Occupational health vaccinations: Do I need them? A guide to who needs what

No-one likes injections. But they can save you a whole load of headaches (both literally and figuratively) and while they’re not pleasant, that little needle could quite easily be responsible for saving your life – and potentially many others.

At work, we are exposed to all sorts of hazards and risks as part of our daily roles. Not everything can be solved by an injection of course – imagine a world where we could do that?! Sweet. But vaccinations can provide protection against some of the more common risks.

How does a vaccine work?

Vaccines work by forcing the body to produce antibodies to fight the disease without infecting us with the disease. If the person who has had the vaccine then encounters the disease itself, their immune system will recognise it and immediately produce the antibodies they need to fight it. This is called passive immunity.

Do I need to get my workforce vaccinated?

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 employers have a legal duty to protect the health of their employees.  They also have a legal duty to assess the risk of infection for employees and others affected by their work under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH). Once the risk has been identified, an employer then needs to take the necessary steps to protect their employees.  If employees work directly with patients or handle material that could spread infection, employees should have appropriate vaccines to reduce the chance that they will get or spread vaccine preventable diseases.

Do all employees need to have injections?

No. It depends on the sector and the type of work they do. Certain roles will naturally come with specific health risks. For instance, anyone working in the health sector or waste handling sector will be at risk from all sorts of infection and diseases on a daily basis.

So, it’s just doctors and nurses then?

No. Occupations that may be particularly at risk include administrative or support staff handling certain biological samples, hygienists, dentists, cleaning staff, physiotherapists etc – and of course, doctors and nurses too!

Which vaccinations might they need?

Occupational Hepatitis B, tuberculosis, measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), varicella (chicken pox) can all be protected against by vaccination. Others may be necessary depending on the sector, role and potential exposure / risk. Diptheria, tetanus and polio may also be relevant for people whose roles put them at risks of cuts and wounds that could get contaminated e.g. waste operatives.

Why do they need them?

Exposure is key to immunity and it reduces the chance of infection. Getting employees vaccinated not only protects them from contracting a disease, it also protects the rest of your workforce, family members or patients by minimising the chance of an outbreak spreading.

Do they last forever?

It varies. Some only last temporarily and must be administered on a regular basis. Some vaccinations require ‘boosters’ after a certain length of time. Some provide protection for life.

What about vaccinations for travel?

If employees are required to do a lot of foreign travel, they may need additional vaccinations for certain parts of the world. Check out www.travelhealthpro.org.uk for recommendations or alternatively contact your Occupational Health Provider who can give advice.

How do I get my workforce protected?

There is lots of helpful information online on the HSE and government websites. Check out the following links for more information:



Alternatively, contact your Occupational Health Provider who will be able to offer services such as immunity tests, fitness to practice assessments and recommendations on which vaccinations are most appropriate. Many Occupational Health Providers also have qualified staff that can deliver the vaccinations at clinics or onsite.

If you need any advice on how to protect your workforce from infection please call one of our friendly team on 01228 513687 who can help you with requirements.