What is Health Surveillance, and does my business need it?

28/05/24 – Blog


1.8 million UK workers are currently suffering from new or long-standing work-related ill health issues. As an employer, it is crucial that you take measures to prevent any adverse impact of work on the health of your workforce. Depending on the work your employees do, health surveillance could be a key part of that and may also be a legal requirement.


 

What is health surveillance?

As with all occupational health and wellbeing services, health surveillance is there to protect and promote the health and safety of your employees.

It is a system of ongoing health checks that enables you to monitor the impact of exposure to workplace hazards on your employees’ health over time. This means that if ill-health effects are detected, you can take action to prevent them from worsening and reduce future risk.

 


When is health surveillance required?

Health surveillance is typically required in industries and workplaces where there is a risk to employees’ health due to exposure to specific hazards or working conditions, such as construction, manufacturing, engineering, and energy production, and in laboratories and certain healthcare settings.

These hazards may include:


Exposure to hazardous substances

Health surveillance may be necessary if employees are exposed to certain chemicals, dust, fumes or biological agents. Such substances can pose a risk of respiratory or skin diseases, or infection. Under the COSHH , individuals should have periodic health or medical checks to detect early signs of disease or adverse changes to health.

A staggering 12,000 lung disease deaths each year are estimated to be linked to past exposures to respiratory hazards at work, such as asbestos, silica or other airborne contaminants. 

– Health and Safety Executive.

 


Exposure to noise and vibration

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 and Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 require employers to conduct health surveillance for employees who are exposed to high noise or vibration levels to effectively monitor and manage any impact on their hearing, vascular, neurological and musculoskeletal health.

Regular exposure to vibration from hand-held tools or vibrating equipment can cause several kinds of injury to the hands and arms and can cause permanent damage. It is estimated that up to 300,000 working days are lost each year in the UK due to hand-arm disability-related absences.

– Health and Safety Executive.


Exposure to radiation

Exposure to occupational ionising radiation affects over 24 million workers globally and can result in life-threatening illnesses. Industries dealing with ionising radiation, such as medical facilities or nuclear plants, often require employees to have medical surveillance to monitor for potential radiation-related health changes.


Other health checks that you may need to consider:

 

Fit to work medicals

Alongside health surveillance, many employers will also undertake fit to work medicals for individuals working in more safety-critical roles (for example, where they’re working at height, in confined spaces, with heavy plant and machinery or on highways and railway lines).

This is to ensure that these employees are fit to undertake their work safely without risk to themselves or others. These types of health checks may not always be required by law but may be required under specific industry regulations and best practice.


Night worker assessments

Night worker assessments are also required when employees work during the night as part of their regular schedule. Night workers are defined as those who work at least three hours of their daily working time during the night, which is typically the period between 11 pm and 6 am.

The Working Time Regulations 1998 require employers to offer night workers periodic health assessments to check that night work is not having a detrimental impact on their health. These assessments may include evaluating factors such as working hours, rest breaks, the type of work they are conducting, and the overall impact on the health and safety of the employees.

 


Now that we’ve covered why and when health surveillance might be needed, and explained the other health checks that might be required, let’s look at the benefits that they can bring to your business!

What are the benefits of health surveillance?

 

 

It allows early detection of health issues and provides data for continuous improvement

Health surveillance provides valuable insights to enable the early detection of health issues, giving more time for interventions to prevent them worsening.

Additionally, the data collected can help identify where your health and safety policies, protocols and training might not be working as effectively as they should. Thus, providing areas where you can implement improvement plans to make sure the working environment is as healthy and safe as possible.


It ensures compliance with regulations

Health surveillance ensures you remain compliant with occupational health and safety regulations and helps you meet your legal obligations to monitor and manage workplace health risks.


It contributes to increased employee wellbeing and productivity

Employees appreciate when their employer demonstrates a genuine commitment to protecting their health and wellbeing; therefore, monitoring and addressing health concerns contributes to overall employee wellbeing and job satisfaction. This helps to foster a positive and supportive workplace culture, which can also contribute to increased productivity!


It can improve employee retention and reduce sickness absence and recruitment costs

Effective health surveillance can help to protect against occurrences of occupational illness, in turn helping to reduce healthcare costs and potential compensation claims, reduce sickness absence, and prevent skilled employees leaving the workplace.

Ultimately, this can help to create greater stability within your organisation, increase employee retention and mean you spend less on hiring and training new staff.


How can Medigold Health support your health surveillance requirements?

At Medigold, our robust health surveillance department boasts a skilled team of 80 dedicated Occupational Health Technicians strategically located nationwide. Complemented by a mobile fleet of 50 vehicles, we stand ready to provide comprehensive support to customers across the entire country.

Our comprehensive health and medical surveillance services include:

  • Health surveillance checks – audiometric and respiratory function testing, HAVS assessments and dermatological checks for employees who are exposed to noise, hazardous substances (e.g. solvents, dust and fumes) or vibration while at work.
  • Statutory medical surveillance and biological monitoring – for employees working with ionising radiation, asbestos, lead and certain other high-hazard substances.

We also provide a range of employee screening assessments, including:

  • Night Worker Screening
  • Fit for Work medicals – for employees working in safety-critical roles at height, in confined spaces, trackside or operating site vehicles or heavy plant machinery.
  • General health screening – BMI, blood pressure, urinalysis, musculoskeletal and vision checks.

No matter your business size or needs, we can help you develop a tailored programme of health surveillance and other health checks to meet your unique requirements, as well as offer guidance on further measures you can take to ensure the health and safety of your workforce (such as introducing drug and alcohol testing).

If you’d like to find out more, simply follow the link here to arrange a chat with our friendly team.  

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