Health surveillance? What is it and why it is so important

Corporate Health provides an extensive range of Occupational Health services to clients throughout the UK and these services include the provision of health surveillance.

What is health surveillance?

Health surveillance is the adoption of process driven, regular procedures that are put in place to ensure the detection of the early signs of work-related ill health amongst employees who are, by virtue of their job, exposed to certain health risks.  It is an employers duty-of-care to their employees, to reduce the risks to the employees’ health. The employer must also act on the results of health surveillance.

A range of specific techniques are required to comply with the law. So where to start?

Employee self checking and awareness are an important part of any surveillance project but alone will not comply with the regulations. However, a range of specific techniques will have to be selected from and will include;

  • A ‘responsible person’ looking for a clear reaction where an employee is working in an environment that could harm their health
  • A ‘qualified person’ such as an occupational health nurse carrying out specific tests, for example audiometry
  • Medical surveillance conducted by a doctor, such as a clinical examination
  • Biological monitoring to monitor the effects of exposure to chemicals, this is done by testing blood, breath or urine samples
  • Keeping individual health records – health records are very important as they will provide; a clear record of an employees previous health surveillance checks, a record of the positions that involve exposure to substances or processes that require health surveillance and finally information for the HSE or your local authority inspectors to demonstrate that health surveillance is being conducted.

Okay, so why bother?

Health surveillance can help amongst other ways by providing information regarding the detection of harmful health effects at an early stage, helping to protect your employees and confirm if they are still considered fit to do their roles.

To confirm that the processes you have in place such as control measures are actually working. And to be mindful of further action that may be required.

Data – health records will help detect and evaluate health risks on your organisation’s site(s).

It provides a great opportunity to further instruct employees in safe and healthy working practises, such as using personal protective equipment and doing so consistently.

If you would like more information on this subject, please get in touch via our website. We offer a workforce and health surveillance project application that clearly identifies the roles that need checking, the types of surveillance required and the likely length of each test(s) for an employee. This has proven to be useful to clients to minimise the operational impact of conducting health surveillance on site.

All the best

Richard

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