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Policy on Occupational Health

1) Policy Reference
This policy document refers to the following aims and objectives outlined in the Council’s general statement of Health & Safety Policy The responsibility to ensure so far as is reasonably practicable that working conditions and all work activities and workplace locations are free from avoidable risks to health. The commitment to appropriate health surveillance and health promotion.
2) Policy Statement
Occupational Health relates to the effects that the working environment may have on the health of an employee. It also takes account of the influence that an employee’s health may have on their ability to carry out their work. The Highland Council recognises the benefits of good health and will endeavour to promote and maintain the highest degree of physical, mental and social well being of its employees. The following Occupational Health Strategy has been formulated to assist in meeting this policy statement.
4) Management referrals to occupational health
Managers may refer individuals to occupational health for advice on a range of problems or difficulties which are or may be affecting an individual’s ability to work effectively and/or efficiently.
Reasons for referral
The range of problems which may lead to a referral includes:
* actual or suspected adverse health affects to an individual from work
* long-term or frequent sickness absence (see also the policy statement on management of sickness absence)
* fitness for work following illness or injury * deteriorating work performance/conduct associated with health problems
* work placement advice under the Disability Discrimination Act
* where the work itself or the working environment changes significantly
This list is not exhaustive; it is intended as a guide.

The reason for referral for an Occupational Health opinion should be discussed with the individual concerned first, and the Link Human Resources Manager should also be consulted. Advice may also be sought from Occupational Health before making the referral, by telephone if preferred.
A referral must be in writing or by e-mail and the pro forma below may be used if wished. Managers should be aware that individuals have the right to see files about themselves so it is important to ensure that any referral information is factual. It is preferable not to name third parties in such referrals.
It is important to be clear in the referral request document why the referral is being made and what advice is being sought from Occupational Health.

Occupational Health Procedure
The usual procedure is for the individual to be contacted and invited to attend the Occupational Health Department for an initial assessment. Decisions are usually made at that stage whether additional medical information is required from the individual’s GP or consultant. This is likely to take a minimum of four weeks to obtain, and managers should be aware that the individual has the right to see any such report about him/herself before it is sent. It is necessary for an individual to give written consent for such a report to be requested. The consent is requested by Occupational Health. Should it be refused or given and later withdrawn, the individual will be informed that any management decisions about him/her will be made without the benefit of medical advice. It is very rare for this to happen.
The purpose of the Occupational Health consultation is to gather as much factual information about the situation as possible (this may require a workplace visit), to advise the individual of the outcome, and to report to the referring manager as soon as possible. This report is written and usually e-mailed to the referring manager. The e-mail is usually copied to the individual concerned and the relevant Human Resources Manager. If further appointments are considered appropriate they will be arranged with the individual directly and the manager informed in the report. Medical details are not discussed in such reports; they concentrate on the practical aspects to enable the manager to manage the situation/individual.

Case ConferencesIt
can be useful (and often timesaving) for the manager(s) involved to meet with Occupational Health and Human Resources (not the individual concerned) to discuss a management referral. This can be arranged with either Occupational Health or Human Resources.
5) Noise
This Health and Safety Notice should be read and understood by all employees and students of Oxford Brookes University who work or study in environments where noise levels could expose staff and students to a risk of hearing damage. Where appropriate, it must also be brought to the attention of contractor's staff or visitors working at the University.
Noise assessments
A noise assessment will identify the daily noise exposure of anyone who may be at risk of hearing damage and will provide information that can be used to implement control measures. A competent person must carry out noise assessments by using appropriate monitoring equipment and advice can be sought from the Health and Safety Team. Members of staff from the Health and Safety Team are trained and have the appropriate equipment to carry out such assessments. As a rough guide, noise is likely to be hazardous at levels where noise is intrusive but normal conversation is possible, such an environment may be in a crowded restaurant. Where there is any doubt, arrangements should be made for measurements of the noise to be taken.The noise assessment will identify who is at risk at or above the various action levels (paragraph 2.1) and what appropriate control measures (paragraph 4) should be implemented to reduce noise exposure and if required set up ear protection zones (paragraph 5). The noise assessments will need to be kept up to date. Assessments will need to be reviewed whenever there are significant changes in the work or the equipment used, or any other reason to suppose it is no longer valid.The competent person (as defined above) must keep records of the assessments made. Copies of these records together with recommendations will be sent to the Dean of School / Director of Directorate and line manager of the area assessed.
Reduction of noise exposure
* Irrespective of action levels the University is required to reduce the risk of damage to hearing of its staff and students from exposure to noise to the lowest level reasonably practicable. There are many ways of reducing workplace noise levels and no single technique will be suitable for every situation. These are discussed in order of priority below.
* Design of workplace. When considering a new workplace, noise emissions and noise exposure can be limited by careful choice of design, layout and the construction materials used for the building. For example, the appropriate use of absorption materials within the building can reduce or limit the effects of reflected sound.
* Elimination of noisy equipment or processes. Generally, this will not be possible, as the activities creating the noise will need to continue. However, if activities cease or change in the area concerned, the equipment may become obsolete and may then be taken out of use.Substitution of equipment or processes. Changes in technology can alter the machine or process resulting in lower noise exposure to those in the area.Engineering controls. Equipment may be fitted with buffers, rubber mountings, cushioning, silencers, and etc. to reduce the noise emitted. Different machines in the area may need to be used at different times to reduce the overall noise levels. Isolation and enclosure of machinery from its surroundings will reduce the level of noise an individual is exposed to. For example, screens and barriers can be erected around the machinery. Maintenance of equipment can be very effective in limiting noise emission. Machines deteriorate with age and use and maintenance can, if carried out regularly, limit the increased noise emissions due to wear. Noise refuges. An office area can be created within a workshop by erecting an acoustically designed enclosure to separate the noisy machinery or processes from those based permanently in the area. If possible, the distance between the noise source and the person should be increased to reduce the level of noise received. Information and training on noise control. This is discussed in paragraph 5. Ear protection must always be considered as the last control measure to be used. All areas where the noise levels exceed 80dB(A) but are not above 85dB(A), suitable hearing protection must be provided and all occupants must be encouraged to wear it. In all areas where the noise levels exceed 85dB(A) or a peak sound pressure of 137 dB(C) the occupants must be provided with and must wear suitable hearing protection. Suitable hearing protection will limit daily noise exposure to no more than 87 dB(A) when hearing protection is worn. The areas concerned must be designated as an ear protection zone by means of recognised warning notices. No one must be permitted to enter an ear protection zone without wearing the necessary hearing protection. This is discussed in detail in OBUHSN-21
Ear protection zones
The noise produced by work or study activities being undertaken in some areas of the University may create a significant risk of hearing damage to anyone within that area. In these circumstances the Dean of School / Director of Directorate or their nominee will designate the area as an ear protection zone. Workplaces designated, as ear protection zones must be marked by the use of the appropriate safety signs. Admission to the area must be restricted to those persons wearing approved hearing protection.
In ear protection zones, all personnel must wear the hearing protection provided or required. University employees who regularly work in noise protection zones will be issued with appropriate personal hearing protection. Personnel visiting noise protection areas will be loaned suitable hearing protection for the duration of their visit. Appropriate safety signs must be posted at the entrance to those areas and a stock of hearing protectors must be kept by the member of staff in charge of the area for issue to students or visitors.
Where operations requiring hearing protection are being carried out on a temporary or intermittent basis, temporary ear protection zones will be designated and appropriate signs displayed for the period of the work.
Health surveillance
Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations members of staff working in areas identified by the noise assessments as being potentially damaging to hearing must receive health surveillance by means of audiometry. Deans of Schools / Directors of Directorates must identify such members of staff to Occupational Health and must allow them time away from work to attend for this purpose.
Information and training for staff
Information and training must be provided for staff working in noisy areas and should include details on noise levels and the damage to their hearing exposure to that noise could cause, what steps staff can take to minimise the risk, how to obtain ear defenders and the requirement for health surveillance. A noise awareness-training seminar can be arranged by contacting a member of the Health and Safety Team.
Respiratory policy
This health and safety notice must be read and understood by all employees of Oxford Brookes University likely to be involved in work activities that bring them into contact with processes, products or substances that may have a damaging effect on their breathing. Where applicable, it should also be read by all members of the student body.
This policy is written to demonstrate that Oxford Brookes University has an effective health surveillance programme for any members of staff who are identified as being exposed to known hazardous substances during their work activities and early recognition of cases where previously unsuspected causative agents are being used.
Adequate health surveillance is a requirement under the Control of Substances Hazardous to health Regulations (COSHH) and Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSW). Health surveillance involves monitoring staff by implementing systematic, regular and appropriate procedures to detect early signs of work-related ill health among those exposed to particular health risks.
The University recognises its responsibility to safeguard the safety health and welfare of its staff and students. This requires it to take all practicable measures to ensure that the conditions of work do not cause, exacerbate or contribute to damage to the lungs or via the lungs to damage of the internal organs of the body.
Occupational asthma
Occupational asthma is an occupational health problem that can result in severe asthma attacks and chronic disability. The disease is characterised by attacks of breathlessness, wheezing and coughing. These symptoms are often accompanied by conjunctivitis (itchy, inflamed eyes) and rhinitis (blocked or runny nose).
Occupational asthma is caused by an allergic reaction to a specific substance inhaled by the individual at work. The risk of developing occupational asthma varies from one substance to another and there is no clear pattern of exposure leading to the disease although the greater the exposure to a substance, the greater the likelihood of developing occupational asthma. The time taken for symptoms to develop varies between individuals, but in many cases symptoms develop within a few months of first exposure. Once occupational asthma due to a particular agent has developed, subsequent exposure to very low concentrations of the substance can provoke an asthmatic attack.
Deans' and directors' responsibilities
All Deans of School/Directors of Directorates must ensure that an adequate workplace COSHH assessment or risk assessment is carried out to identify the presence of substances known to cause asthma and other health problems. This responsibility may be delegated to line managers competent in performing such assessments. Anyone exposed to such substances should be referred to Occupational Health for the appropriate form of health surveillance. Advice regarding risk assessments may be sought from the health and Safety Division or from OBUHSN-19.
Staff responsibilities
It is the responsibility of all staff working with products or processes identified as potentially damaging to the lungs to co-operate with the University in relation to this health and safety notice. In particular this will include adherence to the agreed working practices, reporting any problems that arise from the working practices and correct use and care of personal protective equipment/respiratory protective equipment PPE/RPE provided. Detailed information on PPE is given in OBUHSN-21
It is the responsibility of any member of staff who is supervising a student working with products or processes identified as potentially damaging to the lungs to adequately induct the student in the safe working practice and use of PPE/RPE provided.
Health surveillance
Health surveillance is considered appropriate when exposure to a substance hazardous to health is known to have the potential to cause an identifiable disease and that there is a reasonable and valid method of detection available. An occupational health nurse or, where indicated, an occupational health physician will carry out the health surveillance.
The precise form of health surveillance required will depend on the circumstances of exposure and the measures put in place within the working environment to minimise the effects following the risk assessment. In most instances the health surveillance will take the form of the following:
A pre-employment or pre-placement medical will be carried out for any individual in a work environment with known hazardous substances. This will involve taking history on known allergies, smoking habit, previous occupational history and any previous chest problems, Appendix 1. Base-line lung function and peak flow readings will be taken. The individual will be provided with information about potential symptoms and to report to Occupational Health if they suspect they are suffering from them.
At 6 weeks after starting work in the area, a questionnaire for identifying relevant symptoms will be completed together with a further lung function test, Appendix 2.
At 12 weeks after starting work in the area, a further questionnaire for identifying relevant symptoms will be completed together with a further lung function test, Appendix 2.
Annually thereafter, the same procedure as at 6 and 12 weeks will be followed. It is a requirement under COSHH to keep and maintain a health record of the health surveillance for at least 40 years from the last date of entry. Adequate and appropriate records of the health surveillance will be kept within the Occupational Health Department.
Management of an affected individual
If a case of occupational asthma is suspected by the outcome of health surveillance, the individual will be referred to the University’s Occupational Physician to identify whether the symptoms are likely to be related to work and the substance likely to be causing the asthma. Additionally, information will be sought on the individual’s fitness to continue to work in the same role with or without certain precautions or whether alternative employment should be sought. If alternative employment is recommended, every effort will be made by Human Resources by means of redeployment should appropriate work be available elsewhere in the University.
The Deans of School/Directors of Directorates will ensure that line management undertake a review of the COSHH assessment and control measures in place in the area where the affected individual was working to consider whether increased controls are necessary.
In some cases, the use of personal respiratory protective equipment (RPE) may be sufficient to control exposure and allow the individual to continue work with no detriment to their health. However, RPE must only be used as a measure of last resort and in conjunction with other measures to control exposure. The RPE provided must be properly fitted and maintained and the individual given adequate training and information about its use. Such individuals will need to continue with regular health surveillance to monitor the effectiveness of such control measures.
Training and information
Appropriate information and training must be provided to enable those using hazardous substances to comply with the health and safety measures in place. This training should include general education on the nature and risks to health of the substances being used and the precautions to be taken including signs of lung disease, health surveillance, training in safe working practices, the correct use and care of PPE/RPE and reporting procedures for any problems identified. Training is available from the Senior Occupational Health Advisor or the Safety Officer.

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