Is health surveilance a legal requirement?

09 July 2019

In your business, you may consider monitoring the health of your employees over periods of time. This can help support your staff and ensure they’re working to the highest standards. But you may be wondering if this is a legal requirement. This guide takes a look at everything you need to know about the surveillance of your employees’ health.

What is health surveillance?

 It’s simply a system you can set up in your business that provides a series of health checks. These can happen as regularly as possible, such as once a month, quarterly, or annually. The risk assessments you carry out will help to identify whether you need surveillance across your business (or in some areas). And why is health surveillance necessary? As we mentioned above, it’s primarily to ensure your staff remain healthy in dangerous environments. It’s also a legal requirement in some industries (more on this further below), so you must follow industry guidelines to remain compliant with British laws. Your surveillance can help to determine:

  • Ill-health effects at an early stage, ensuring you can help an employee and introduce better controls in your working environment.
  • Essential data that helps you to evaluate all of the present health risks.
  • Any lapses in your control measures.
  • The opportunity to improved training and educational material to help your staff deal with their working environment effectively.

You should also encourage your staff members to raise any concerns they have with their working environment. You can then address the issue(s) in question.

Is there a statutory legal requirement for health surveillance?

For many industries it isn’t a law regarding a surveillance procedure. Many businesses simply don’t involve particularly dangerous work—but you can always consider having a plan in place should you want to support your employees. However, there are health surveillance legal requirements for industries that involve staff exposure to:

  • Loud noises.
  • Ongoing vibrations.
  • Ionising radiation.
  • Solvents.
  • Toxic fumes.
  • Dusts.
  • Biological agents.
  • Any other hazardous substances.
  • Work that involves compressed air.

In high-hazard situations such as this, British law indicates that you must have a health surveillance programme in place. Obviously, failing to do so could resort in legal action against you. This may include employment tribunals and could result in fines. With this in mind, who can carry out health surveillance? You should set up a statutory medical surveillance procedure that includes regular medical examinations for your staff members. Your exams may involve tests from a doctor who will need the relevant training and experience with, for example, health checks for employees exposed to hazardous substances. Due to this, your HSE will need to appoint the doctor.

Industries that require health surveillance

As we’ve mentioned above, medical checks are mandatory in some workplaces. These are industries that have designated health surveillance legislation rules and regulations. Here are specific examples of the industries that require you to provide regular medical checks.

Health surveillance policy

You should establish a company policy to monitor your health and surveillance requirements. This is, of course, essential if your business legally has to comply with British laws. When establishing your policy, you should avoid any blanket coverage for your entire workforce. This could provide misleading information and waste your resources. But your procedures can establish a health surveillance cycle. You have a central role to play in every element of the process to ensure it’s effective in its implementation. Here’s a brief overview of the cycle your process should take.

  • Risk assessment and controls.
  • Making a decision on whether you need health surveillance.
  • Deciding what you need.
  • Setting up and designing your procedure according to your business’ needs. You can turn to expert assistance to help you, such as a business consultant.
  • Determine who will provide your health surveillance—doctors, consultancy etc.
  • Implement your procedure for the employees who require it.
  • Manage the performance of your surveillance. Study the results and act on feedback.

Health surveillance questionnaire

You can also turn to your staff members and provide them with a business questionnaire. For a start, this can determine in less hazardous industries whether your workforce would like the option of ongoing health checks. They may view it as a perk of working for you. In an industry where you do need to have health surveillance, you can provide it to employees to monitor what they think of your procedures. You can also provide an initial questionnaire as surveillance to anyone exposed to substances that cause, for example, occupational asthma. If you need help in setting up a template for your business you can contact us for assistance.

Need more help?

With our expert guidance, you can establish a legally compliant procedure that looks after your workforce. Call us today on: 0800 028 2420.

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