Occupational Health Surveillance

Monitoring workplace health risks

Health surveillance is the process of monitoring the health of employees that are exposed to potential health risks in the workplace. This process allows you to put preventative measures in place, as well as detecting early signs of work related ill health. Our health surveillance services are based on our clients’ health risk assessments and are designed and managed in line with both health and safety legislation and industry requirements.

We have qualified and experienced occupational health teams based across the UK that offer a complete health surveillance service, as well as on site health surveillance services available across the UK. 

Whatever the needs of your workforce, our team of occupational health professionals can assist in supporting the overall objectives of your business. Our first focus is on the prevention of ill health within the workplace, using a variety of methods such as health questionnaires to specific health checks and medical assessments.

Our team is here to support the provision of a system of ongoing health checks to safeguard the health and wellbeing of your workforce. Our programmes provide invaluable data and feedback to help evaluate potential health risks to your staff, giving you advice on how workplace control measures can be adjusted in accordance with these findings. Through continuous investment in technology and innovation, we are able to provide an industry leading online service that ensures transparency and improves efficiency.

We understand that every business is different. We provide a choice of comprehensive off site or on site programmes, and our services can be tailored to suit any business in the UK. 

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Health surveillance is a system of monitoring and assessing workers’ health to detect and prevent work-related illnesses or injuries. It is a legal requirement in some industries if employees are exposed to specific occupational hazards such as noise, vibration, skin and respiratory sensitisers, asbestos, lead, and ionising radiation. Where medical surveillance is necessary, a competent occupational health professional must be used.

What’s the Purpose of Health Surveillance?

The main goal of health surveillance is to identify and evaluate the health effects of workplace hazards such as noise, vibration, chemicals, and other substances that might be hazardous, such as biological agents and radiation.

Health surveillance is a particular legal requirement and should not be confused with other systems of health checks, such as:

  • Workplace wellbeing checks, such as promoting healthy living
  • Fitness-to-work examinations for various professions, such as crane operators and divers.

Health surveillance is essential for businesses in various industries because it provides employers with valuable information about their employees’ health and how their work environment impacts their overall health and wellbeing.

Health surveillance can assist in the following:

  • Detecting ill-health effects at an early stage allows employers to introduce better controls to prevent them from getting worse
  • Providing data to help employers evaluate health risks in their workplace
  • Enabling employees to raise concerns about how work impacts their overall health
  • Providing an opportunity to reinforce employee training and ongoing education

Legal Requirements

Health surveillance is mandated by health and safety regulations, such as the Controls of Substances and Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002 and the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005. Employers have a legal duty to implement health surveillance where workplace exposures risk employee health.

Health surveillance is required in any workplace where each of the following are met:

  • The work is known to harm the health of the employee in some way
  • There are valid ways of detecting the disease or condition
  • There is a reasonable likelihood that damage to health may occur under the particular conditions at work
  • The surveillance is likely to benefit the employee
  • The technique of investigation is of low risk to employee

Risk Assessment

Before implementing health surveillance, employers must conduct a thorough risk assessment to identify potential hazards in the workplace and assess their likely impact on employee’s health.

This involves identifying who is at risk, the nature of the hazard and the duration and level of exposure. Risk management is a step-by-step process for controlling health and safety risks caused by hazards in the workplace.

The assessment involves identifying the hazards, assessing the risks, controlling the risks, recording your findings and reviewing the controls you put in place.

The findings from health surveillance must contribute to your risk assessment and implementation of adequate controls. With health surveillance, you will detect ill health effects early and determine whether you need to review and revise your risk assessment and control measures.

Types of Health Surveillance

There are several types of health surveillance depending on the specific hazards present in the workplace. Some of the common types of health surveillance include:

Noise (Hearing)

This is for employees exposed to noisy tools and processes in the workplace and is common among metalwork, woodwork, groundsmen, and print room employees, among others.

The surveillance is required for employees who are regularly exposed to noise of up to 85dB daily or weekly or peak sound pressure of 137 dB. It is also required for employees who are at risk, such as those suffering from hearing loss or who are sensitive to hearing damage.

Lung Function (Spirometry)

Lung function health surveillance is required for employees exposed to substances or processes where occupational asthma is a known problem. It is also required for those working with respiratory irritants or sensitisers, as defined by COSHH. These include people working with wood, metal, cleaning products, and paint. The surveillance can include a medical questionnaire, some functional measurements, and a spirometry test.

Skin Checks and Assessments

Skin assessment health surveillance is required for employees working with skin irritants and sensitisers as defined by COSHH, usually those working in the laboratory, NHS, wood and metal work and cleaning services sectors. The assessment may include a medical questionnaire and visual inspection.

Hand and arm Vibration

Hand/arm vibration assessments are required for employees exposed to vibration above the action value of 2.5m/s2 A(8) and for employees diagnosed with HAVS, even when their exposure is below the action value.

Metalwork, groundsmen, and woodwork employees are more likely to require this type of health surveillance, which includes a medical questionnaire, visual inspection, and physical examination.

Other types of health surveillance include assessments of biological agents, lead and asbestos,

Selection of Employees

Health surveillance typically targets employees who are at higher risk of exposure to occupational hazards, such as those working with hazardous substances, operating noisy machinery, or performing tasks that expose them to certain substances associated with disease, e.g., asthma, and dermatitis.

Frequency of Monitoring

The frequency of health surveillance systems depends on the nature and severity of the hazards and on regulatory requirements. Some assessments can be conducted annually, while others are more frequent, especially for high-risk activities or individuals.

Confidentiality and Consent

Health surveillance must be conducted with the employees’ consent and in compliance with medical confidentiality and data protection regulations. Employees can access their surveillance records and receive feedback on the results. Employers will receive general information on the outcome of the health surveillance for each individual without compromising the confidentiality of personal health information.

Action on Findings

If any adverse health effects are discovered during the health surveillance or it emerges that control measures are inadequate, employers must take appropriate measures to protect employees’ health. This may involve implementing additional control measures, providing training and personal protective equipment and modifying work practices.

Health surveillance is crucial for protecting workers from the adverse effects of workplace hazards and is an essential component of occupational health and safety management. Employers can identify and address risks by monitoring employees’ health and creating a safer and healthier work environment.

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