Occupational health services (OHS)
An occupational health services provider offers professional consultancy services aimed at prevention efforts pertaining to health, safety and the environment. It helps employers and employees monitor the working environment within the company.
Who is required to use occupational health services?
All employers are required to be affiliated with an authorised occupational health services provider if risk factors warrant this. The Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority can therefore demand that a company use an authorised occupational health services provider if we identify a special need to monitor the working environment and occupational health of employees in that company.
Some sectors have a more high-risk working environment than others, with a greater risk of illness, injury or mental health problems. All companies in these sectors are required by a separate regulation to become affiliated with an authorised occupational health services provider.
Use an authorised occupational health services provider
Authorised occupational health services provider
An authorised occupational health services provider has working environment and occupational health expertise. It is staffed by health and safety professionals who assist companies with their preventative occupational health, working environment and safety efforts as required by the Working Environment Act. An authorised occupational health services provider offers assistance with preventative measures and efforts.
The law does not consider an agreement with a doctor who can treat employees with health issues to be occupational health services.
The authorisation requirement aims to ensure that an occupational health services provider has sufficient resources, expertise, quality and professional development to help companies with systematic occupational health, safety and working environment efforts. The occupational services provider must be independent and impartial with regard to working environment issues and inform about risk factors in the workplace, monitor employee occupational health and propose preventative measures based on a professional assessment.
Occupational health services providers that support employers must be approved by the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority.
Use an authorised occupational health services provider
Companies that are required to be affiliated with an authorised occupational health services provider can often tender out the contract. Some public sector organisations are required to do this.
It is important that companies are selective about the services they request from an occupational health services provider. The Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority recommends that companies that will be using an authorised occupational health services provider limit their invitation to tender to services that:
- The employer is required to use and
- Occupational health services providers are required to provide
The Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority recommends that the description of the contract reflect the regulatory requirements for the use of OHS in the company and that the agreed services are based on risk factors in the company that have triggered the OHS obligation
Different forms of OHS affiliation
There are primarily two ways for a company to become affiliated with an OHS provider:
It is common for small and medium-sized businesses to make an agreement with an external authorised occupational health services provider. These may have different target groups. Some offer their services to companies in a specific geographic area, while others target certain sectors.
It is important to choose an authorised occupational health services provider with expertise that is relevant for the work you do and the challenges you face.
Some large companies establish their own internal occupational health services within the company. Companies that are required to use an authorised OHS require the approval of the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority for this type of company scheme. It is important here that the occupational health services are independent and impartial.
Regardless of the form of affiliation, the services provider must be approved by the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority and have the expertise and capacity required by the company.
Role and responsibility of the employer
The employer is responsible for a safe and secure working environment. It is the responsibility of the employer to find an occupational health services provider with knowledge about the specific working environment conditions at the company.
The company pays for the services provided by the OHS, so it should also be concerned with the quality and content of those services. The employer is responsible for the working environment, even if the company is affiliated with an authorised OHS provider.
The employer is required to obtain information on the types of services that the OHS is required by law to provide and must also provide feedback if the services are not in accordance with the agreement.
Generally speaking, the employer is responsible for ensuring that the authorised occupational health services provider:
- Assists the employer, employees, working environment committee and safety representative in creating healthy and safe working conditions
- Is independent and impartial and is not subject to the employer’s discretionary power in professional matters
- Can assist on the level required by the company in order to comply with the legal requirements
The employer must ensure that the OHS:
- Provides a continuous assessment of the working environment, inspects the workstations and work processes and assesses health risks
- Submits proposals for preventative measures and collaborates with the company on measures that reduce health risks posed by the work
- Helps to plan and implement physical and organisational changes in the company, including the establishment, maintenance and facilitation of workstations, rooms, equipment and work processes
- Helps to develop and revise guidelines for the use of chemicals, machinery and equipment, as well as all work processes
- Contributes to efforts to monitor and manage employee health in consideration of the work situation and carry out the necessary follow-up measures in those cases in which the law or regulations require this from an occupational health perspective or when warranted by the company’s risk assessment
- Contributes to individual facilitation of work, including assistance in accordance with section 4-6 of the Working Environment Act
- Assists with information and training on relevant occupational health, working condition and safety risks and relevant measures
- Assists with inquiries from employees, the safety representative and the working conditions committee
Role and responsibility of occupational health services
Occupational health services should have general expertise in preventative working environment measures and current working environment conditions and be known to all employees. The services offered must be relevant for the risk that has triggered the company’s obligation to be affiliated with occupational health services.
The OHS must offer expertise and advice on preventative health, safety and work environment measures and assist the employer and employees in checking and monitoring the working environment and suggesting changes. All the same, occupational health services providers are not responsible for the working environment at a company – it is the employer’s responsibility to ask for advice.
Write a contract and prepare a plan of action
The company and occupational health services provider must draw up a contract. This contract should:
- Be based on the regulatory requirements
- Describe the tasks to be carried out by the occupational health services provider
- Describe the obligations of the company towards the occupational health services provider
Plan of action
A plan of action should be formulated periodically that describes in more detail the specific tasks to be carried out by the occupational health services provider, such as over the next year.
Prepare the plan together with the occupational health services provider to ensure that the assistance stated in the plan is risk-based and targeted. The content of the plan should positively contribute to the company’s systematic HSE efforts. Use the regulatory requirements (in Norwegian only) as the point of departure when preparing the plan.
Document the systematic collaboration
The employer and occupational health services provider jointly prepare the following documentation to be incorporated into the company’s systematic health, safety and environmental efforts:
- Plan of action for the assistance to be provided to the company by the occupational health services provider. If the company has many departments or physical workplaces, such as a hospital or municipality, it can be useful to have different collaboration plans for each department or workplace. If you decide to enter into a central and general collaboration plan, it should provide details on the assistance to be provided by the occupational health services provider in the different areas of the company. The specific risk factors at the company determine the type of tasks to be carried out
- Annual report with an overview of the assistance provided to the company by the occupational health services provider. The annual report must provide the employer with information on what has been done to prevent work-related health problems, illness and injury, the types of measures that the occupational health services provider believes must or should be implemented and how
- Other reports, measurements, etc. that describe potentially unhealthy working conditions and proposals for preventative measures and results