Good health in our employees is one of the most important assets a company can have for their growth, development, and sustainability.
In the U.K., Health Surveillance is regular health checkups for your employees.
Employees who work with noise vibration, ionising radiation, solvents, fumes, dust, biological agents and other substances that are hazardous to health need occupational health surveillance to ensure good health.
All employees have the right to work in a safe and healthy workplace.
Occupational health supports employers and businesses in making sure that they comply with legislation and to create a safe working environment.
In this blog post, we have discussed occupational health surveillance and all you need to know about it.
Q – What Is Occupational Health Surveillance?
As mentioned above, occupational health surveillance is a health check with emphasis on the health of workers.
The prime purpose of an occupational health assessment is to avoid and prevent work-related injuries.
Moreover, occupational health screening examines if an employee is physically suited for a particular job while identifying pre-existing conditions that make employees more vulnerable to certain hazards.
Occupational health screening is a confidential process that is shared only with the employee and the employer.
Q – Is Health Surveillance a Legal Requirement?
Yes, the legislation clearly mentions that employers are responsible for ensuring that suitable and sufficient assessments are carried out to save their employees from potential health risks at the workplace.
If you have a business that deals with heavy noise or vibration, ionising radiation, asbestos, leads or work in compressed air, then it requires health surveillance.
Health Surveillance is a must for those employees who deal with the below-mentioned items every day –
→ Solvents, fumes, dust, biological agents or any other substances hazardous to health
→ Employees working with asbestos, lead, compressed air or ionising radiation
→ Employers should seek the support of HSE certified occupational health physicians. Moreover, the nature and frequency of these are specific to the defined hazard.
Q- What Are The Steps To Ensure Good Health of Employees?
When companies carry out occupational health surveillance, if there are any hazardous substances or tasks that can’t be eliminated or reduced, then it is recommended to take further action.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is the next line of defence to prevent the risk of injury and exposure causing an occupationally induced disease.
Using a PPE acts as a barrier to exposure, yet it should not be considered to provide complete protection.
The best method to avoid exposure is to make sure that employees are not exposed to the hazard is by medically monitoring and assessing each individual through robust health surveillance programs that are adequate to the needs of the risk assessment.
Health surveillance monitors the effectiveness of the PPE controls that are already in place.
When Should a Health Surveillance Be Conducted?
A Health Surveillance is required if –
→ If there is an identifiable adverse health outcome
→ If exposure can affect the health outcome of employees
→ If there is a likelihood of occurring health outcome
→ If there exist valid techniques for detecting the indicators of the health outcome.
Q – What is checked and monitored in a Health Surveillance check?
There are a few health checks that get examined in occupational health surveillance.
Here are an example of items we check during our health screening –
→ Respiratory health surveillance –
Respiratory health surveillance is regular, periodic, spirometry and lung function testing related to the substances that employees deal with in their regular working environment.
One important thing to note is that health surveillance supports preventing asthma from developing by identifying it in the early stage of the disease, where it can be reversed or minimized.
→ Hand Arm Vibration Testing –
Employees who deal with heavy vibrating machinery risks developing HAVS.
HAVS is a condition where a person exposed to vibration suffers from tissue damage of hands and arms. HAVS is the annual testing of employees to reduce the risk and further damage of hands and arms.
→ Noise in the workplace –
If your employees are being exposed to heavy noise on a regular basis, as an employer, it’s your responsibility to ensure workers’ hearing protection.
With health surveillance checks, employers get an examination of noise risk assessment for their employees.
Q – How to Conduct a Health Surveillance Programme The Right Way?
One of the most important steps to conduct health surveillance is the formulation of a robust health surveillance policy that is agreeable to all your employees.
The formulation should be inclusive of strategies and processes that ensure the health of the workforce—for example, including simple methods of health surveillance like basic skin surveillance checks by a trained person.
However, for technical methods of health surveillance, occupational health professionals are highly recommendable for delivering programmers.
When you hire a professional occupational healthcare, it ensures thoroughness conducted by trained clinicians using adequate and highly maintained equipment, ensuring results that are legally defensible.
Q – How Regularly Should Health Surveillance Be Conducted?
The frequency of health surveillance monitoring totally depends on exposure levels as determined by the risk assessment.
Health surveillance is either conducted at the start of employment or after exposure to the hazard – whichever comes first.
The initial examination of occupational health surveillance identifies factors that may increase the individual’s risk of developing diseases which could be damaging to their health.
Future examinations could determine whether there are any changes in an employee’s health followed by advice from an occupational health specialist.
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