New opportunities for Osteopathy in the workplace

The HSE has introduced a new workplace Health and Safety strategy.  The campaign is called Helping Great Britain work well.  Before you groan and stop reading, this could present a great opportunity for osteopaths.  Firstly I am going to briefly discuss the relevance to patients and clinics as employees and work-places and then highlight the opportunities arising from this change and point you to some resources to help you make a proposal to businesses.

Great Britain has a world class health and safety reputation but the HSE is aiming to improve and enhance this even further through encouraging innovation and reducing the pain and cost of workplace ill-health.

What’s new about ‘Help Great Britain work well’?

You will be pleased to hear that the aim is to reduce the complexity and bureaucracy of health and safety.  Simple, straightforward, smart action is being encouraged to take responsibility for risks and take action to promote safety.

There are six themes that form the strategy:

Acting together – Promoting broader ownership of health and safety in Great Britain

Tackling ill health – Highlighting and tackling the costs of work-related ill health

Managing risk well – Simplifying risk management and helping business to grow

Supporting small employers – Giving SMEs simple advice so they know what they have to do

Keeping pace with change – Anticipating and tackling new health and safety challenges

Sharing our success – Promoting the benefits of Great Britain’s world-class health and safety system

Scanning through those six themes the stand out one for osteopaths is tackling ill-health.

Patients and Practices

All workers have a right to safe place of work.  If you are treating patients suffering from work-related problems you can help them to get the preventative help they need.  Help patients to understand the responsibility of their employers to provide safe working environments – this includes physical and mental safety.   Inform patients of adjustments that may help them reduce risks at work (see list below).  It may be appropriate for you to write to the work-place with suggestions – with your patient’s consent.  This may provide a good networking opportunity for making contact with local businesses.  Some of your patients will be employers or perhaps work in occupational health or human resources, you can discuss with them their responsibilities and how osteopathy could help.

As a practitioner you have a responsibility for your own work safety as well as that of any associates or employees.  Perform risk assessments as appropriate to identify any issues.  If someone suffers work-related ill health take action to identify causes and reduce recurrence.  As mentioned above work-related ill health includes mental as well as physical health.  Work-related stress is an increasing problem that needs addressing in work places.

Considerations for both patients and clinics may include:

  • Manual handling – could improvements be made to reduce risks, is training needed?
  • Equipment – could improvements be made to equipment set-up? Would additional equipment reduce ill health risks?
  • Stress – Could improvements be made to reduce the stress of some tasks?
  • Rest – Are there sufficient work breaks in the day? Is annual leave being taken?
  • Well-being – Is there ongoing awareness of the workers well-being and appropriate action taken when necessary for personal circumstances or work-related issues to improve well-being? Are positive actions taken to maintain work-place well-being?

I’m sure there are many more considerations that could be made as appropriate to the individuals work situation.

As a practitioner take time to consider your work-life and any physical or mental stressors that affect you.  What changes can you make to improve and enhance your well-being?

On a personal note a few months ago I adjusted my working day to start earlier and added in a couple of breaks.  This made an enormous difference in reducing the stress of the responsibilities of the clinic day.  A small adjustment which made busy days much more enjoyable.

Helping Great Britain Work Well – a great opportunity

Osteopaths have a broad range of skills to offer businesses in tackling work-related ill-health.  The HSE strategy encourages innovation and working with partners.  Osteopaths could form relationships with local businesses to help them reduce sick leave and improve worker well-being.  This may involve offering treatments in-house at the company or at your clinic.

Osteopaths can provide advice on work-station set-up and other postural and manual handling issues in the work-place.  There are some template forms on the HSE musculoskeletal website.  There are opportunities for training in DSE assessments and other manual handling assessments.

Perhaps there are local companies from which you have seen several employees with musculoskeletal complaints.  You could form a good case for approaching these companies but take care not to breach patient confidentiality.

Have a read of the HSE strategy – it is very succinct.  There are some useful points to help make a strong case for the value of osteopathy in taking responsibility for health and safety.

The IO has written a template presentation for members to use when approaching companies.  This is a fantastic resource – see the link below.

If you are looking to expand your clinic offering treatments to local businesses demonstrating how you would assist them with health and safety is an opportunity not to be missed.

If you already work with a company it would be great if you could provide a case study and share your knowledge and experience with colleagues.  Email us at


Helping Great Britain Work well strategy website  A very simple, easy to read website explaining the strategy, follow on twitter and facebook to keep up with developments

Health and Safety Executive pages on musculoskeletal disorders  Lots of useful assessment forms here.

IO members presentation for approaching companies Pre-prepared presentation ready for you to personalise and present to companies


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