Pippa Crouch, Clinical Director at BHBPA member Global Occupational Health writes to explain what are businesses duties regarding health surveillance even while the pandemic persists.
The HSE issued guidance on 20th March 2020 (updated on the 3rd August) setting out a proportionate and flexible approach to enable the continuation of health surveillance during the pandemic. It seeks to maintain a balance around the need to protect the health, safety and welfare of workers while being cognisant of constraints brought about by the ongoing pandemic. That said, while we might be entering into a ‘new normal’ – the responsibilities of employers have not changed.
What is health surveillance and should I (as an employer) be doing it?
The need for health surveillance is part required by law, part arising from the undertaking of a health risk assessment and in part the adoption of good practice e.g. fitness to work in certain roles.
As a result, health surveillance can take many different forms from non-technical surveillance such as questionnaires and skin surveillance to technical forms such as hearing checks (audiometry) and lung function testing (spirometry). Any health surveillance undertaken should be in the least invasive form possible and should be explained to the individual on assessment by a suitable practitioner e.g. a medical professional.
The provision of a suitable health surveillance programme is to ensure protection of employee’s health during the period of employment. It also;
- Protects health through early detection of any health condition caused through exposure.
- Identifies specific monitoring required from a statutory perspective.
- Evaluates the efficacy of existing control measures.
- Demonstrates compliance.
When is it to be completed and by whom?
The frequency of health surveillance is determined by the level of exposure and accepted guidelines. Thus it can be on commencement of a position as well as at regular and frequent intervals. It can be indicated when a new condition is diagnosed or there is a change. Sometimes an “exit surveillance” is required when the employee leaves the employment.
Some health surveillance takes the form of self-assessment as part of a wider programme and staff are asked to complete a questionnaire which is reviewed by occupational health. Whereas for more technical assessments the employee will be referred to Occupational Health whereupon typically a nurse or technician will perform the various tests and examinations
How can GOHS help you?
If you are working in an industry which is noisy, dusty, dirty or wet, or one where there is working at height, the driving of forklift trucks or working in confined spaces, then it is very possible that your staff will need some form of health surveillance. Clearly some industries are higher risk than others e.g. manufacturing, automotive, food or baking, and so these will most likely have a requirement for proactive health surveillance arrangements.
If you would like further information, please do get in touch. We are happy to offer all our fellow BHBPA members a reduction of £50 off the cost of one day’s health surveillance.
Pippa Crouch, Clinical Director, Global OHS Team
T: 01273 359135