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What is Occupational Health?

Occupational Health is the promotion and maintenance of the highest degree of physical, mental and social well-being of workers in all occupations by preventing departures from health, controlling risks and the adaptation of work to people, and people to their jobs. 
(ILO / WHO 1950)


Definitions and functions:- 

The ILO Convention on Occupational Health Services (No. 161) and the ILO Recommendations on Occupational Health Services (No. 171) were adopted in 1985. In the Convention the following definition was given:- "The term 'occupational health services' means services entrusted with essentially preventive functions and responsible for advising the employer, the workers and their representatives in the undertaking, on.. 

    the requirements for establishing and maintaining a safe and healthy working environment which will facilitate optimal physical and mental health in relation to work 

    the adaptation of work to the capabilities of workers in the light of their state of physical and mental health".

The above definition alone is not enough to describe the range of activities carried out by Occupational Health Services. There are a number of functions listed in the Convention, and these are summarised hereunder:- 
    • Identification and assessment of the risks from health hazards in the workplace. This involves surveillance of the factors in the working environment and working practices which may affect workers' health. It also requires a systematic approach to the analysis of occupational "accidents", and occupational diseases. 
    • Advising on planning and organisation of work and working practices, including the design of work-places, and on the evaluation, choice and maintenance of equipment and on substances used at work. In so doing, the adaptation of work to the worker is promoted. 

    • Providing advice, information, training and education, on occupational health, safety and hygiene and on ergonomics and protective equipment. 
    • Contributing to occupational rehabilitation and maintaining in employment people of working age, or assisting in the return to employment of those who are unemployed for reasons of ill health or disability. 
    • Organising first aid and emergency treatment.
Note: The above is quoted, paraphrased, or simplified from the ILO