Occupational Health News & Alerts - Archived News - 2016


Nearly half of employees with mental health issues have felt suicidal at work

Nearly half of employees with mental health issues have felt suicidal at work:

A new study carried out by the Mental Health Foundation, Oxford Economics and Unum, has established that nearly half (49%) of all employees who have experienced mental health issues in the last five years have attended work whilst experiencing suicidal thoughts.

This research also found that 4 in 10 (39%) of line managers who had no history of mental health issues had reported feeling distress at work.  A further 5% of line managers who had no history of mental health issues said they had gone to work whilst having suicidal thoughts/feelings.

In the past 5 years 45% of people researched who had experienced mental health issues had not disclosed this to their employer.  There were 3 areas identified in the study these being, a fear of being discriminated by their colleagues, embarrassment of their medical condition or the feeling that it is none of their employers business.

However, 34% of people researched who had been diagnosed with a mental health issue in the past 5 years who had declared their condition to their employer felt well supported by their line managers although only 10% of line mangers actually felt they had sufficient training to deal with mental health issues in the workplace according to those surveyed for the report, Added Value: Mental Health as a workplace asset.

Healthwork Advice and Discussion:

Employers across all sectors are becoming increasingly sensitive to mental health issues in the workplace. When an employee divulges mental health problems the employer can refer for occupational health advice on fitness for work and appropriate support measures. When the issue is “silent”, and as suggested by the above and similar surveys there is a sizeable proportion of employees with undeclared mental health problems, then how is the employer to carry out its duty of care and properly support its employees?

This is a topical and challenging dilemma for all employers.

Healthwork has recognised the need for employers to receive training in mental health awareness and has responded accordingly. We run courses for line managers that give them the skills and confidence to detect and support employees with mental health problems, including those that may be expressing ideas about self-harm. We assist employers in promoting mental health awareness campaigns to encourage reporting of psychological problems, and through education to dispel the stigma attached to mental health illness.

Additionally, our occupational health services are bolstered by provisions for early intervention counselling treatment and psychiatric assessments where required.

If you would like further details on how Healthwork could assist you in this area, visit our website www.healthworkltd.com or alternatively contact us on 0161 831 9701.


Bridge refurbishment led to molten metal burn to Fabricator

Bridge refurbishment led to molten metal burn to Fabricator:

As a business some of your employees may be subject at times to working with hazardous substances or sensitisers.

It is the responsibility of you as the employer to make sure you manage any risk and that adequate control measures are identified to protect your employees from injury in the workplace. Wherever there are risks to health and safety that cannot be adequately controlled by other methods then PPE should be supplied.  This should always be used as a last resort once other control measures have been implemented, to control the risk of injury to an employee.

A recent Safety Bulletin issued by Network Rail to all safety professionals and RISQS registered contractors who work within the rail infrastructure gives details of an incident which took place on the 25th August 2016 where a contractor was burning out sheared bolts on a bridge structure.

Unknowingly, molten metal had burnt through the palm of the employees leather gauntlet causing them to suffer minor burns to their forearm and wrist.  The leather gauntlet worn was the Warrior Red Split Leather Welding Gauntlets (0111WRSC).

Early investigations suggest these gauntlets may be an inferior import version.  The company has since removed and replaced them with the Weldas Comfoflex (10-2087) whist they investigate this issue further.

Healthwork Advice and Discussion:

Certain job roles like the one identified above require the individual to use PPE if this is necessary and appropriate if health hazards still exist after implementing other control measures.  However, it is the responsibility of the employer to make sure any PPE used is maintained and fit for purpose.

As an employer you should always choose good quality products which are CE marked in accordance with the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002 and choose equipment that suits the individual wearer.

PPE comes in many forms, examples being, eye protection, face masks, breathing apparatus and respirators to ear plugs and ear defenders.

Where employees may be exposed to substances hazardous to health, Healthwork can help setup, carry out, or review a health surveillance programmes, ensuring employees are protected and ensuring that businesses have met the requirements of the control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations.

An adequate health surveillance programme can help businesses monitor the effectiveness of control measures and help identify any issues early that may be arising.

If you would like further details on how Healthwork could assist you in this area, visit our website www.healthworkltd.com or alternatively contact us on 0161 831 9701.


Long-term pay protection can be a reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act for disabled employees

Long-term pay protection can be a reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act for disabled employees:

According to an article published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) a recent Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) decision between G4S Cash Solutions (UK) Limited v Powell highlights the responsibility that an employer's duty to make reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010 may extend to maintaining the salary for a disabled employee who has been redeployed to a lesser skilled role.  However, what is reasonable depends on the circumstances of each case.

Under section 20 of the Equality Act, an employer is required to make reasonable adjustments where it knows or ought reasonably to know that a person has a disability and a provision, criterion or practice places that person at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with non-disabled people.

Powell worked for G4S Cash Solutions UK Limited (G4S) as a Single-line Maintenance Engineer. He had ongoing back problems and it was accepted by 2012 that he had a disability. Around the same time in 2012, G4S produced a new role of "Key Runner" to support its engineers. Powell began working as a Key Runner on his same salary as before, although his new role did not require the same level of engineering skills and training.  After 12 months, G4S informed him that he could continue in his role as a Key Runner but on a reduced rate of pay (a reduction of around 10 per cent), accept a suitable alternative position or face dismissal on medical grounds.  Powell refused to accept the lower rate of pay and was dismissed from his employment in October 2013.

The EAT found that continuing to employ Powell as a Key Runner on a permanent basis and at his previous salary was a reasonable adjustment that G4S was required to make. The difference in salary was around £2,480 a year. Taking into account Powell's age, he was likely to be employed for a further 15 years. The total cost of the adjustment, around £37,000, is relatively small in the long-term. The tribunal noted that G4S had "very substantial resources" and that the additional annual cost would have been "easily affordable".

On appeal, the EAT confirmed that pay protection "may be a reasonable adjustment for an employer to have to make as part of a package of reasonable adjustments to get an employee back to work or keep an employee in work".  It found the following:

• Many forms of reasonable adjustment (for example, providing training and support) involve a cost to the employer. There is no reason in principle to rule out pay protection as a possible    adjustment that employers could be required to make.

• Pay protection is to be considered in the context of a package of reasonable adjustments. Following the reasoning in Meikle v Nottinghamshire County Council, the objective of the legislation is not to treat disabled persons as objects of charity but "to require modifications which will enable them to play a full part in the world of work".  Protecting Powell’s pay was reasonable in the context of the change in his role, distinguishing it from the enhanced sick pay in question in the Meikle case.

• This case involved a single claim turning on its own facts, and was not a claim that inevitably applied to many others.

• Requiring employers to make up an employee's pay over the long-term would not be an "everyday event". The question will always be what is reasonable in the circumstances of the case.

• A change in circumstances may mean that a reasonable adjustment stops being reasonable - for example, if the need for a job disappears or the economic circumstances of the business change.

Healthwork Advice and Discussion:

As an Occupational Health provider, our clinicians can help in identifying those employees who may be classed as disabled and provide clear and actionable advice to employers to be able to manage cases where medial redeployment may be considered as an adjustment in getting an employee back to work or keeping them in work.

This EAT decision explains that there may be occasions where maintaining the salary of a disabled employee who has been redeployed to a less skilled role can form part of a package of reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010.

Therefore, employers cannot rule out pay-related adjustments when assessing their responsibilities however, what is reasonable depends on the circumstances of each case taking into account all relevant factors, including those set out in the Statutory Code of Practice on Employment, such as the cost of making the adjustments, its effectiveness and the employer’s financial or other resources.


Being out in the sun can be good for you, but here’s what your staff need to know!

Being out in the sun can be good for you, but here’s what your staff need to know!:

As many of your staff may work outdoors, or travel for long periods in the sunshine, and the summer sun is now lurking behind the clouds, have you considered if they are applying their sunscreen correctly? Unprotected exposure to the sun can cause much publicised immediate and long-term health problems so it is important employees receive appropriate advice to stay well while basking in the sunshine.

Sunscreen needs to be applied half an hour before they go out and as soon as they are exposed to the sun if they’re going to be out long enough to risk being burnt.

The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) released new guidelines on the risks and benefits of exposure to sunlight.

The guidelines state sunscreen should be “reapplied liberally, frequently and according to the manufacturer’s instructions”. Sunscreen needs to be reapplied after being in the water even if the sunscreen claims to be water-resistant.  They also need to reapply after towel-drying or sweating as it is likely that the sunscreen will not sufficiently be able to offer protection against the suns UV rays.

Anybody planning to be out in the sun long enough to risk burning, needs to be applying sunscreen twice to exposed areas of skin, both half an hour before and again at the time they go out and are exposed to the sun. This includes the face, neck and ears along with a wide-brimmed hat.

Healthwork Advice and Discussion:

The advice issued by NICE should also be taken into consideration not just for those staff members travelling abroad but also for employees whose job roles are based outdoors, such as Construction workers or Gardeners for example. The same risk applies to staff who drive in the sun for prolonged periods.  As an employer you should provide your staff with sun protection advice whilst encouraging your staff to keep covered up during the summer months especially at lunch time when the sun is at its hottest.

We all need exposure to sunlight to make Vitamin D, but getting too much sun increases the risk of developing skin cancer.

If enough sunscreen is not applied, individuals are only receiving a fraction of the SPF advertised on the bottle.  The recommended average amount required to cover an adult and achieve the required SPF is 35 ml or 6 to 8 teaspoons of lotion.

NICE state that even on a cool or cloudy day, it is still possible for somebody to get sunburnt around midday in the summer months and that a common misconception that a “base tan” can protect you from harm is untrue as the skin damage resulting from any tan outweighs the slight protective effect. 

A suntan is a sign that the skin has already been damaged by too much sun exposure and by continuing to expose the skin to UV rays for a deeper tan will only continue to damage the skin further.

NICE also advises that it is not possible to obtain enough Vitamin D from sunlight in the UK between the months of October and March therefore, promoting the importance to staff, of maintaining their Vitamin D intake can decrease the chances of developing heart disease according to the 2008 findings published in Circulation along with the likelihood of developing the flu and regulating individuals moods and warding off depression. 

One natural way to obtain further Vitamin D is through increasing certain foods within our diet such as fatty fish like tuna or salmon as well as foods fortified with Vitamin D like that which is found in most cereals.

If you would like more information regarding our Health Education or any of our Health Promotion & Wellbeing programmes visit our website www.healthworkltd.com or alternatively contact us on 0161 831 9701.


Tackling mental health illness in the workplace

Tackling mental health illness in the workplace:

According to a new report on the mental health of employees from Business in the Community, February 2016, only a third of employees would admit to stress, anxiety or depression as the genuine reason for taking time off work, despite mental health issues being the leading cause of absenteeism and presenteeism in the workplace.

• More than one in five (21 per cent) agreed that they had called in sick to avoid work when asked how workplace stress had affected them
• 14 per cent agreed that they had resigned and 42 per cent had considered resigning when asked how workplace stress had affected them
• 30 per cent of staff disagreed with the statement ‘I would feel able to talk openly with my line manager if I was feeling stressed’
• 56 per cent of employers said they would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing but don't feel they have the right training or guidance
• 70 million days of work are lost each year across the UK due to workers suffering from stress, depression and other mental health issues

Healthwork Advice and Discussion:

We understand that it can be difficult for employers and managers to identify when an employee is experiencing common mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and feelings associated with stress, bereavement and loss. We understand that it can be even harder to know how to support that person.  In responding to this need, at Healthwork we have developed our established counselling service into a counselling and wellbeing service.  In addition to 1:1 counselling we want to ensure that managers and staff are provided with support to promote wellbeing.

Healthwork have a number of counselling and wellbeing packages which we now offer and examples of these include:

• Group work (including promoting self-help groups) A distinct advantage to this type of intervention is that it helps to shift the focus away from individuals to incorporate interpersonal and group processes and set the scene for exploring wider social and organisational concerns
• Training (for staff and/or managers) Stress and mental health training promoting workplace well-being involves developing knowledge and skills in relation to the various problems that are likely to arise
• Preventive support We can now offer preventative support such as a Wellbeing check in, supervision and consultative support
If you would like further details on any of the above products 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


Workplace Health Promotion

Workplace Health Promotion:

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued a statement emphasising the importance of health promotion in the workplace and has recognised the workplace as one of the priority settings for health promotion in the 21st century.  The WHO advises that the workplace directly influences the physical, mental, economic and social wellbeing of workers and the health of their families.

The WHO advises that the concept of the health promoting workplace (HPW) is increasingly becoming important as both public and private sector organisations have identified that future success can only be achieved with a healthy and motivated workforce.  A HPW can ensure a dynamic and flexible balance is met between customer expectations and organisational targets on one side and employee skills and health needs on the other, assisting businesses to compete in the marketplace.  The World Health Organization advises that the development of health promoting workplaces will be a pre-requisite for sustainable social and economic development.

Healthwork Advice and Discussion:

Health promotion and well-being initiatives are designed to improve general employee health leading to a healthier and happier workforce.  Promoting good health and preventing ill health is one of the cornerstones of good workplace health.

Healthwork believes in the importance of emphasising health promotion in the workplace and have successfully been involved with a number of campaigns and initiatives.  We have worked with employers and local health trusts to develop and run health promotion programmes.

Healthwork have a number of health promotion packages which we offer and examples of these include:

• Healthy eating campaigns
• Healthy hearts campaign
• Protect your back
• Stop smoking initiatives
• Men’s health campaign
• Promoting physical activity
• Promoting psychological wellbeing

If you would like further details on any of the health promotion 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


Healthwork Harley Street Clinic (Central London) opens


Healthwork are pleased to announce that we have added a further major office location to our existing portfolio of offices.    

The new office is situated in central London on the prestigious Harley Street, and adds to our portfolio of major offices in Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Perivale (North London).  These new offices have full professional clinical facilities, and we are now running regular clinics from these offices.


Occupational Health Medicals

Occupational Health Medicals:

Specific medicals are often a requirement for certain industry sectors.  HSE legislation stipulates that all employees working with asbestos, vibrating tools, lead, ionising radiation or commercial divers are required to undertake a statutory medical. 

Specific medicals are also required for individuals who work in hazardous areas or environments such as off-shore workers, railway trackside workers, climber’s medicals, confined spaces medicals, drivers medicals, working at heights medicals, seafarers, and other medicals required for work overseas. 

The medical screening process will contain various elements such as:

• A Health Questionnaire
• Height, Weight and Body Mass Index (BMI)
• Blood Pressure and pulse check (sometimes an ECG is required)
• Urine test
• Vision Assessment
• Lung Function / Spirometry
• Cholesterol Screen
• Hearing Test / Audiometry
• Skin Assessment
• Physical assessment sometimes with a VO2 test needed such as Chester Step test

Executive Medicals are also offered by some employers, as a benefit for their staff and these often include all of the above tests with the additions of:

• Stress information
• Lifestyle Analysis and Report
• Blood testing
• Medical Consultation (Occupational Health Physician)

Healthwork Advice and Discussion:

Healthwork have a number of physicians who are appointed to carry out HSE approved medicals and have experience in carrying out assessments in all of these areas as well as undertaking medicals which are required for specific work hazards and environments such as railway trackside workers and off-shore workers including the new bi-deltoid measuring service which is compulsory for any workers travelling off-shore via helicopter. 

We can also perform Executive Medicals and have a range of equipment at our disposal including assessments where ECG’s are required and Healthwork now have a Cardiologist who can interpret any abnormal ECG results.

Healthwork also carry out bespoke medicals which can be tailored to you or your company’s individual needs and we offer these services from our Manchester, Leeds and London clinics.


Rapid Access Psychiatric Service - Healthwork (RAPS)

There are lengthy waiting times and difficulties in accessing psychiatric services in the UK.  The key issues encountered are :-.

  • Huge delays faced by patients in obtaining psychiatric appointments via the NHS
  • The anguish caused to distressed patients and additional delays in diagnosis and treatment
  • Unnecessarily prolonged work disability
In a recent article published by Healthwatch England (the national consumer champion for health), lengthy waiting times and a lack of understanding were the key concerns and frustrations for British adults in relation to accessing mental health support within the NHS.  This has replaced the difficulty of getting a GP appointment as the public's main frustration according to the research published by Healthwatch.

Access to psychiatric services was raised as a priority by 77 of Healthwatch's 152 local branches now making it the number one concern for the public in 2016.

To address this, Healthwork has set up an Occupational Health Rapid Access Psychiatry Service (RAPS).  Healthwork's direct referral service to a Consultant Psychiatrist for diagnosis and advice on treatment, leads to vastly improved outcomes for employees and employers alike.