What is occupational health surveillance?

Occupational health surveillance is a system of ongoing health checks for the early detection of specific ill health effects arising from work. The checks made can vary from enquires made about symptoms using questionnaires to medical tests performed by a health professional. Occupational health surveillance is a particular legal requirement & should not be confused with other systems of health checks such as:

  • Monitoring health where the effects from work are suspected but cannot be established;

  • Workplace wellbeing checks, such as promoting healthy living; and

  • Fitness to work examinations (eg crane operators, FLT operators, HGV operators, divers, etc.).

Strictly speaking, night worker health assessments do not fall into the category of health surveillance. However, the format & processes followed are similar, so night worker assessments are included within the scope of this standard. Provision of a night workers assessment programme is mandatory, but participation for enrolees is voluntary.

When is occupational health surveillance required?

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations sets out a general requirement for providing occupational health surveillance where employees are exposed to agents that are hazardous to their health. The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations set out a general requirement for providing occupational health surveillance where the general criteria for surveillance are met & the agent hazardous to their health is a chemical or microorganisms. The general requirements to provide health surveillance applies if the following criteria apply:

  1. There is an identifiable disease or adverse health condition related to the work concerned;

  2. Valid techniques are available to detect indications of the disease or condition;

  3. There is a reasonable likelihood that the disease or condition will occur under the particular work conditions; and

  4. Surveillance is likely to further the protection of the health & safety of the employees to be covered.

The general requirement for providing occupational health surveillance is partly risk based, but consideration must also be given to the availability of reliable detection methods & the likely benefit to employees.

In some cases, the provision of surveillance is a clear cut statutory requirement in response to specific activities performed or exceeding specified exposures. A summary of statutory medical surveillance triggers are listed in the Standard.

What occupational health surveillance programmes are currently running?

The following occupational health surveillance programmes are currently running:

A respiratory surveillance programme for persons at risk of occupational asthma due to exposure to asthmagens.

A skin surveillance programme for persons at risk of occupational dermatitis.

A hand-arm vibration syndrome surveillance programme for persons at risk of occupational white finger.

A lead in blood surveillance programme for persons at risk of lead poisoning due to lead exposure.

A general health inquiry programme for persons classified as night workers.

Guidance on who might need to be enrolled on these programmes can be found in the occupational health surveillance wiki https://wiki.bath.ac.uk/display/URAL/Health+Surveillance

How are staff and students enrolled onto a surveillance programme?

Occupational health surveillance is provided by the University to employees in compliance with its statutory duties. The University will extend surveillance to students where the University places them in a situation where an employee in the same circumstances would receive surveillance.

For activities that might trigger a requirement for occupational health surveillance, Department must complete a suitable & sufficient risk assessment that addresses occupational health surveillance requirements. Departments must implement control measures to prevent or reduce exposure to agents that are likely to trigger a requirement for occupational health surveillance. Occupational health surveillance is not a substitute for a suitable and sufficient risk assessment and suitable control measures.

Departments must identify staff or students who require occupational health surveillance and enrol them on a programme with UHSE. UHSE will liaise with the Occupational Health Service provider to formulate a suitable surveillance programme to meet the identified needs.