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Working Well Sometimes...

Author: Jane Coombs

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I am a strategic adviser on health, safety and wellbeing based in the UK, having over 25 years in many types of industry from manufacturing, local government, railway and construction where I have advised some of the biggest (and the smallest).Most recently I worked in the NHS as a Covid 19 adviser during the pandemic.I explain things simply - why use a long word when a short one will do? Join me as I explain about health, safety and wellbeing from a business perspective, show the reason and the way to do it, and muse on the meaning of life in between.
17 Episodes
Musculo-Skeletal Disorders or MSDs are top of the pops for work related ill health and absence. What are they? Should you be worried? This episode is for anyone who has responsibility for health and safety in the workplace.There are examples of types of MSDs and what jobs or tasks can cause them plus the two main ways of dealing with them.For more information and links mentioned in this podcast go to the associated blog posts on Working Well Solutions
NICE (National Institute of Health and Care Excellence) defines a clinical audit as follows:Audit in healthcare is a process used by health professionals to assess, evaluate and improve care of patients in a systematic way. Audit measures current practice against a defined (desired) standard. It forms part of clinical governance, which aims to safeguard a high quality of clinical care for patientsRecently I’ve had several requests regarding how to audit occupational health practice. The first question to me was 'How on earth do you audit an occupational health service which has never had an audit before? Where do you start?'Here I take you through a simple and pragmatic way of auditing an occupational health service to improve consistency and quality over your whole organisation or maybe just one process which needs modifying.Audit is a daunting task if you’ve never done it before but if you use a stepped approach, it becomes simpler. The hardest part being the planning. If you’ve audited nothing before in your organisation, start with something simple and small.The fours steps are:1. Planning the audit, 2. Doing the audit, 3. Checking against the standards and 4. Action, that is, correcting all the things you've discovered aren't compliant with what you wanted.To illustrate my four step approach, I will go through a clinical notes audit because every OH service keeps clinical notes and, being a paper exercise, will not interfere with day to day work.How to decide what needs auditingFind out what you need to do at each stage and why Issues to avoid and problems which can occurNo long words to confuse you Links to research and the checklist from my website blog which accompanies this podcast: Download the Free Notes Audit Checklist hereRead the full article which accompanies this podcast with much more detail here.Further Reading/Resources to help with Audit:Faculty of Occupational Medicine advice on Data Protection in Occupational HealthSee also SEQOHS website for accrediting your OH services at www.seqohs.orgAudit and audit cycle for Medical Professionals on the Patient websiteBest Practice in Clinical Audit from Healthcare Quality Improvement PartnershipIntroduction to Clinical Audit in OH from my websiteA brief summary of Plan, Do, Check, Act from the HSE
Early on in the pandemic, speculation about how badly Covid-19 affected those from ethnic minorities was rife but once identified, interest and how best to assess the risk and protect these workers started.There is a great system which many use and I share it here. Just to be clear I am not claiming any glory, this system is not mine to claim, but this article spreads the word (especially to my worldwide audience) and helps those from less informed backgrounds of where to start with these complex ethnic minority risk assessments.ALAMA WebsiteMost clinicians use the ALAMA guidelines.First to assess risk (based on gender, body mass index, race, pregnancy, and underlying health conditions)Quantify individual risks into high, medium, low risk of having a serious effect on the worker (vulnerability).In each risk group there are simple control methods to adopt.To do the assessment, it helps if you have medical or nursing training because sometimes you have to make a clinical judgement based on conflicting factors. But if you have nothing else - follow the guidance.To read the associated blog: The Easy Way to Protect your Ethnic Minorities from Covid19Or if you just want the links - look downLinks to ResourcesALAMA websiteDownloadable questionnaire on the ALAMA websiteNHS Infographic "impact of Covid19 on BAME staff in NHSCohorting patients in a clinical settingPregnancyAdvising of current guidelines to protect yourself and others, e.g. social distancing, hand-washing, self-isolatingPersonal protective equipment at work from the HSEGet a free NHS test to see if you have corona virusTest and trace procedures how it all worksAdvice for different workplaces about working safely from Gov UKBMI CalculatorNHS Risk Assessment GuidanceRead the article from the Civil Service: Please don't call me BAME or BME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic)
Inner Peace Resources

Inner Peace Resources


The Corona Virus pandemic has affected people in many ways - physically, mentally and emotionally. Me too. If you are experiencing effects of this then you might want to consider building up your resilience with tools and insights. In this episode I recommend my go-to resources that have helped me over the years and may help you too.This week, I saw recommendation on Quora as a life changing book The Inside Out Revolution and it reminded me of a book I'd read 15 years ago.  A hardback. I couldn't find it. So I looked through my Kindle library and found the ebook version: 'Somebody Should Have Told Me' by Jack Pranksy.I cannot believe I forgot this book because it started me off on my journey of mindfulness and meditation. Since then, I have read over a hundred. Find out the other resources for mindfulness and resilience in the show notes on my website here:  🌈 And remember to keep safe.
The most popular article on my blog is where I describe reflection using my adapted Gibbs model for reflection and a worked example. It also advertises my Nurses Reflection Diary Workbook which is available from Amazon and my best-selling book.To add to my worked example I add another one today - regarding an incident between me, my manager and a sales executive where I worked at the time. I call it...  Dog Walking.To read a more comprehensive analysis of the incident and relevant links read my blog post (which accompanies this podcast) called Reflection Practice for Nurses: Worked Example 3.  Click this link.Resource ListNMC Code of Practise on-lineNMC Guidance Sheet - Reflection PracticeReflection 1 Worked Example: Night Duty Drug RoundReflection 2 Worked Example: My Infographic ErrorNurses Reflection Diary - Revalidation Workbook by Jane Coombs available from Amazon for only £4.99 - buy your copy today
I’ve worked in occupational health (OH) for years and advised many companies. Some businesses put OH in the H&S department and some in HR; only once was I in the Facilities department which was strange. You would think it wouldn’t matter where occupational health and wellbeing services might sit; but you would be wrong. There are distinct differences on how each function operates, and it isn’t just about the personality of those in charge.HR and H&S have different priorities and given higher authority in the business depending on the industry. For example, when I worked in Constructing Better Health (CBH) – I worked with H&S professionals but in local government and the NHS it was always HR.Listen to this podcast to see what I (an experienced OH practitioner and qualified safety professional) think is better and why.Other references:High Speed 2Health and Safety at Work ActThe Good, the Bad, and the Smugly - Behind the Doors of Occupational Health - true stories of my time in OH, available to buy from AmazonRead the script to the full podcast on my blog
In an effort to attract and keep staff, many companies are considering whether to invest in a medical treatment service for workers.This podcast gives the pros and cons of whether to take this step and my experiences and opinion.There is also an accompanying blog on my website Working Well Solutions and the link to this is here.Don't forget to subscribe to this podcast and a thumbs up would be welcome too.
Many people asked me about my podcast and how I started. This episode describes the main steps of my progress from deciding on the title to some tips on how to avoid common mistakes.There is also a full blog to support this episode on my website but, as promised in the text of the podcast, here are resources I use (no affiliation with any):AudacityYetti MicrophonePop guard for microphone aboveITunes link of top ranking podcasts on their siteBuzzsprout (my hosting site) with loads of helpCanvaFree images: Pixabay or PexelsColours and branding for your company (article)Where to get free music for jingles (but check the small print)For more information and description go to my website blog on Making a PodcastDon't forget to subscribe!
This podcast covers a presentation I made to the Society of Occupational Medicine earlier this month.  I look at the types of OH services and resources needed to make a succinct, relevant, safe and punchy report.Don't go for long templates - managers are busy people. The report needs to be in everyday language and follow a chronological or logical order. Don't show off by using long medical words and try and write like you talk; that way the report is most useful to all readers, whether the worker, the manager and the client, in fact, everyone who might have access.It's good to consider resources when preparing a report and there are many productivity apps that I use (no affiliations with any links) for mind mapping and grammar and even ease of reading.Read the Blog tooMy website has the full text of this podcast and loads more (but necessarily in the same order).  There is also a link to the full PowerPoint presentation with my talking notes too. Click here to go to my page.AlsoBritish Dyslexia Style Guide 2018Plain English Campaign websiteReview of 24 mind mapping apps and software tools,I'd love it if you subscribed to my podcast too.
Have you got a new job and been asked to go for a medical?Employment law in the UK makes it illegal to use medical tests or questions as a means of stopping candidates from getting a job.  Health enquiries should follow an offer of employment (subject to medical and references).  Many are confused about when to ask capability questions because if say, a crane operator can’t stand heights then the interviewer (and the candidate), need to explore this from a practical point of view. Because of the difficulty employers have in recruiting and acting fairly in this area guidance is available from The Equality and Human Rights website that sets out exactly what you can and can’t discuss in job interviews.Unfortunately changing the name and the process has not taken away the belief that the OH professional decide whether people can or can’t do a job, that is, applicants are fit or unfit for work. This is not the case, in my career having done hundreds; I can tell you that only one or two applicants were ever medically unfit for a job.  Most applicants are fully fit for the job and some need minor adjustments e.g. spectacles or blood pressure medication.WHY DO PRE-PLACEMENT HEALTH SCREENING:Establishing baseline health records (useful for measuring health when starting a new job and before exposure to health risks)Identifying reasonable adjustments to the work or the working environmentExplaining specific health risks and requirements for each jobComplying with health and safety procedures e.g demonstrating how to insert ear plugs, reporting health problems caused by workChanging of work role e.g. from a warehouse operator to a forklift truck driver where the health requirements may be more onerous e.g vision, hearingExposing new starters to the health and safety culture of a businessAssessing specific groups of workers for extra precautions e.g pregnant, young workers, asthmaticsRead the full transcript and an example of a simple health questionnaire on my website: Working Well Solutions Ltd: Advice and ReadingTelling people about your disability or health when applying for a job to report questions about your health or disability before you are offered a job adjustments for those with health conditions or disability
If you have a disability or your health is getting so bad you are struggling to do your job or even get a job, then this episode is for you.Access to work is a UK Government sponsored (and funded) service that helps you.  An assessor will look at your job and, if you qualify, will offer help - this could be:British Sign Language personTransport to and from workA work buddyMoney for your employer to build a ramp for a wheelchair at your workplaceAnd many more.Workplace Assessment by Access to WorkAtoW contracts an independent assessor who comes to the workplace to discuss your needs. Following this, they prepare a report setting out the minimum requirements to meet your needs along with the expected costs.  A copy of this report is sent to the disabled applicant/employee and the ‘identified options’ part to your Company, who will purchase the equipment recommended by AToW and they can then claim back the money (or part of the money) from AtoW.The assessment results last for three years, and then you will be reassessed. However, if there are significant changes in your condition you can request an earlier review.Practical help can include:Aids for communicationSpecial equipmentAlterations to premises or the working environmentA support worker, (if practical help is needed at work, or getting to work),Assistance with communication (for example a reader at work for someone who is blind, or a communicator for deaf people)Travel support if you can’t use public transport due to your disability.For more information, pick up the advice sheet from my website:
Are you wondering how to deal with illness at your workplace? Sometimes it can get out of hand with workers taking days off willy-nilly.  Or maybe you have some employees on long term sick?An occupational health service can help you with both these issues - by talking to workers who you believe may need more help or just to check that they are getting the right treatment.More information is available on my website blogs here:Manager Guide: Requesting a Management Referral to Occupational HealthManager FAQ Occupational Health and AbsenceFurther Advice and ReadingWhat is Occupational Health? VideoAbsence resourcesUsing the Bradford Index to Manage Absence – some simple steps on how to measure and deal with short and long-term absenceEmployer handbook for statutory sick pay – including Statutory Sick Pay rates and tables. Issued April 2013Long term absence and incapacity for work – guidance from the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)Managing Absence and Return to Work – guidance from the Health and Safety ExecutiveEmployers Charter – Information produced in 2012 by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in the form of a leaflet with links to more information about what employers can and can’t do.
First Aid should be available to all in the workplace, whether it's just a person nominated by the employer to take charge and phone an ambulance or maybe you work in a high risk job with chemicals, cuts or serious accidents frequently occurring?  This podcast explains how you decide on what is most suitable for your business, the different levels of training and competence available and also what else you might need to consider.As promised, below are the show note resources as mentioned, and a few extra besides.Don't forget to subscribe to my podcast for future episodes. Or why not drop me a line with a request for a subject.Or why not purchase by book: Managers Pocket Guide to First Aid at Work available on the Amazon. See what it is all about by watching the videoFree Advice and DownloadsFirst Aid at Work Micro-site ( from the HSEInfections at Work ( from the HSEManagement of Health & Safety at Work Regulations ( to HSE: RIDDOR and how to do it ( Approved Code of Practice for First-Aid ( L74 The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 (’s Managing Legionella in Hot and Cold-Water Systems ( Resuscitation Council UK Guide to AED’s ( Red Cross App ( available for smart phones The Green Book - Hepatitis B vaccination  ( From Working Well SolutionsChoosing a First AiderManagers Guide to First AidMental Health First Aid - Is it Working 
After a busy day do you feel tension in your back and neck?  Maybe a headache and you feel washed out.  This may be due to anxiety or tension.  Use this brief relaxation exercise to learn how to identify tension in your body and how you can train your body to relax.For more information pop over to my website to read about stress at workOr perhaps you don't know if you are stressed or anxious - does it matter?  Read my blog post: The difference between anxiety, stress, depression or worry and why it matters.Or visit the NHS Mood Zone for many free tools to help you furtherIf you enjoyed this podcast please click the subscribe button
The fit note (it used to be the sick note) has options to allow workers to have a phased return to work.  But what does this mean and what are the issues you need to be aware of?I will take you through the options a business might have and the advantages and disadvantages of this approach.For more information pop over to my website: Working Well Solutions for the longer blog that accompanies this podcast.If this podcast has helped you - why not tell your friends too.
There are so many wellbeing initiatives about but what is the science behind them?  Public Health England suggest the best way to protect your mental health is to focus on five habits:Connecting with othersBeing activeTaking notice of what is around youLearning something newGiving to othersThere are plenty of free resources available so no need to pay out for anything.  For more information go to the Government website: click hereMindfulness: is it for you?Living life to the full: Free cognitive behaviour therapy toolkitA simple breathing technique for stressMood zone Mental health helplines Talking therapies explainedCan you get free therapy or counselling on the NHS?You may also be interested in the selection of mental health apps and tools in the NHS Digital Apps Library.Want someone to talk to - The Samaritans are always thereTo read the longer blog post and access the free resource list that accompanies this podcast why not pop over to my website at Working Well Solutions and don't forget to tell others if this has helped you.
The most frequent question on my blog is about work and why a Manager is asking for a report from their own Doctor? Here I set out the reasons for doing so, the drawbacks of the report and an employees' rights under UK law.For more information have a look at my website and the blog that accompanies this podcast on Working Well hereFor information about the UK fit note click here For a list of free advice from national agencies regarding workplace attendance click hereIf you like the podcast - I'd appreciate a comment.
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