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As an Occupational Health provider, we often get asked the Health Surveillance meaning from an employee point of view.

Essentially it’s a term used for medical monitoring;  The performance of medical tests and physical exams to evaluate an individual’s ongoing exposure to a factor that could negatively impact on that person’s health.

So what does it mean?

Essentially its a series of health checks that allows for early identification of ill health and helps identify any corrective action needed.

Is this required in my workplace?

Health surveillance may be required by law if your employees are exposed to noise or vibration, solvents, fumes, dusts, biological agents and other substances hazardous to health, or work in compressed air.

How is Health Surveillance carried out?

If there is still a risk to health after the implementation of all reasonable precautions, you may need to put a health surveillance programme in place.

Health surveillance is required if all the following criteria are met:

  • There is an identifiable disease/adverse health effect and evidence of a link with workplace exposure
  • It is likely the disease/health effect may occur
  • There are valid techniques for detecting early signs of the disease/health effect
  • These techniques do not pose a risk to employees

Health surveillance is important for:

  • Detecting ill-health effects at an early stage, so employers can introduce better controls to prevent them getting worse
  • Providing data to help employers evaluate health risks
  • Enabling employees to raise concerns about how work affects their health
  • Highlighting lapses in workplace control measures, therefore providing invaluable feedback to the risk assessment
  • Providing an opportunity to reinforce training and education of employees (e.g. on the impact of health effects and the use of protective equipment)

Overall a risk assessment should be used to identify any need for health surveillance.  Health surveillance should not be a substitute for undertaking a risk assessment or using effective controls.

Health surveillance can sometimes be used to help identify where more needs to be done to control risks and where early signs of work-related ill health are detected, employers should take action to prevent further harm and protect employees.