Skip main navigation

Hurry, only 2 days left to get one year of Unlimited learning for £249.99 £174.99. New subscribers only. T&Cs apply

Find out more

What are 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:
Here, an occupational hygienist visits a coffee factory, where she is going to do personal dust measurements.
© University of Bergen/Author: G. Tjalvin, B.E. Moen

The web pages of the International Labour Organization (ILO) contain news about national occupational health and safety policies in the world. The text tells 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 31st 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:

Occupational Health Services – a Definition

“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 and Occupational Health Services

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.

© University of Bergen/Author: G. Tjalvin, B.E. Moen
This article is from the free online

Occupational Health in Developing Countries

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now