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It is important to monitor employee’s health to ensure that any problems can be correctly monitored. The HSE defines Health surveillance as “any activity which involves obtaining information about employees' health and which helps protect employees from health risks at work.” 

The idea of effective health surveillance is to protect protecting the health of employees by early detection of adverse changes or disease; collecting data for detecting or evaluating health hazards and to evaluate control measures that are in place to ensure they are effective.

Health surveillance is not the same as general health screening or health promotion that may be carried out in the workplace. It is necessary to monitor health off employees when there is some risk remaining that has been identified by the risk assessment. This can be risks form things like: 

  • Noise or vibration 
  • Solvents, dusts, fumes, biological agents and other substances hazardous to health 
  • Asbestos, lead or work in compressed air· Ionising radiation 

These risks can lead to problems like Asthma, Dermatitis or Cancers to name a few. 

Health surveillance 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.  It is important that the employers have the results interpreted and action must be taken to eliminate or further control exposure. It may be necessary to redeploy affected workers if necessary to another work area, eliminating their exposure.  Health surveillance may need to be completed by an occupational health service physician like a doctor or nurse. But if a GP offers the service, you need to be sure that they are competent in occupational medicine. 

The HSE have a four-stage approach for employers to produce a check list. Employers need to ask themselves:

  1. Do I have a health risk problem? 
  2. Do I need occupational health monitoring in my workplace and who would be best to provide it? 
  3. What action needs to take place? 
  4. Is it working and is it effective. 

Finally, it is necessary to keep records on the health surveillance and these records need to be stored securely under the data protection regulations. You will need to record things like: 

  • The person’s name and National Insurance number 
  • The substance they are exposed to, when they were exposed to it and the frequency of exposure
  • The surveillance testing that has been done on them, and who did it
  • Then the outcome of the testing, like did they pass or fail