Occupational Health Services
On the web pages of the International Labour Organization (ILO) we recently read news about national occupational health and safety policies in the world. The text told us that “The long term development goal of Tanzania is to reduce the poverty of her people and improve the working conditions of the entire workforce, at all workplaces, through the provision of quality occupational health and safety services.” Furthermore, in June 2015 a statement was signed by the 31th International Congress on Occupational Health in Seoul as an agreement on “The Development of Occupational Health Services for all”. But what are occupational health services (OHS), and what do they do?
ILO has provided a definition of occupational health services:
“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
i) the requirements for establishing and maintaining a safe and healthy working environment which will facilitate optimal physical and mental health in relation to work
ii) the adaptation of work to the capabilities of workers in the light of their state of physical and mental health”.
The ILO Convention on Occupational Health Services (No. 161) and the ILO Recommendations on Occupational Health Services (No. 171) were adopted in 1985. The main tasks for occupational health services are mentioned in these documents. But what does this mean in practical life? What does this type of health personnel do? In practice this may differ from country to country. It can also differ because some countries have only physicians employed in OHS units, while others have multidisciplinary teams. There is no doubt that multidisciplinarity is needed in OHS, where competence in health is needed as well as insights into technical solutions for improving the work environment.
In the next steps we will tell you more about OHS personnel and their tasks. First, however, we will give you a short overview of the development of the Norwegian occupational health service system, from the eighteenth century until today.
© University of Bergen/Author: G. Tjalvin, B.E. Moen