In 1950 the Joint ILO (International Labour Organisation) / WHO (World Health Organisation) issued the first definition of occupational health, which was updated in 1995 to these three objectives:
1. The maintenance and promotion of workers’ health and working capacity.
2. The improvement of working environment and work to become conducive to health and safety.
3. The development of work organisation and working cultures in a direction that supports health and safety at work and in doing so promotes a positive social climate and smooth operation and may enhance the productivity of the undertaking.
The most accepted definition of ‘health’ is from the World Health Organisation, which defines health as ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’.
Occupational health has been and is promoted on all levels; the international perspective is supported by the WHO/ILO. In turn, OH has been, and is, supported at a national level by all UK governments to a greater or lesser extent; although to date there is no legal requirement for employers or employees to have access to OH it is strongly recommended in much of the guidance issued from government departments.
If employers want ‘maximum output for minimum outlay’ then they need to appreciate the financial benefits of considering the health and wellbeing of employees, particularly the occupational health or the ill health that is caused or made worse by work.