When looking to appoint a competent advisor to help with health surveillance in your workplace, you should try to find someone with experience of dealing with your particular industry and the hazards involved.
A responsible person is someone in your organisation who is given the responsibility to help deliver a health surveillance system from within the workplace. They will have received training or coaching on what they need to do to perform this role effectively – which may involve training from a health professional, a health and safety professional, management or any other, as appropriate.
This person's role in the health surveillance system should be clearly defined and they should be someone who is trusted by the workforce, with good communication/interpersonal skills.
Do I always need a competent medical professional when implementing health surveillance?
No. In some cases, where there is no requirement for statutory medical surveillance, there are things you can do to keep costs down (eg) putting a trained responsible person in charge of surveying the workforce for early signs of ill health). However, you will still need to call on an appropriately qualified doctor or nurse to deal with any ill health found.
If you have a large workforce, you may wish to consider having a competent occupational health professional employed to be in charge of your programme, to advise and help you to manage health risks.
Appointed doctors undertake statutory medical surveillance examinations – a special type of health surveillance required under certain regulations (eg, for work with asbestos or ionising radiation). Appointed doctors must be approved by HSE.
Occupational health doctors and nurses
Occupational health doctors and nurses provide health surveillance services for employers whose employees are exposed to certain hazards at work (eg, noise and hand-arm vibration). They should not be confused with appointed doctors who undertake statutory medical examinations – see above.
When appointing an occupational health doctor or nurse, it is important to find someone with experience in your industry, or a related industry. You should also:
- ask to see their registration/personal identification number (PIN)
- ask to see their certificates/diplomas relevant to the duties you need them to undertake
Relevant qualifications can be confirmed with the appropriate governing body: the General Medical Council and the Faculty of Occupational Medicine (for doctors); or the Nursing and Midwifery Council . Nurses holding specialist qualifications in occupational health will be registered as specialist community health nurses (OH).
Occupational health technicians
Occupational health technicians are trained and qualified in specific areas, such as spirometry or audiology and if they are engaged in health surveillance they should provide competent advice to the employer.