Questions Asked at an Occupational Health Assessment
In the United Kingdom, a staggering 1.8 million working people suffer from work-related illnesses. This significant number highlights how important it is for employers to prioritise the health and wellbeing of their employees and the crucial need for Occupational Health services.
If you’ve been asked to attend an occupational health assessment, you may be wondering what the process involves. In this blog, we explain everything you need to know.
What is an occupational health assessment?
An occupational health assessment (also known as a sickness absence referral, management referral or occupational health referral) is a comprehensive evaluation of a person’s physical, psychological and social health in relation to their job. It typically includes a review of the employee’s job duties, work environment and lifestyle, with the aim of identifying potential risks and recommending strategies to improve the safety and health of the worker.
The assessment is carried out by a qualified occupational health clinician, a specially trained health professional who plays an integral role in helping employers to protect and improve employee health, prevent occupational diseases and enhance productivity and organisational performance.
What are the benefits of an occupational health assessment?
Considering that 36% of workers have at least one long-term health condition, to maintain a healthy and productive work environment, it’s crucial that employers provide the right support to help employees manage their health effectively.
Occupational health assessments can play a key role in this, ensuring that organisations have access to the expert clinical advice they need to be able to keep their people in work, safe and well and making a valuable contribution to the workplace.
In this way, they not only benefit individual employees but also have wider implications for employers and the economy and provide many invaluable benefits to businesses, including:
- Improved employee health status and wellbeing
- Reduced levels of sickness, occupational illness and absenteeism
- Improved employee retention and productivity
- Reduced compensation claims
- Improved compliance with legal requirements.
What happens at an occupational health assessment?
Occupational health assessments can take place either face to face or remotely via a telephone or video consultation. The type of appointment you have will depend on several factors, but both offer an effective medium for conducting assessments, and both will follow the same format, usually lasting around 30 to 45 minutes.
In advance of the assessment, the clinician will have been provided with a referral form from your employer providing details of:
- The reason for the referral, including any background information about your medical condition or diagnosis, how it is affecting you, both generally and at work, and any treatment or rehabilitation you are receiving
- Any information provided by your GP or other treating healthcare professional on your fit note (if you are absent from work)
- Any action they have taken so far (for example, introducing additional support or adjustments to your duties or hours) and how successful these interventions have been
- Any alternative duties or adjustments they are able to offer or accommodate
- Any specific questions they wish the clinician to answer.
Occupational health assessments rarely involve any form of physical examination. Instead, during the appointment the clinician will take a detailed medical, social and occupational history and discuss with you the information your employer has provided. They will also ask you specific questions to help them understand your perspective of your present situation and how your health is affecting you; your current functional capabilities; and what support you feel you need to help you get back to work sooner (if you are absent) or continue doing your role.
At the end of the consultation, the clinician will talk you through the advice and recommendations they intend to include in their report. You will also be asked to confirm that you consent to their report being released to your employer (and may be requested to complete a written consent form).
What questions does the clinician ask at an occupational health assessment?
An occupational health assessment typically includes questions about the individual’s medical history, current health condition and lifestyle and work environment. Specific questions may vary depending on your particular job role, but some common questions include:
- What type of work do you do?
- How long have you been working in your job?
- What hours or shifts do you work and how often do you take breaks during the day?
- Do you have access to proper medical care if needed?
- Have you ever experienced any physical or psychological symptoms related to your job?
- Do you feel safe in your work environment?
- Are you currently experiencing any medical conditions or symptoms?
- Do you have any allergies or sensitivities?
- Have you ever had any surgeries or major illnesses?
- What medications are you currently taking?
- Do you have any physical limitations that could affect your ability to perform your job?
- Do you experience any pain or discomfort while performing your duties?
- Do you have any mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety or stress?
- Do you use any drugs or drink alcohol?
- How is your diet and nutrition?
- What kind of physical activity do you do on a regular basis?
- Are you exposed to any hazardous materials at work?
- Do you have any hearing or vision problems that could affect your work performance?
- Have you ever experienced any accidents or injuries while at work?
It is a good idea for you to note down any questions that you might have and take these into your appointment and to also write down the answers and responses you receive from the clinician. This can help to clarify anything you might be unsure of and help you remember important details from the consultation and next steps.
What happens after the occupational health assessment?
After the assessment, the clinician will produce a report to your employer summarising what was discussed during your consultation and providing advice and recommendations on:
- Whether or not you are fit to return to work and continue in your role (and if you are not yet fit, why that is the case and when they expect that you will likely be able to return)
- Whether a phased return is necessary and how to approach it
- Any workplace adjustments that are required (e.g., to your hours, shift patterns or duties), either on a temporary or permanent basis, or any additional support they could provide to help you return to work sooner
- Any action that either they or you can take to aid your recovery and reduce any risk of future sickness absence (e.g., compliance with treatment, making lifestyle changes or maintaining an open dialogue with your line manager about issues at work that may be impacting on your health)
- Whether you are likely to be covered under the provisions of the Equality Act
- Whether any further guidance is required from your treating doctor or specialist.
Are there any other types of occupational health assessment?
Sometimes, if an employee is starting a new job or working in a certain type of role, they may require either a pre-placement assessment or ongoing health checks or periodic medicals to ensure they are medically fit to carry out their duties safely, especially if they are returning to work after absence due to ill health. For more information about the other types of health assessment that Medigold Health offer, follow the links below:
Occupational health is integral to creating a safe, productive and fulfilling work environment for employees.
If you are interested in our occupational health services or have any questions on how we can help support your organisation, contact us here.
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