COSHH health surveillance

What is health surveillance?

Health surveillance is any activity which involves obtaining information about employees' health and which helps protect employees from health risks at work.

The objectives for health surveillance are:

  • Protecting the health of employees by early detection of adverse changes or disease;
  • Collecting data for detecting or evaluating health hazards;
  • Evaluating control measures.

It should not be confused with general health screening or health promotion.

Health surveillance is necessary when:

  • there is a disease associated with the substance in use (eg Asthma Microsite, Dermatitis Microsite, Cancers);
  • it is possible to detect the disease or adverse change and reduce the risk of further harm;
  • the conditions in the workplace make it likely that the disease will appear.

Health surveillance is a process; it may be a regular planned assessment of one or more aspects of a worker's health, for example: lung function or skin condition.

However, it is not enough to simply carry out suitable tests, questionnaires or examinations. Employers must then have the results interpreted and take action to eliminate or further control exposure. It may be necessary to redeploy affected workers if necessary.

Health surveillance may need to be completed by an occupational health professional (doctor or nurse). If a GP offers the service, you need to be sure that they are competent in occupational medicine.

The clinical outcomes from health surveillance are personal. The service provider must interpret the results of health surveillance for each individual. The service provider must supply general information for you to keep up-to-date health records. They may also be able to anonymise and group the information to highlight trends.

Employers checklist- 4 stage approach

  1. Do I have a health risk problem, or a need for occupational health input, in my workplace?
  2. What/who do I need to control/provide it (a doctor or nurse or a responsible person)?
  3. Take that action.
  4. Is it working (check on whats been done)?

Health surveillance process overview

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