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Health Surveillance

What is health surveillance?

Health surveillance is a blanket term for a testing programme carried out to help identify any work-related ill health. It is a statutory requirement, generally carried out on an annual basis, for certain manual workers, particularly those that work with power tools, in noisy environments or with hazardous chemicals. Health surveillance services ensure compliance with HSE legislation, provide a risk management solution and assists employees to continue to work at full health throughout their career.

Worker spray painting a car may be exposed to isocyanates

The HSE is encouraging body-shop workers to do more to protect themselves after research suggests a risk of developing occupational asthma from exposure to isocyanates.

Why is health surveillance necessary?

Employers are legally obliged to provide a safe working environment for their employees. If your workforce is exposed to a risk and exposure cannot be eliminated or substituted with an alternative, personal protective equipment (PPE) is often the next line of defence. Health surveillance is designed to monitor the effectiveness of the PPE controls that are already in place.

Tests that can be included within the programme include (click on the links to find out more information about each test):

How long will testing take?

As you navigate through the site, you will see that each test has an approximate amount of time assigned to it; this is how long it would take if the test was being performed individually. However, when combining our services, this time reduces as the clinician does not need to fill out multiple different questionnaires. This means that for each employee, a health surveillance programme involving HAVS (tier 1&2), audiometry, spirometry and skin surveillance can be completed in approximately 35 minutes.

Picture of an angle grinder with sparks. This employee may need health surveillance.

If your employees regularly use vibrating tools you may also need to consider risks from exposure to noise.

What we suggest

It is important that blanket testing is not introduced for all employees as this can provide misleading results. For example an employee whose work only involves soldering circuit boards would only require lung function testing, whereas their colleague who works in the etching department, with hazardous chemicals would require skin surveillance, spirometry and potentially audiometry and hand arm vibration testing if they are working with heavy machinery.

From the results of the testing, recommendations can be made to improve the available personal protective equipment (PPE) or suggestions to reduce exposure to certain hazards. These should not be used in place of a suitable risk assessment, but can be used alongside to reinforce the need for certain measures or draw attention to risk assessments that may need adapting.

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