Occupational Health News & Alerts


Australian flu

Australian flu

Each year in the UK when the colder months are upon us many of us are struck down by flu. But, unlike the common cold, which starts with a stuffy or runny nose and sore throat, flu can be much worse. If you have it, it’s likely that you’ll suddenly get a fever, experience chills and, amongst other things, feel extremely tired.

There are two main types of flu (or influenza) virus that cause you to become ill: influenza A and influenza B. For each type there are different strains and variations of the virus. ‘Australian flu’ is a name being used to describe a particular strain of the influenza A virus. This is known as H3N2, which as the name suggests, has recently affected Australia.

So what’s the problem?

Although we have vaccines to fight against flu, the influenza virus can adapt and change, which is why it isn’t always fully effective. To combat this, the World Health Organisation (WHO) collects data from around the world on the types, strains and variants of influenza that have caused illness. They collect this data from one flu season to the next. This is to make sure that they have all the information they need to develop a new improved vaccine, if needed.

But if you’ve ever been to Australia, you’ll know that come Christmas – when our flu season is underway – on the other side of the world, winter is long gone and it’s time for your sunnies and swimsuit. So worldwide there are two different flu seasons, and it all depends on where exactly you are!

The key point here is that Australia’s flu season may give us clues as to what’s in store for the UK. And this year during their winter, Australia saw the highest level of flu since 2009. What’s more alarming is that they noticed a decrease in how well their current vaccine protected against a particular variant of influenza A that was circulating.

Where panic may arise is that our current flu vaccine is the same, so we too could feel the effects seen in Australia this winter. But, there are things you can do to help protect yourself and others.

Healthwork Advice and Discussion

1. Get the flu jab. Although this may sound counter-intuitive after what we’ve just discussed – it isn’t, and I can’t emphasise that enough! Having the flu jab may give you some protection against the altered strain. It can also protect you against other strains of influenza A and B that are fought by the vaccine. Getting the flu jab is particularly important if you are at a higher risk of becoming ill. This includes:

• children

• older people

• pregnant women

• people with low immune systems – this is the part of your body that fights infection

• people with underlying health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease or respiratory conditions such as COPD or asthma (to name a few)

2. Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing. The influenza virus is spread through tiny droplets that travel through the air when you, or someone else, coughs or sneezes. These tiny droplets can be breathed in or picked up when you touch surfaces that they’ve landed on. So covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing, is really important. Try to use a tissue to cover your mouth and remember to dispose of it safely in a nearby bin.

3. Wash your hands. As simple as it is, washing your hands is arguably the most effective way to prevent yourself from catching or spreading flu to others.

Healthwork is able to provide a comprehensive range of immunisation services including providing vaccinations for seasonal influenza. Our trained nurses can provide these services either on-site or at our own premises. For more information please contact us on 0161 831 9701.

Health Promotion Activities - Alcohol Awareness

Health Promotion Activities - Alcohol Awareness

The post-Christmas detox has become an annual tradition in the UK. This January will see thousands of adults in the UK take part in Dry January. Starting on the first day of the month, participants vow to go 31 days without alcohol in a New Year tradition that has been endorsed by Cancer Research UK and Alcohol Concern. Research shows that

•    71% of participants remaining abstinent for the time of the campaign.
•    At 6 month follow-up approximately 60% reported a reduction in drinking days per week.
•    Overall, participating in the campaign was associated with reductions in alcohol use at six months, particularly for those who successfully completed the challenge.

What could your employees expect to gain from going alcohol-free for the month of January? They’ll have more energy, thanks to more sleep, and more time thanks to no hangovers! They may notice weight loss and a potential reduction in mental health issues such as stress, depression and anxiety.

Healthwork Advice and Discussion

Healthwork has developed various health and wellbeing services.  Health promotional and preventative activities in relation to alcohol awareness, will provide your staff with useful health information to help them reflect on their overall health and help drive a conversation about alcohol: why do we drink it, what does it do, and how can we reduce the harm it can cause?

What Services can Healthwork offer?

•    Alcohol Presentations - these can be given in person as a talk by a clinician to employees and managers.  These can also be provided as visual-audio presentations on a screen next to a health promotion stand.

•    Leaflets & merchandise with tips on alcohol, healthy diet and exercise for your employees.
> Alcohol and mental health:  Looking at stress; depression and anxiety
> Alcohol & other health effects:  Cancer; diabetes; dementia; hypertension; brain damage

•    If given enough notice, we can also arrange for co-branded presentations  so your employees will know that they work for a company that values their wellbeing.

•    A health check stand where employees can attend for a health check of their blood pressure, weight and blood levels of alcohol and liver function and receive individual advice. This stand is run by trained clinicians.

If you would like further details on any of our health and wellbeing programmes that Healthwork have to offer or information on any other occupational health requirement, please contact us on 0161 831 9701 or alternately visit our website www.healthworkltd.com

Alcohol Awareness Week

Alcohol Awareness

There is clear evidence that excessive and inappropriate alcohol use can have significant detrimental effects on an individual, the family and society.

Alcohol Facts:

  • Premature deaths caused by alcohol
    • Road traffic collisions
    • Suicide
    • Cancers
    • Chronic liver failure
  • Disability linked to alcohol
    • Over 150,000 years of working life lost in 2015
    • 24% of dementia linked to alcohol related brain damage.
    • Obesity due to high calorific value of beer and wine
  • Family and social cohesion breakdown
    • Partner and children physical and mental abuse including relationships breakdown
    • Financial difficulties and social isolation
    • Major contributor to public disorder and custodial sentences

 What is responsible drinking?

Safe levels of alcohol consumption depends on the individual and the situation they are in.

  • For the general healthy adult population research has shown that 14 units of alcohol for men and women spread over a week does not have a long term detrimental effect on health. Binge drinking, i.e. drinking 6 units of alcohol in one session, can have harmful short term effects.
  • For safety critical activity, e.g. driving, riding a bike, operating machinery etc., there is no safe limit. Individuals should refrain from any alcohol consumption at least 8 hours before being involved in those activities.
  • Pregnant women, especially during the first trimester, should refrain from any alcohol consumption.

Know your limits

  • One pint of beer = 2.3 units and 182 kCals (equivalent to running for 16 minutes)
  • One small glass of red wine = 2.3 units and 159 Kcals (equivalent to running for 16 minutes)
  • Small spirit measure = 1 unit and 61 Kcals (equivalent to running for 6 minutes)

Healthwork Advice and Discussion

Alcohol and the workplace

It is important that employers are aware that alcohol issues can impact on the performance and behaviour of employees in the workplace. In some operational areas, alcohol can be a Health and Safety risk and has to be managed.  This is especially important in safety critical areas of work.

Managing the risks

  • Organisations should develop a clear alcohol policy after consultation with all their stakeholders and Occupational Health.
  • Managers and supervisors should be trained on the implementation and operational processes of policies.
  • Employees and other stakeholders should also receive appropriate training so that there is a clear understanding of the policy.
  • Regular alcohol awareness campaigns are important to re-inforce messages about safe drinking.
  • It is helpful to have resources available in the workplace for employees to help with alcohol issues.
  • Occupational Health support for managers and employees to manage individual cases of alcohol concern are an important risk management measure.

Healthwork is able to manage all requirements for drug and alcohol services/testing.  Our occupational health nurses and doctors are fully trained and we can provide:

  • collection of samples
  • analysis of results
  • policy development
  • clinical and occupational health management of drug and alcohol cases in the workplace
  • training – for employees and managers
  • health promotional and wellbeing activities (e.g. mini alcohol related health checks, screenings and health promotion sessions)
occupational health physician work including medical review officer work

Healthwork Alert 46

Dyslexia Awareness Week:

In 2017, Dyslexia Awareness Week runs from 2nd October till 8th October, with the main theme of being 'Positive about Dyslexia'.

World Dyslexia Awareness Day is on 5th October 2017.

The main topics are relevant to managing dyslexia in the workplace including early identification, appropriate assessments, reasonable adjustments and raising dyslexia awareness.

Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty, which affects the way an individual processes information.   As a result, dyslexia hinders the acquisition of adequate literacy skills, such as reading, writing and spelling. Approximately, ten percent of the UK population have dyslexia. It is identified as a disability in the Equality Act 2010. Many sufferers cannot fulfil their potential as a large percentage of the population still do not understand what dyslexia is, the difficulties which the condition presents and do not know how best to support them. Dyslexia is not an obvious difficulty; it is hidden. So, people with dyslexia have to overcome numerous barriers to make a full contribution to society.

Healthwork Advice and Discussion:

Healthwork will support you in managing dyslexia in the workplace.

Employers have a legal obligation to ensure that disabled people are not treated unfavourably and are offered reasonable adjustments or support. Many people in the workplace have not been diagnosed with dyslexia. Some may even be unaware that they have dyslexic difficulties. Healthwork provides multiple services which can help employers identify and manage employees with dyslexia. Most importantly we can help educate managers and employees about the nature of dyslexia. Healthwork can organise assessments with Psychologists to diagnose dyslexia as well as Workplace Assessments. Occupational Health physicians and advisors can advise on practical adjustments and strategies to manage dyslexia taking into account workplace, medical, psychological and social factors. They can also advise on the applicability of the Equality Act 2010, possibility of other related cognitive issues such as dyspraxia and signposting to other relevant services which may be indicated. Healthwork also provide a number of services that may be indicated such as DSE assessments, counselling and training.
If you would like further details on how to access these services then please visit our website www.healthworkltd.com or alternatively contact us on
0161 831 9701.


Healthwork Alert 45 - Seasonal Flu Vaccinations 2017

Influenza, i.e. the flu, is a virus that can be found in humans. The viruses that cause this illness are highly adaptable and are able to change and adapt regularly to combat changes in medicines and vaccines. Therefore, unlike many diseases, vaccines are often brought out on an annual basis to combat the ‘flu’.
The virus itself is highly contagious and spread by droplets that are produced when a person coughs or sneezes. In most cases, where the infected individual was previously healthy, the illness tends to spontaneously recover within 1-2 weeks although individuals can be very unwell during the course of the infection.
The infection can be caught at work, with a resultant loss in workforce productivity secondary to increased sickness-absence within the workforce compounded by the high infectiveness of these viruses and the chance of onward transmission of the illness to fellow work colleagues.  Even in previously well individuals, the symptoms of the illness can be substantial with fever, headaches, widespread joint and muscle pain, and can be complicated by the development of further infections such as pneumonia.
In the workplace, individuals who work in more front-line roles dealing directly with other clients or members of the public are naturally at increased risk of catching these illnesses.

There are few contra-indications to the flu vaccine and certain groups are particularly encouraged to have the vaccine. These include people with:

  • Chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma(which requires an inhaled or tablet steroid treatment, or has led to hospital admission in the past), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease(COPD), emphysema or bronchitis 
  • Chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
  • Chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinsons disease, motor neurone disease or multiple sclerosis(MS)
  • Diabetes
  • A weakened immune system
  • Women who are pregnant
Only this week it has been widely reported that flu could put much more pressure than usual on GPs and hospitals this winter following the worst outbreak in many years in Australia and New Zealand.

Healthwork is able to provide a comprehensive range of immunisation services including providing vaccinations for seasonal influenza. Our trained nurses can provide these services either on-site or at our own premises for employees.

To book in flu vaccinations at our offices or to book in days for on-site Healthwork nurse visits please contact us on 0161 831 9701