BOHS, the Chartered Society for Worker Health Protection, has praised an ongoing project that aims to plan for the workforce needed in order to deliver the UK’s future occupational health requirements.  BOHS particularly welcomes the emphasis on the prevention, as well as cure, of ill health in the UK’s workforce, and the importance of the development of occupational hygiene resources.

BOHS has been closely involved in the occupational health workforce planning project, spearheaded by the Council for Work and Health, with two reports produced so far.

The first report was entitled Planning the Future: Delivering a vision of good work and health in the UK and the professional resources to deliver it, and a second, Planning the Future: Implications for occupational health; delivery and training, was published in the Spring of 2016.

BOHS is currently collaborating with the Council for Work and Health and its partners on a third and final report to explore the relationship between occupational health functions, and the requisite skills and numbers of various practitioners that will be needed in the future. As further work to develop the final report continues, BOHS highlighted a number of notable conclusions drawn so far in the first two reports.

In particular, the Chartered Society for Worker Health Protection welcomed the emphasis given to workplace health risk assessment and management, including the implementation of prevention and control strategies. Both reports also stress the value of ensuring timely access to occupational hygiene resources and good practice in worker health protection.

Other points raised include the worth of technological advances in occupational hygiene, mentioning influential work by two senior BOHS members. Professor John Cherrie and colleagues have carried out research on the concept of the Exposome, defined as “every exposure to which an individual is subjected from conception to death”.  The report also highlights the work of Dr Karen Niven on the interface between exposure science and toxicology.

Setting out the many driving forces for change in the delivery of occupational health, such as: the economic climate; demographic shifts; the 24/7 culture; and increasing globalisation, the report also clearly demonstrates the need to address that there are insufficient numbers of occupational health specialists.

For example, it is estimated that currently the ratio of occupational hygiene practitioners to UK workers is around 1:203,000, and the report highlights this figure will need to increase dramatically in order to deliver “a quality service” to the current UK workforce.

Commenting on the publications, Steve Perkins, Chief Executive of BOHS, said, “This ongoing project led by the Council for Work and Health, in collaboration with our members and other partners, has already drawn many valuable conclusions. It is most encouraging to note the recognition, in the work so far, that prevention of work-related ill health is as important as the cure of occupational illnesses.

“As a Society, our mission is to improve competence in occupational hygiene skills in order to achieve our vision of ‘a healthy working environment for everyone’. Accordingly, we are also pleased to note the project’s acknowledgement of the development of occupational hygiene resources, as part of the delivery of high quality occupational health services to the UK’s workforce, and look forward to the insights of the forthcoming third and final report.”