The Role of the Occupational Health Advisor (OHA)

Occupational health advisors work in a variety of settings mainly industry, health services, commerce, and education. They can be employed as independent practitioners or as part of a larger occupational health service team, often attached to a HR department. OHA’s are considered to be leaders in public health in the workplace setting. The OHA role includes:
The prevention of health problems, promotion of healthy living and working conditions
Specialist knowledge the effects of work on health and health at work
Absence management
Health surveillance
Workforce and workplace monitoring and health need assessment
Health and Wellbeing
Education and training
Risk assessment and risk management
OHAs are qualified Registered Nurses who have undertaken further education at diploma and degree level to become registered by the nursing and midwifery counsel as specialist practitioners within the field of work and health.
The role is advisory or consultancy for the business to use in support of employee health and wellbeing.
This incorporates the Health part of the Health and Safety at Work regulations. The Safety Manager and the Health Manager are similar in that they both use the same principles of risk assessment to each issue that arises in the workplace. The only difference with the health manager is a clinical nursing background that is required to promote or reduce ill health at work. It is mainly used for preventing ill health in the workplace by provision of health surveillance and supporting employees who have been sick, back into work. All work is evidence based providing a rational for best practice.
Qualified OHAs are specialist health managers. As with all management careers they progress from a nursing background to management consultants. A qualified and experienced OHA needs to have the ability to understand business need, along with employment law. OH services work closely with HR to promote health and wellbeing.  OH law is little understood but is necessary in an advisory role to the HR function. It is fundamental to the business that holds accountability for all employees.
To summarize; –
The OH role is an advisory and consultant role to the business. Most businesses need to understand Occupational Health in terms of this specialty. There is often a miss-understanding that OH is a nurse in terms of a replication of the NHS. This is not true and the OHA cannot influence the NHS in its activity. The OHA is not a duplication of the community health teams.

A business that employs OHA or OHP should expect the most professional and up-to-date evidence based advice as is available via legislation or by best practice. It is the business that needs to be advised and supported to affect the health of its employees.