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Minimum competencies for occupational health providers

If you appoint doctors, nurses or other health professionals to advise you on employee health or to carry out procedures such as health surveillance, check that they have sufficient expertise and training in occupational health.

The competence required will depend what you need them to do - specific standards can be found in guidance associated with regulations.

The level of occupational health expertise needs to be appropriate to the level of health risk identified for a project, eg a complex construction project would usually have a consultant occupational health doctor (physician) overseeing the occupational health provision.

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Occupational health doctors

Occupational health doctors are expected to have skills and expertise that include:

There are currently three levels of qualification in occupational medicine for doctors:

Doctors who are members of the Faculty and have made a distinguished contribution to the specialty, and who demonstrate a greater depth of experience and expertise in occupational medicine, may also be awarded a Fellowship of the Faculty (FFOM).

Doctors without these qualifications who rely solely on experience gained in the workplace may not meet the requirements for competence demanded by some health and safety legislation. It is recommended that the Diploma in Occupational Medicine is used as the minimum standard of qualification. However, occupational health doctors still need to work within the limits of their specific competence and seek more specialist advice when appropriate.

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Occupational health nurses

Nurses who carry out occupational health surveillance should, as a minimum, be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). They may also hold an occupational health qualification at Certificate, Diploma or Degree level. If the nurse does not have an occupational health qualification then they should work under the supervision of an appropriately qualified clinician (doctor or nurse).

For a nurse-led occupational health service, the lead nurse should also be registered with the NMC as a specialist community public health nurse in occupational health. Alternatively, they should be qualified to register as such and have access to specialist occupational physician advice as needed.

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Occupational health technicians

Occupational health technician is a developing role. With supervision from occupational health qualified nurses and doctors and the correct training, they may be able to carry out some aspects of health surveillance. This frees up doctors and nurses for other tasks.

Currently there are no published minimum standards but training programmes are being developed.

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Minimum competence standards for occupational health professionals

As well as meeting the necessary legal requirements to employ clinical staff, we recommended that you apply the following minimum levels of competence:

Some aspects of health surveillance require additional qualifications, eg:

When appointing an occupational health doctor or nurse, ask for their registration/personal identification number (PIN), and confirm it with the appropriate governing body:

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Updated 2013-03-14