health surveillance
18th May 2018

Why Your Business Should Implement A Robust Health Surveillance Programme

Health surveillance is what happens when you monitor the health of your members of staff who have been potentially exposed to health risks because of the nature of their work. As an employer, you are required to provide a health surveillance programme for your staff to show that you are meeting your obligations to protect the health of your employees. The purpose of your health surveillance programme should be included within your businesses occupational health policy. But what types of health surveillance programme would be best for your business?

What Types Of Health Surveillance Are Available?

When considering what kind of health surveillance programme would best be suited for your business, you first have to consider your industry and your businesses requirements. At ELAS OH we offer 5 main types of health surveillance services. These are:
  • Lung Function Assessment
  • Audiometric Testing
  • Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome
  • Skin Assessments
  • Biological Monitoring
Obviously these wouldn’t be applicable to every business or industry so before implementing your health surveillance programme, you need to know what services are actually applicable to your business. So what’s involved in each of these services?

Lung Function Assessment

A lung function assessment is mandatory in industries where people might be exposed to hazardous substances, as part of a range of legislative health surveillance checks. The tests provide employers with a baseline for future reference, assess employees’ fitness to work, and establish routine intervals for testing.
Lung function testing:
  • Should be performed on all employees potentially exposed to irritant dusts, gases and vapours in the workplace
  • Is advisable for employees working with acknowledged ‘respiratory sensitizers’, such as products known to cause occupational asthma, like isocyanates, ‘aldehydes’, flour and wood dust. The Health and Safety Executive has produced a leaflet to help employers assess health risks and decide on any necessary action
  • Must be provided regularly following COSHH assessment, unless the employer is confident that hazard and risk to health is controlled
  • Can help employers proactively manage employee health and prevent further work-related health issues from arising.

Audiometric Testing

Audiometric testing is mandatory for all UK employees who are exposed to levels of 85dB(A) on a daily basis. It checks the effectiveness of the noise control measures a company has in place and assesses whether or not the staff require regular hearing tests as a result.
Typically the tests are used to determine someone’s hearing levels using an audiometer but they can also be used to measure someone’s ability to distinguish different sound intensities, recognize pitch or distinguish speech from background noise. Acoustic reflex and otoacoustic emissions may also be measured during the audiometric testing period as a way to determine whether those affected require ongoing hearing tests.

Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome

HAVS is caused by vibrations from a work activity being transmitted into someone’s hands or arms, and can occur when an employee is:
  • Operating hand held power tools
  • Using hand guided equipment e.g. a vibrating compactor
  • Holding materials which are being processed by a machine
Testing for Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome is a 5 tiered process, with different stages dependent on the severity of damage caused by the vibration.
  • Stages 1 and 2 will be carried out by an ELAS Occupational Health Technician.
  • Advanced Tier 2 will be carried out by an ELAS Occupational Health Advisor.
  • Stage 3 will be carried out by an ELAS Occupational Health Advisor.
  • Stages 4 and 5 will be carried out by an accredited ELAS Occupational Health Physician.

Skin Assessments

COSHH (the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) Regulations require regular health surveillance and skin assessments to monitor employee’s health in relation to the substances they use in the course of their work.
Exposure to several substances may cause skin irritation which, if unprotected, may lead to skin dermatitis or hypersensitivity. These can include:
  • Solvents used in paint, adhesive or other surface coatings
  • Oils and grease
  • Degreasers, descalers and detergents
  • Disinfectants
  • Bitumen or asphalt
  • Epoxy resins and hardeners
  • Sealants
  • Release agents (mould oils) used by farm workers
The purpose of skin surveillance is to recognise individuals who are at risk and, if confirmed, take further action to protect them.

Biological Monitoring

Biological monitoring and biological testing is a way of assessing your employees’ chemical exposures by measuring the levels of a chemical or its breakdown products. It’s particularly useful when dealing with chemicals which are absorbed through the skin, and where the control measures rely upon the use of personal protective equipment.
Isocyanates can be found in a number of construction products including polyurethane paints, coatings, foams, glues and flooring. Certain tasks such as spray painting can lead to very high exposure to isocyanates. The main effects of hazardous exposures to isocyanates are occupational asthma and other lung problems, as well as irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and skin.
Implementing Your Health Surveillance Programme
Once you know what services are applicable to your business you’ll be ready to implement the correct health surveillance programme. But you’ll likely need a health surveillance partner that you can trust to help you carry out the required tests. That’s where we come in!
Our team of mobile health surveillance experts travel the length and breadth of the UK, visiting businesses just like yours, protecting the health of their staff. Let us protect your staff! Call today on 0845 862 8020 or complete the contact form and we’ll be in touch ASAP!

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