An Interview with William O’Kennedy, Cognate Health’s newest Occupational Health Technician

This Week, We interviewed William O’Kennedy. Will joined Cognate Health in February 2023 as an Occupational Health Technician. He graduated with a second class honours Bachelors Degree in Occupational Therapy at Trinity College Dublin.

We were able to ask Will Why he chose a career in Occupational Health, his view on what he feels is currently important in the world of Occupational Health, and where he sees Occupational Health evolving to in the next 5 years among other interesting asks.

Why did you decide on a career in OH?

Occupational Health has always been an area of interest for me since I started college. While studying Occupational Therapy it became clear to me that our work environment, and the work we carry out within that environment can have a significant impact on our overall health and well-being. By reading more about occupational health I found that occupational health practitioners contribute to creating safe and healthy work environments, which not only benefits workers but also organisations and society as a whole. With my interest in how people interact with their environment and the growing importance of maintaining health and wellbeing in the workplace, occupational health seemed like a great fit!

What do you see to be the most important aspects in OH at the moment?

I think that mental health is a growing concern in the workplace, with stress, anxiety, and depression being some of the most common mental health issues affecting workers. Occupational health practitioners are increasingly focusing on identifying and addressing mental health issues in the workplace by implementing policies and programs to promote psychological well-being and resilience.
Ergonomics is another important area of focus in OH, which is the science of designing work environments to maximize productivity while minimizing the risk of injury or strain. With many workers spending long hours sitting in front of computers, ergonomic assessments have become a crucial aspect of occupational health, aimed at identifying potential risks and implementing preventive measures to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders.

Workplace wellbeing is a hot topic of discussion currently but as a professional what do you see are the key areas of focus that employers should be concentrating on to support workplace wellbeing.

Mental health is an area which needs to become a priority for all employers. Employers can achieve this by offering employee assistance programs (EAPs), counselling services, and mental health resources. They can also foster a positive and supportive work culture, promote work-life balance, and encourage breaks and rest to prevent burnout.
Physical health is another important area for employers to address, which can be done by providing opportunities for physical activity, such as exercise classes or walking groups, as well as healthy food options in the workplace. Ergonomic assessments and workplace design can also help prevent physical injuries and strain.
Employers can also support workplace wellbeing by managing workloads and preventing overwork and burnout. This could be implemented through effective workload distribution, time management, and prioritization of tasks.
Providing flexibility in the workplace can also promote employee satisfaction and wellbeing. Employers can offer flexible working hours, remote work options, and job sharing or part-time positions to help employees balance work and personal commitments.

Are there specific areas that Cognate Health are supporting employees that are of interest to you?

There are many ways in which Cognate Health are providing support to employees around the country. One of the areas of interest to me is the provision of health surveillance services. This is a system of ongoing health checks that are required for employees who are likely to be exposed to hazards within their workplace. This area is of particular interest to me as it involves the monitoring of any deterioration in employee’s health, and therefore allows measures to be put in place to protect the employee. It also provides information on which work environments may be causing harm to employees health, which allows for adjustments to be made within those environments so that the risk of harm to employees health is reduced.

Where do you see Occupational Health evolving to in the next 5 years?

One of the major trends that I can likely see continuing is the increased use of technology and data analysis in occupational health. Wearable devices, sensors, and other monitoring tools are becoming more sophisticated and affordable, allowing employers to track employee health and safety in real-time. This can help identify potential hazards and health risks before they become serious issues.
Another area of evolution in occupational health is likely to be mental health. With the pandemic highlighting the importance of mental health and wellbeing, employers are increasingly recognizing the need to support employees in this area. This could involve providing access to counselling services, mindfulness training, or other resources that can help reduce stress and improve mental health.
Overall, occupational health is likely to continue to evolve in response to new technologies, changing workforce demographics, and shifting societal attitudes towards health and wellness.

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