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Occupational health management (OHM) is a tool that combines several areas and measures for preventive healthcare for employees at all levels and in companies of all sizes. In addition to individual approaches and campaigns for employee health, workplace health promotion and statutory occupational health and safety can be combined in the workplace. Through occupational health management, stressful or harmful work situations can be identified and minimised, while further strategies and health programmes can be developed for everyday working life. 

In the following guide, you can read about the advantages of occupational health and safety management, the legal principles that need to be observed, and the simple steps you can take to introduce OHM in your company.

The advantages of occupational health management

Complex work tasks, heavy physical work, and high work density often demand a lot from employees. The primary goal of occupational health management is therefore to maintain the physical and mental health – as well as the performance of all employees in the long term – and ideally to sustainably increase it. Thoroughly planned occupational health management that meets the needs of all employees also offers many other advantages for companies, including: 

  • Sick leave, absenteeism and personnel costs can be reduced in the long term
  • Motivation, health awareness and personal responsibility of employees can be strengthened
  • Productivity and quality of work can be improved through health promotion
  • Workplace health promotion programmes bind qualified personnel to the company for longer and create a competitive advantage (OHS)

Legal framework for occupational health management

In order to properly implement an occupational health and safety (OHS) management system in a company, various legal requirements must be met. The most important legal basis for occupational health management is the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, which covers most of the occupational health and safety legislation.

The following legal statutes also contain occupational health and safety requirements for employers and should be consulted when planning an OHM strategy:

LawRelevant information on occupational health management
Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005• Introduced to protect workers from exposure to noise which can lead to hearing loss and tinnitus
Ionising Radiation Regulations 2017• Formed to introduce a standard of safety and control measures to protect workers from the risks of radiation
Control Of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations• Introduced to help implement the safe dealing and disposal of substances that are potentially hazardous to health
Control Of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations• Introduced to help implement the safe dealing and disposal of substances that are potentially hazardous to health
Control of Lead at Work 2002• Requirements for the safe handling and exposure to lead

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act, employers have a legal obligation to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of employees at work, under the supervision and legal framework provided by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Successfully introducing occupational health management measures

In order to introduce an occupational health management system from which all employees can benefit, thorough planning is essential. The four steps below will introduce and demonstrate how to maintain effective occupational health management. 

1.    Analysis of the current state

To analyse the current state of health in the company, employees should be involved from the beginning. After all, it is their health that is at stake. Ideas and desires for future workplace health management can be collected in team meetings or personal discussions, for example. 

Surveying employees also provides another advantage. The subjective perception of employees can sometimes differ significantly from objective figures – such as the actual sickness rate. Other instruments for analysing the current state can also be used to plan occupational health management, including:

Evaluation of absenteeism• Recording absenteeism, including duration and frequency
Analysis of the age structure• Drawing up an overview of the age of the employees and the respective field of activity
Statistics on accidents at work• Define focus areas
Analyses of the health insurance funds• Identification of patterns and anomalies
Risk analysis• Review of legal requirements
• Define occupational safety measures
Workplace assessment• Identify stressful work areas
• Define ergonomic and safe working environment
Occupational health examination• Consultation with the company doctor
Employee survey on occupational health management• Questionnaires in compliance with data protection regulations, or personal interviews
Personal meetings between supervisors and employees• Personal meetings between supervisors and employees

2. Action planning

The results of the above analysis should be the starting point for concrete measures within the framework of OHM. This can result in the following health offers for employees, including: 

  • Free health checks for employees and managers
  • Fitness and sports courses in the workplace 
  • Courses on stress management and mindfulness
  • Back safety training
  • Seminars on health topics such as work-life balance, healthy sleep, etc.
  • Nutrition counselling
  • Stress management courses especially for managers
  • Addiction prevention programmes

It is also possible to plan which purchases need to be made to be able to carry out the OHM measures. For example, it may be necessary to set up a seminar room for health workshops, buy sports equipment such as yoga mats or fitness bands, or send out cooperation requests to fitness studios or personal trainers. 

Furthermore, an analysis can also show whether health promotion measures can or should be introduced. These could include:

  • Establishment of rest rooms
  • Introduction of flexitime or flexible working hours
  • Provision of drinks and fruit in the break rooms
  • Redesigning workplaces and work rooms according to ergonomic guidelines
  • Motivating design of work tasks 
  • Regular feedback meetings between managers and employees

Occupational health and safety management systems can be particularly sustainable if employees are actively involved. This is especially true if occupational health management reflects the ideas and desires of staff when the concept will generally be better accepted, and also more likely to be implemented in the long term.

3. Implementing measures in practice

In order to put the planned measures into practice, it is best to start with management. Introductory workshops on occupational health management, as well as advisory services or practical projects for each team manager can help team leaders introduce occupational health management to the employees, and to implement it in everyday work. 

For health promotion to function as planned in the long term, the concept should be firmly integrated into the daily work routine, for example, through weekly appointments or follow-up workshops.

4. Measuring success

In order to be able to track and evaluate the implemented steps in workplace health management, thorough documentation of participation in health offers is crucial. In addition, it is important that employees can regularly reflect on and give feedback on all workplace health management measures. Depending on the size of the company, digital or analogue employee surveys can be used as an instrument to record the experiences of the staff with the measures.

Using the parameters from the analysis in step 1, the effectiveness of the previous health measures can be evaluated and, if necessary, improved or replaced by other measures.  

Occupational health management in the home office

‘Home sweet home’ in the home office? On the contrary, even when working from home, employees are not protected from occupational health risks. Typical health risks often include lack of exercise, stress and the psychological strain caused by the lack of contact with colleagues. If there are also children to look after at the same time as working from home, this double burden also takes its toll on the physical and mental health of your employees. 

It is therefore important to establish OHS measures within the framework of company health management that are tailored to home office workers. For this purpose, external providers can be brought on board or additional offers can be developed in addition to an existing occupational health management system, including: 

  1. Flexible working hours

    Flexitime, early or late work are particularly beneficial for employees who have to look after children at home. But the rest of your staff can also benefit from a more relaxed working day with flexible working or attendance times. The best thing to do is to discuss with your employees how the working time arrangement can be designed so that it benefits all team members as much as possible. If such a regulation already exists in your company, you should check whether it can be adopted for the home office or whether it needs to be improved.

    Not all team members find it easy to organise work tasks and set deadlines. Not everyone is equally good at separating work and free time. As such, you should work out rules with your employees that enable a good, self-organised work structure at home – without constant stress and overtime.

  2. Provide ergonomic work equipment

    To avoid postural damage caused by sitting too long or incorrectly, care should be taken within the framework of workplace health management to ensure that employees also have ergonomic chairs, tables and other work equipment at their disposal in the home office.

    Where possible, employers should provide ergonomic furniture, technical aids, and other equipment if the home office has been firmly agreed in the employment contract or another agreement (if employees cannot or do not want to provide the equipment themselves). In this case, a risk assessment must also be carried out on site.

    If you only want to offer home office work as an option in addition to a workplace in the company, you can also make it a requirement that the employees who want to use this option must have the appropriate equipment at home. Training can help to explain the correct orientation of screens and other work equipment.

  3. Expand or promote sports activities

    If sedentary work is already a risk to employees’ health in the workplace, the risk of posture problems, obesity or cardiovascular diseases is increased considerably by sitting too long in the home office.

    In occupational health management, it is crucial to pay special attention to sport or exercise offerings. With digital sports courses, subsidised memberships in fitness studios or regularly held face-to-face courses, workplace health management can be very effective through sports.

  4. Promote contact with colleagues

    Some employees working from home find the lack of social contact with their colleagues hard to cope with. Depression, loss of motivation or boredom can be the result. Sometimes employees without regular team contact even question their sense of purpose and tend to change employers more often.

    It is therefore important for team cohesion and the mental health of your employees that all possibilities are exhausted within the framework of occupational health management to promote contact between employees with suitable means. This could be regular, digital team events, feedback discussions or a digital coffee break. Joint sports courses or the establishment of a company sports team can also counteract feelings of isolation in the home office.

    In addition, psychological counselling or personal coaching can also be useful – especially if there is a permanent lack of regular contact with colleagues.

FAQ for occupational health management

What is occupational health management?

Occupational health management is an instrument that combines several areas and measures of preventive health care for employees of all levels and in companies of all sizes. In addition to individual approaches and campaigns for employee health, workplace health promotion and statutory occupational health and safety can be combined in the workplace.

Is occupational health management mandatory?

No, there is no obligation for companies to introduce occupational health management in the workplace. However, there may be some integration or cross over with long-term sick issues and other statutory occupational health and safety requirements.

Why is it worthwhile to introduce occupational health management?

There are many benefits of introducing occupational health management to the workplace. The performance of all employees can be maintained and even increased in the long term. Costs arising from a high level of sick leave, absenteeism or accidents at work can also be greatly reduced. Health-promoting measures can also have a positive effect on job satisfaction, which can lead to an improvement in performance.

What measures are included in workplace health promotion?

The primary task of workplace health promotion is to protect and promote the physical and mental health of all employees in their everyday working lives. Measures such as stress management, sports and fitness courses or addiction prevention programmes can be part of these measures.

Please note: The regulations mentioned above represent only a selection of the most important legal requirements. Please refer to the listed organisations and directives for more detailed information. If in any doubt, consult experts or contact the relevant regulatory authorities.

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andresr, skynesher