessment: A vehicle assessment ensures that the car or van is suitable for the user, this will include assessing whether the current seat settings and controls can be adjusted sufficiently to accommodate the individuals body size and ensure that they can operate the vehicle in safety and comfort, and that they can access any tool or equipment storage areas and retrieve any necessary equipment without causing them harm. Guidance will also be provided about suitable breaks to be taken if undertaking longer journeys or the provision of suitable vehicle mounted equipment where employees are expected to completing reports or job sheets etc.


Wellness action plan (WAP): WAP’s are individual, evidence-based, pro-active tools for supporting individuals in work with their mental health and encouraging open dialogue about mental health and its impact between employer and employee. They were inspired by Mary Ellen Copeland’s (author, educator, and mental health advocate) work in the late 1990’s and are used worldwide having been developed in conjunction with individuals who have lived experience of experiencing serious mental health challenges both in and out of work.


Workstation assessment: A workstation assessment is a site-based assessment often undertaken on the recommendation of the occupational health clinician, or at the request of the employer. These assessments are undertaken by one of our experienced occupational health advisors and will involve the clinician visiting the workplace, observing your employee alongside health and safety department and/or their line manager to discuss potential health issues and explore potential solutions to enable them to remain in or return to work.


Workplace needs assessment (WPNA): A WPNA is a specialist occupational health assessment undertaken by a trained clinician with knowledge and understanding of a wide range of neurodiverse conditions and who is able to identify potential adjustments which may assist you in undertaking aspects of your role.

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