Health surveillance

  • Health & Safety
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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

(Last updated )

Health surveillance advice guide for employers from Peninsula Business Services UK. Employers call us today on 0800 0282 420.

The health & safety of your employees should be your top priority. This includes having workplace control measures to protect workers from health risks. As well as using a health surveillance programme if your business is hazardous.

Health surveillance programmes can help mitigate adverse health effects. And identify any potential dangers in the workplace. If you don't use one - and your business is high-risk - you could face injuries at work and compensation claims.

In this guide, we'll discuss what health surveillance is, the different programmes, and when employers should use one.

What is health surveillance?

Health surveillance is any activity that involves gathering information about your employee's health. This is to ensure they have appropriate protection from an adverse health effect in the workplace. It should not be confused with:

  • Established workplace wellbeing checks.
  • Promoting healthy living, fitness and good sleep hygiene at work.
  • Employers will use occupational health surveillance programmes to monitor health. It typically involves a series of ongoing health checks that allows them to monitor health in the workplace. These checks may include:
  • Medical examinations. For example, blood tests.
  • Physical health checks. Such as a skin examination.

Who can carry out health surveillance?

A competent person should administer a health surveillance programme. This is a person with the appropriate knowledge and training in occupational health. As well as experience collecting data from employees.

A professional qualified in occupational health services must then interpret the results. This is usually a nurse or a doctor.

Is a health surveillance programme at work a legal requirement?

According to the Health and Safety Executive, a workplace must legally have a health surveillance programme. This is only if employees are still exposed to hazards after control measures are put in place.

Why is health surveillance important?

Health surveillance is necessary for several reasons. Including:

  • It advises which activity you may need to take to remove further harm. And helps protect employees from potential risks.
  • It allows employees to raise concerns about work related ill health - highlighting lapses in the workplace.
  • It provides the chance to reinforce employees’ training and education.

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When is health surveillance conducted?

Employers carry out health surveillance under certain standards. Criteria for conducting health surveillance includes:

If workers are exposed to a hazardous substance

Health surveillance is conducted when employees are exposed to hazardous substances at work. If employees report poor health from these substances, their employers should have health assessments requested.

Substances hazardous to health include:

  • Biological agents. Such as bacteria or viruses.
  • Solvents, fumes, dusts.
  • Acids or paints.

To prevent ill health effects at work

It's important to carry out health surveillance to prevent minor health issues from becoming more severe. Health surveillance will establish what health issues you need to be aware of. Examples of an adverse health effect include:

  • Throat and lung irritation from fumes and gases.
  • Hearing damage from heavy noise.
  • Occupational diseases.

If there are techniques to detect ill health

If there are valid techniques for detecting ill health at your work, you should also conduct health surveillance. For example, welders are frequently exposed to gases that can be harmful. This can result in occupational asthma.

Under a health surveillance programme, a doctor would identify whether these gases have caused ill health risks. Which can then help mitigate the issue early on.

Carry out a risk assessment

If you're unsure whether you need to perform health surveillance at your work, you should conduct a risk assessment. Risk assessments establish what activities or substances at work can cause harm to employees.

Risk assessments also help you to:

  • Avoid hefty fines.
  • Ensure a work environment is healthy and happy.
  • Keep workloads on schedule.

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You must ensure your business offers health surveillance services if the law requires it. This includes investing in safety controls at work. And having a medical professional monitor the health of your employees.

Otherwise, you may risk the health of your staff members. As well as facing compensation claims, financial loss and even reputational damage.

Peninsula offers you expert 24/7 HR advice and support, to help you implement health surveillance at work. As well as advising you on health & safety and workplace control measures. Contact us today on 0800 0282 420.

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