What is health surveillance?
Health surveillance is a system of ongoing health checks. These health checks may be required by law for employees who are exposed to noise or vibration, ionising radiation, solvents, fumes, dusts, biological agents and other substances hazardous to health, or work in compressed air.
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 (eg on the impact of health effects and the use of protective equipment).
Risk assessments should be used to identify any need for health surveillance. Health surveillance must not be used as 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.
Types of statutory health surveillance
To ensure compliance with occupational health and safety legislation we must ensure that our employees are provided with appropriate health surveillance if specific hazards have been identified during the risk assessment process.
Currently, four health surveillance checks are routinely provided:
- Hand arm vibration syndrome monitoring for employees who may use handheld vibrating tools or machinery;
- Audiometry for employees who may be exposed to noise levels that could affect hearing;
- Respiratory function test for employees who may be exposed to substances hazardous to health;
- Skin check for employees who carry out work activities that may give rise to the risk of dermatitis;
Further information on the different health surveillance checks can be found below.
Arranging health surveillance for employees
Line managers are responsible for ensuring employees are provided with the appropriate health surveillance for their role. To assist with this the council’s online occupational health platform – Health Hub – will be used to manage and monitor the health surveillance programme.
Services will need to identify Health Surveillance Co-ordinators (HSC) whose role it will be to support the planning and scheduling of employees for each pre-arranged health surveillance site visit. Tasks will include reviewing the employee list, allocating employees to an appointment slot, providing site details and submission of the schedule to the Clinical Delivery Coordinator at HML. Advanced notification will be given to HSCs via email of dates and site locations.
A Health Hub user guide for Health Surveillance Co-ordinators is available below. A supporting training video is also available.
A Health Hub user guide for line managers is also available below.
General information for line managers on Health Hub and occupational health can be found here.
Health surveillance frequency
The surveillance programme ensures that employees are offered checks relevant to exposure type on an annual basis. Where follow up checks are required, the frequency between these would be determined by an occupational health professional.
Line managers must ensure that new employees, whose role has been risk assessed as requiring some form of health surveillance, are added to the annual health surveillance programme. Those employees whose role exposes them to hand arm vibration must complete a HAVS questionnaire as part of the recruitment process. Further information on this can be obtained from ESC-RecruitmentTeam@northlan.gov.uk
Outcomes and notifications
All data from the health surveillance programme will be uploaded to the Health Hub for management and monitoring purposes. Line managers must ensure that employee details remain accurate through regular review and updating where required. Employees should be encouraged to provide an up to date email address to ensure outcome information can be sent electronically. Outcome information will also be sent to line managers.
In accordance statutory requirements, the health surveillance programme will be monitored to ensure outcomes and recommendations are being managed. This will include extraction of data from the Health Hub and regular workplace monitoring to ensure the risk of harm to employees is as low as reasonably practicable.