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The influence of Health on Work

Fitness for work

Generally speaking there are two important considerations: the functional capacity to do the work in question, and secondly the 'safety' or rather than risk involved (to the worker and to others) in undertaking the work. 

In either case a detailed knowledge of the work, and its requirements and risks is as essential as an assessment of the worker. 

Thus consider the following aspects in relation to fitness for work:- 

  1. The worker's condition may reduce the capacity to perform work 

  2. e.g. impaired exercise tolerance in cardiac or respiratory diseases. 
  3. The worker's health may be adversely affected by work 

  4. e.g. some musculoskeletal problems, occupational asthma. 
  5. The health problem may carry an excess risk to the worker in the context of his work

  6. e.g. if liable to epileptic fits and working on heights or operating dangerous machinery. 
  7. The health condition might pose a risk to workmates or the community 

  8. e.g. if reduced ability to drive safely, risk of infecting food or patients.

However, issues of fitness for work should be approached in an 'enabling'  frame of mind, making every reasonable effort to accomodate people with different degrees of physical or mental abilities. (Refer to guidance on disability discrimination

Rules governing medical standards of 'fitness'


e.g. for drivers of heavy goods vehicles (HGV) or public service vehicles (PSV) there are medical fitness criteria published by the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) in Britain, and for vocational diving (e.g. off oil rigs in the North Sea) the fitness criteria are explicitly laid down by law. 


e.g. employment of health care workers who are hepatitis B positive 

Sickness absence

Important questions regarding sickness absence that you should help answer may include: 
  • likely duration of absence, 
  • residual disability; 
  • implications for future work performance, attendance and safety; 
  • need for workplace improvements, 
  • rehabilitation and/or redeployment; 
  • possible occupational aetiology.

Rehabilitation and employment of the disabled

Sadly few workplaces employ their legal quota of registered disabled and do enough to rehabilitate ill or disabled employee safely and effectively. 

What ways and means can you think of to bring about occupational rehabilitation? 

There are some suggestions on a separate page.