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Health surveillance: Why you can’t afford to ignore it

One of the most common questions that we get is “what is health surveillance, and do I need to do it?” Health surveillance is a term that is used to describe a system of regular health checks that detect the early signs of work-related ill health among employees exposed to certain health risks. UK HSE law requires workplace health surveillance when it comes to exposure to physical hazards, including (but not limited to): asbestos; loud noise and/or vibration; ionising radiation; solvents and fumes.

That said, the main frustrations for organisations establishing a health and safety system, particularly for the owners of small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) tends to be cost; time restrictions and lack of skill or knowledge. Many SMEs haven’t yet implemented a health surveillance programme for these reasons.

To any SME owner or sole trader we ask the following question:

Can you afford not to implement health surveillance?

Many SME business owners are concerned that this process will be too expensive and take a large chunk out of their operating budget, but in reality the failure to assess workplace hazards will cost them money rather than help them save. Just as you would never neglect to properly train your employees, or wouldn’t dream of skimping on the materials that you use in your industry – you should not disregard the importance of a healthy workplace on your bottom line.

Health – just as important as Safety?

Many employers focus all of their time and effort ensuring that their workplace is a safe one; removing hazards that could cause accidents and preventing injuries. While this is important, it ignores the other integral aspect of Health & Safety Legislation – a healthy workplace. Health surveillance assesses the effectiveness of personal protective equipment (PPE) and is another element that helps to make sure that the workplace is free from anything that can cause detriment to mental or physical health, both in the immediate future and the long term.

The words health and safety spelled out on a scrabble rack

A healthy workplace increases productivity

Ensuring that your employees have a safe and healthy workplace in which to carry out their daily duties is your responsibility, but it can also have excellent benefits for your business’s productivity. Time and time again, studies have shown that a healthy workplace has a dramatic effect on profits – take advantage of this correlation and you will see increased success.

A health surveillance system can highlight hazards in your workplace that are not properly being controlled. In addition, they can recommend effective strategies that can help you to reduce these hazards.

Remember – it’s the law, and ignoring this can result in hefty fines

If you are not motivated by the benefits of implementing a health surveillance program, perhaps you should consider the repercussions of neglecting to pay attention to this issue. Recent case studies have profiled SMEs who have neglected the government’s HSE guidance and felt the full weight of monetary punishment – here is a case study of a Gloucester based firm that ignored the cause of an employee’s asthma and were fined 100,000 pounds (page 11).

Do not risk negligence

The only way that you as an employer can avoid the hefty penalties and fines that can result from neglecting HSE laws and guidance, is by implementing a health surveillance program and taking the steps necessary to mitigate the wellness and safety risks present in your workplace.

Call or email us today for more information – you can’t afford not to.


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