RBS: Occupational Health


Every business needs to consider the health of its employees as part of its duty of care. RBS has been working with International SOS for some time to develop its Occupational Health delivery.

As Jim Murray, RBS (Health and Safety Delivery Manager) points out:
‘We value international SOS as a trusted advisor. We have worked together for some time and the bank has benefitted from the wide range of technical knowledge and expertise they provide.’

An early initiative, in 2011, involved reviewing OH regulatory requirements and best practice in different countries. This was used to identify how RBS could deliver the right level of OH services to its employees utilising appropriate external suppliers.

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Building on this a number of further activities have been carried out. One of these involved reviewing RBS Pandemic Preparedness, again with International SOS input. Pandemic Preparedness is a key feature of OH planning, as business continuity can be severely affected by outbreaks of infectious diseases, such as influenza. This comprehensive programme includes identifying roles and responsibilities, information and communications processes, scenario planning and more. 

RBS then extended this level of preparedness to cover a range of other health incidents. This involved taking a holistic view of all potential health hazards and assessing what is applicable to the bank, given the nature of its activities and the locations in which it operates. 

The International SOS medical experts identified, and prioritised, 15 potential conditions. For each one a set of detailed notes was developed for specialist staff, together with explanatory guidance documents for employees. The information covered key facts about each condition, its symptoms, how it is transmitted, the treatments and other vital information. The list, and its order of priorities, remains under constant review. These tools have been tried and tested in helping deal with localised health issues within the organisation; they have proved to be beneficial.

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The Health and Safety team and the International SOS Global Medical Advisor have continued to work on global aspects of OH, often down to very fine points of detail. For example, they established which would be the most appropriate personal hygiene products (such as hand sanitisers) to use during a health incident, and which cleaning processes would be needed to manage each disease effectively.

As Jim Murray adds:
‘The Global Medical Advisor is a subject matter expert who provides valuable advice and guidance across a range of health and medical issues. Their input is very important from a strategic and tactical perspective, whether it is the development of a health related standard or in the management of specific health issues.'

Other OH Support Provided

Moving beyond potential infectious diseases, the team has also assisted in providing general workplace ergonomic and health advice. All changes in the working environment are reviewed from a holistic approach, with input from OH and ergonomic consultancy services. For example, the bank has made its branches more welcoming and convenient for its customers using a more open plan environment. This change in design and functionality brings with it physical change for the staff involved: standing for parts of the day instead of sitting. In response a ‘rotational activity model’ was developed to encourage appropriate levels of activity. 

Another example is radon gas which is found underground in certain locations. As bank safes are in basements with little ventilation the team is ready to advise and respond if gas is detected. It provides information and reassurance to staff too. International SOS is able to offer detailed local knowledge in dealing with events across the world. Following severe flooding in India, International SOS provided advice on the safety and health risks posed by floods. This helped the bank’s staff deal with issues that might arise in their homes following floods. These ranged from being aware of snakes seeking shelter to ensuring clean water supplies.

Andy Venables, Health and Safety, Shared Services, has been working with International SOS to develop OH delivery within RBS across these different areas. He welcomes their input: ‘As well as having the expertise of our dedicated International SOS Global Medical Advisor in developing our systems, and dealing with issues as they arise, we can also call upon the International SOS extensive network of advisors for further specialist input. This level of support is invaluable.’

The International SOS GMA during this time also reflects on the progress made and the teamwork involved: ‘By partnering with the RBS health and safety team, and working with a range of other stakeholders, we have been able to use our better understanding of RBS’ health culture to tackle some important international health issues. Our shared focus is on setting up a stronger robust medical support service that will improve the resilience of the business in managing health issues.’

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Having invested all this effort into expanding its OH remit, RBS was keen to measure progress. In 2015 it carried out a benchmarking exercise to measure its Corporate Health Profile against its peers across the UK. International SOS carried out the review and concluded that ‘in terms of similar sized organisations in the financial sector within the UK, RBS has adopted many best practice health programmes to address their duty of care regarding health to employees, business travellers and expatriates.’ 

External recognition of RBS progress came with the award by RoSPA to RBS as the winner of its Commercial and Business Services Sector Award for 2016. To win this award ‘Entrants must be able to demonstrate a robust and high quality safety management system together with a minimum of four years’ consistently excellent or continuously improving health and safety performance.’ In 2016 the Bank highlighted the work associated with management of health incidents as one of its key case studies to support its award submission.