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The right connections

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Employers like it. That's the short verdict on Workplace Health Connect (WHC), the government's ambitious £20-million two-year pilot project to help small and medium-sized businesses tackle key workplace health issues, just as its funding comes to an end.

The HSE launched WHC in February 2006, calling it an 'exciting' project on a 'scale unlike anything we have done before'. With less than 3% of small businesses having any form of occupational health (OH) provision, the service aims to offer free advice on issues such as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), stress and absence management via a national advice line, together with face-to-face visits in five pathfinder regions.

In its latest progress report, evaluating the first 16 months of WHC activities, the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) (www.hse.gov.uk/workplacehealth/whcreportjul07.pdf) finds that while call volumes to the national advice line remain well below target fielding, the service is successfully reaching small firms and is on course to meet its visit targets. More importantly, feedback from employers using the service is very positive. Some 96% of callers are 'very' or 'fairly' satisfied, while employers receiving adviser visits typically describe the advice as 'useful', 'practical' and 'tailored'.

'The report is quite reflective of how we're findings things,' says Joanne McCarthy, occupational health, safety and return-to-work adviser in the Greater London pathfinder region. 'We've had terrific verbal feedback from employers. People are extraordinarily grateful for the service, and they're really happy to have us back again.'

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), which has more than 200,000 members, backs this up. 'We're hearing from our members that satisfaction levels are high,' said spokesperson Simon Briault. 'It's just beginning to really have good results, with confidence in the service and levels of trust starting to grow.' His only caveat is that more could have been done to market the service to micro-businesses (one to 10 employees), which often need the most help.

To read the remainder of this article please go to Health and Safety Professional http://www.healthandsafetyprofessional.co.uk/file/d101990ae2b507ad3ec2f92ce7a4f47f/the-right-connections-january-2008.html = The right connections

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