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National School of Occupational Health Conference 2014
WORKING TOGETHER: FOOD FOR THOUGHT

We thought this report on the above conference would be useful reading for members.

"I attended the above NSOH Conference this September. The conference was attended by a wide variety of occupational health professionals. However the largest number of attendees were occupational health physicians and there was much talk on the subject of multidisciplinary occupational health working. Although there was a proportion of OHPs who remain territorial of the SOM there were many OHPs who said they now view multidisciplinary working as essential to the survival of the profession. The conference theme for the day was occupational health within the food industry and some aspects of talks by contributors are summarised below.

Rosie Hancock: Physiotherapist at RehabWorks
This talk was about developing a functional capacity assessment within a food distribution warehouse. The physiotherapy team worked closely with ergonomists and was based on site to enable employees requiring support to be referred as quickly as possible. Initial telephone assessments were carried out using the biopsychosocial model to identify low and high priority referrals. Employees with less serious problems were offered advice by telephone whilst those with major problems had face to face appointments. Emphasis was on functional analysis of different job roles and tasks undertaken by employees, communicating in language employees understood. Reports sent to human resources focused on employee’s functional capacity, avoiding unnecessary clinical details. Most employees were eventually able to return to full duties.

Adrian Hurst: Occupational Hygienist

This talk was about occupational hygiene issues within the food industry. The control of hazards in the food industry was seen as a huge task, partly because many workers were poorly trained, lowly paid, and tended to accept poor health. Risks were increased by factories meeting time pressures. Some of the diverse hazards identified included;
· Slips, trips and falls.
· Noise. Manufacturers were often unprepared to rebuild factories designed to reduce noise levels.
· Extreme heat and cold. Workers were at risk of heat exposure near ovens and cold exposure in food freezers.
· Allergies. Allergies of workers included to mist from crab meat and food additives, for example silica and acetic acid in vinegar. Although measures have been taken to reduce the level of flour dust exposure that can lead to asthma, further measures are still required overall.
· Cleaning chemicals
· Ionising and non ionising radiation. Ionising radiation was used to control the number of food ingredients in ready meals to maximise profits.
· Local exhaust ventilation. Local exhaust ventilation still needed much improvement and some factories had discontinued LEV as they were seen as too difficult to clean! Conclusions were that safety behaviour was easier to change than health behaviour, and whilst safety within the food industry had improved significantly health hazards had still not been reduced adequately. It was essential for ergonomists to work closely with other occupational health disciplines. 

Simon Parry: Health and Safety Executive
Simon’s talk was about health and safety within the food industry. Regulating the food industry was a considerable challenge due to there being 400.000 employees working within varying work settings. There was agreement with the previous speaker that improvement of safety was far greater than of health and worker health was often undervalued. If organisations had poor safety records it was likely that the health of their employees was also ignored. Key issues remained musculoskeletal injury and mental health problems. Emerging issues were the need to support the aging workforce adequately and the increasing pressure of shift work due to increased consumer demands. Support of the multicultural workforce had improved. The HSE viewed occupational health support as vital. When asked why there was not adequate occupational health representation at the HSE the response was that the HSE agreed but that their resources were limited from above. The HSE only felt able to regulate the industry effectively in partnership with other stakeholders.

Emma Donaldson-Feilder: Psychologist

Emma discussed the different type of psychologists that can be accessed by work organisations, namely occupational psychologists, health psychologists, clinical psychologists, counselling psychologists and neuropsychologists. The type of psychologist that offers support would depend on the work situation, for example occupational psychologists could strategically support workers to build more resilience. Management and leadership within companies, especially the role of the line manager, were seen as key to psychological wellbeing of employees. Bureaucratic feedback was viewed as unhelpful, however if employees were offered positive feedback they felt valued, resulting in a productive organisation.

Group Sessions
We were divided into groups for part of the day and able to attend two of four talks during this time. I therefore did not attend a talk about supermarkets and the food chain by Susan Carty of Tesco’s or one about human factors by Sue Mackenzie from the Institute of Ergonomics about the role of human factors.

I summarise the two talks attended below:
Alison Clark: Dietician at British Dietetic Association
Alison managed a workshop describing the foods that are considered to improve mood which could enhance work performance. Foods mentioned included porridge oats, bran flakes, oatcakes, pitta bread, bananas, blueberries, blackberries, sardines, eggs, nuts and green tea. The importance of regular meals, adequate hydration and the circular Eatwell Plate was emphasised.
Anne Byrne: Occupational therapist

Anne’s fascinating talk was about the role of the occupational therapist in the whisky industry in Scotland. There were 109 distilleries in Scotland employing 10.000 workers. The nature of the whisky production process made it impossible to modernise the distilleries significantly and there were considerable demands on the workers. Nevertheless workers tended to be reluctant to take absence due to the supportive nature of these family businesses combined with living in areas that tended to be socioeconomically deprived with few work opportunities. The process of whisky making was complex, involving a wide variety of tasks. Alison worked closely with the occupational health team carrying out Functional Capacity Evaluation which assessed tolerance to a known job using Jobs Demands Analysis and a pain scoring system. Task rotation and regular short breaks at hourly intervals assisted employees cope with this heavy and intensive type of work. Multidisciplinary working between the occupational therapist, occupational health team and outside organisations was seen as key to success.

Professor John Harrison: Head of the National School of Occupational Health and Richard Heron: FOM and Vice President, BP International This talk was arranged to replace a speaker who was unable to attend but proved very appropriate due to focusing on the importance of good multidisciplinary occupational health. There were huge health challenges facing workforces in the UK including removing the retirement age and more employees suffering chronic health conditions and yet there was still a dearth of occupational health provision in the UK. There was a real need for multidisciplinary occupational health to stand up together to make things change, communicating across public health and liaising with DOH and DWP. The National School of Occupational Health, opened in August 2014, was in its infancy and wanted to develop standard setting and better training opportunities for all occupational health disciplines, demonstrating commitment to diversity. The School currently covered England and Wales but it is hoped it would also cover Scotland and Northern Ireland in the future. Occupational health research needed to be disseminated more widely than just in medical journals, for example in human resource journals. All healthcare professionals needed to recognise the patient’s work needs within their wider health care plan.  

Conclusion
This was an inspirational conference. It seems clear that occupational health is now recognising the importance of multidisciplinary working in order to maintain the effectiveness and credibility of the profession. It will be interesting to see how the development of the new National School of Occupational Health proves to be a player within this process."

Jane Wakefield, AOHNP (UK) member
October 2014  

Change to Law concerning Criminal Record Checks

Joan Lewis has extracted the following from a round robin from a respected law firm called Lewis Silkin.  She felt that it would be useful for our readers. 

It will become a Criminal Offence to require Employees or job applicants to make enforced subject access requests for the employer. Unless the person is to work in a defined and regulated sector enforced criminal record checks will become unlawful soon.  

Employers may want information about the criminal records of job applicants or employees for various reasons. One way of obtaining such information is to require an individual to make an “enforced” subject access request under the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) in order to get a copy of their own criminal record.

The practice of requiring individuals to reveal their criminal records is at odds with the right to privacy and the rehabilitation of offenders, so enforced subject access has long been a contentious issue. It will soon be a criminal offence for employers to require employees or job applicants to make enforced subject access requests and then provide the employer with the results. This is because of a previously dormant section in the DPA that will come into effect on 1 December 2014.

Employers cannot apply themselves for criminal records checks on employees or applicants, except in specific circumstances. These are primarily where a person will be working with children or vulnerable adults or in specific regulated sectors, in which case the employer can and in some cases must get information on the person’s criminal history. Some employers therefore make it a precondition of employment that the individual must obtain information on their own criminal record from the police, by making a subject access request, and then pass on the results.

Up until now, this practice has been discouraged by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) but has not technically been unlawful. Section 56 of the DPA makes it an offence to require a person to make a subject access request and reveal the result, but implementation of this provision was delayed by the Government. It will now be fully in force from 1 December 2014. Anyone convicted of the offence will face a fine of up to £5,000 in the magistrates’ court or an unlimited fine in the Crown Court. The ICO has indicated that it intends to prosecute those who continue to enforce subject access requests, in an effort to stamp out this practice.

Why the new rule?

The core issue is that subject access requests provide far more information than an applicant is legally required to disclose. For example, unless they are working with children or vulnerable adults, or are applying for a job covered by the Rehabilitation of Offenders (Exceptions) Order 1975, applicants do not have to give information about “spent” convictions – i.e. where a certain period of time has elapsed since the conviction without the perpetrator re-offending. A spent conviction is “wiped” from an individual’s criminal record and he or she is entitled to hold themselves out as someone who has never been the subject of that conviction.

Enforced subject access requests ride roughshod over these boundaries. The response to a general subject access request will show spent convictions as well as live ones and will also show police reprimands, warnings and cautions. While it is unlawful to refuse to employ someone because of a spent conviction, there is no specific legal remedy for anyone who is forced to reveal their full criminal history and then refused employment because of information disclosed. Jonathan Bamford, head of strategic liaison at the ICO, has called enforced subject access an “unsavoury practice” that undermines the rehabilitation of offenders.

What does this mean for employers?

The new rules will not affect employers’ duties to carry out their own checks on applicants for jobs which are covered by the 1975 Exceptions Order. For jobs that do not fall within that Order, however, employers should urgently review their recruitment practices – especially if they make offers of employment conditional on the production of a clean criminal record.

Employers will risk a criminal conviction if they seek to force an applicant to provide their criminal record by making a subject access request. An alternative option is simply to ask applicants to disclose their criminal records voluntarily. Employers should explain to individuals that they do not need to disclose spent convictions - and there is no certainty they will provide accurate information.
October 2014

Nursing Resources
We have been contacted by Arianna Long, a United States internet resource provider who believes some of their resources may be useful to UK OH nurses.  Her email follows:

"With the rise of the internet, online education has become a more integral part of our higher education system. Many prominent colleges and universities in the United States are now offer online course options as an element of their curriculum. It is encouraging to see the educational system advancing so quickly, but unfortunately, when students try to research these opportunities, information is fragmented and not easily accessible. Because of this, my team and I have worked to fully research, catalogue, and publish a comprehensive database of every online nursing program offered by an accredited educational institution in the U.S. This is especially important as it is documented that the US face a shortage of nurses between 2009 through 2030. We hope that our databases and featured resources will help attract and drive more students and professional into this field.

Part of the reason why I thought to reach out to you is because other nursing organizations, nursing education programs and governmental entities recently cited our resource on their websites, enabling students, educators, and their families to access our database.

Examples include:
American Association of Occupational Health Nurses, http://www.aaohn.org/academy-news.html, listing us as “Accredited Online Nursing Programs”
California State University, listing us as “Accredited Online Nursing Schools” http://nursing.csusb.edu/student_information/nursing_job_resources.htm
Ohio Public Health Association, listing us as a “List of Accredited Online Nursing Colleges and Universities”http://www.ohiopha.org/Tabs/Links/LinkDisplays.aspx?LID=30   

Since your users could also benefit from having the same access, especially those who may be interested in pursuing a career in the US, we thought we would take the time to reach out to you as well. The database is available to anyone, it does not involve any cost, and is updated yearly. If you wanted to get your students connected with these resources feel free to provide a link to AccreditedOnlineColleges.org from your page.

For your convenience, here is a page on our site that might be of interest to your users.    http://www.accreditedonlinecolleges.org/nursing/   "

We hope that you find these sites of some use.
October 2014

Useful Reading (suggested by Sarah O'Hara)
Listed below are some interesting articles:

a)  Mental Health Absence
Workers with previous sickness absence with common mental health disorder (CMHD) are at increased risk of recurrent CMHD sickness absence.
Environmental Health 2010;onlinefirst:doi:1007/s00420-010-0540-4

b) Overtime Raises CHD Risk
3-4 hours of overtime per day results in 1.56 increased risk of CDH
European Heart Journal 2010:onlinefirst:doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehq124

c) Healthy Lifestyles Reduces Mortality
Modest but sustained improvement in diet and lifestyle could have significant public health benefits
Archives of Internal Medicine 2010;170(8) 711-718

d) Evidence Based Guidelines for Occupational Aspects of CFS (Chronic Fatigue) commissioned by NICE The guidelines can be downloaded by clicking the link above.