28th June 2017

What Is Biological Monitoring?

Chemicals are used for a wide range of workplace tasks across almost every business sector. From simple everyday cleaning chemicals to more corrosive ones which are potentially harmful to health, all chemicals used within the workplace must have adequate control measures in place for their safe use. As an employer it is your responsibility to ensure that any and all chemicals used within the day to day operations of your business have the correct control measures in place when direct exposure to them is unavoidable. Biological monitoring in the workplace is typically used by businesses to assess whether members of staff have been exposed to chemicals by measuring the presence of the chemical or any of its broken down trace components present in the urine or breath of people who work with them on a regular basis.

Biological monitoring is typically one part of a larger overall strategy used within businesses to control or prevent exposure to harmful chemicals within the workplace. By utilising biological monitoring in the workplace, businesses are able to reduce or even remove any uncertainty regarding the effectiveness of the control measures which are in currently in place. It can also be used to monitor a company’s standard working practices and to recommend any changes which may be required to prevent or limit further unnecessary chemical exposure (such as the use of PPE).

In most cases, a simple urine sample from the individual being tested is all that is required for biological monitoring.

Why It Should Be A Part Of Your Overall Health Surveillance Strategy

Biological monitoring in the workplace should be a key component of your overall health surveillance process as it can be used to assess the direct health risks that your employees encounter as part of their daily workload. However, it’s worth noting that health surveillance should not be used as a substitute for control measures. It is important to ensure that your business has the correct control measures in place to limit the risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals AND provide all staff with a robust health surveillance strategy to ensure that the correct preventative measures are in place and to measure exposure levels.

Biological monitoring is also particularly effective at identifying where chemicals can potentially be absorbed through the skin and where additional control measures should be put in place to compliment the use of personal protective equipment. The data received through biological monitoring provides an accurate reflection of the total amount of chemicals absorbed by an individual through all potential points of exposure (inhalation, ingestion, absorption or a combination of the three).

So, What Is The Aim Of Biological Monitoring?

In the simplest terms, biological monitoring detects the levels of hazardous chemicals within the body before it negatively affects an individual’s health. For this reason, it is typically used as a preventative measure, rather than being used to simply measure any adverse effects an individual may be experiencing.

The information obtained through biological monitoring can be used to provide a more accurate measure of any adverse changes than other types of health surveillance, including air monitoring, skin assessments and environmental monitoring, but can be used to compliment other types of monitoring.

As one of the leading occupational health experts in the UK, Sound Advice are perfectly placed to offer guidance and support on setting up and conducting biological monitoring in the workplace to businesses across the UK. We also offer a wide range of additional health surveillance services designed to provide total coverage for every business.


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