The phrase ‘occupational health’ seems to send people running and there’s such a negative association with being ‘managed out’ of their employment. I always tell my support group and pretty much anyone I speak to with chronic pain or problems with their vision, in employment to ask to be referred to occupational health.
I was referred to occupational health by my manager mid 2019 when I lost the vision in my right eye.
You can be referred to occupational health for a number of reasons. A few of these include: if you feel you need special adjustments at work in order to be able to complete your job, if you feel you need extra breaks, if you don’t feel your work environment is suitable for your medical needs, if you are having difficulty adjusting to your return to work after sick leave, or if your sick leave is affecting your work to the point you need to speak to a professional.
Your occupational health practitioner may be a doctor or a nurse; mine is a nurse.
Your manager can refer you if they feel it is appropriate, or you can ask to be referred yourself.
My assessment happened over the phone and the call lasted around an hour. I was allowed a private room in work in order to be able to take this call during working hours. The nurse I was assigned was lovely and talked through all my medical conditions and the different ways in which these affect my work, but mainly focusing on my vision problems, as I already had a desk in the office which was suitable for my requirements for my trigeminal neuralgia.
After your initial consultation (either over the phone or in person), your occupational health practitioner will type up all the details from your conversation and provide advice for your employer to make reasonable adjustments for your medical needs. If you agree with everything noted, you would sign this and it would go to your employer from the occupational health team. Your HR team and manager should then follow this guidance in order to improve your experience at work and increase productivity too.
If you don’t agree with everything the occupational health practitioner has written, you have the opportunity to speak to them and to make amendments together, if something has been misunderstood, or you don’t agree with some of the advice.
Occupational health are only advisory, but it’s good to have something on record at work stating your medical requirements and should your employer not put in place any reasonable adjustments suggested in the document, they may be in breach of the Equality Act, if they are discriminating against a disability by not providing a suitable work environment.
What did Occupational Health put in place for me?
It’s now on my HR file that I need to be sat with the light out above my desk, so light bulbs get removed from above wherever I’m sitting at work. I also have to be sat facing a wall, not next to a window unless the blind is completely closed and blocking out the light from outside.
I am allowed a five minute break away from my desk every hour. This helped me when I worked on the phones, as me needing time away from a computer screen affected the statistics of my calls.
I have a large screen, zoomed in applications, large text and a blue light filter on my computer screen.
My OH referral was for my eyes, so it actually only briefly mentions my neuralgia, stating that I have already been given a suitable area to sit in (away from any air conditioning!) so if I ever have issues with my TN and work in the future, I will have to ask to speak to occupational health again, but I’m more than happy with that!
Occupational health is there to help both you and your employer in making your work environment more suitable and I don’t think it’s anything to be scared about, so I honestly would recommend everyone struggling at work to just ask for help.
It took me several weeks of not being able to see well enough to work to a good standard to ask for help and I wished I’d done it sooner once I received the help I needed.
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