Health surveillance is a system of ongoing health checks. These health checks may be required by law for employees who are exposed to certain health risks due to their employment.
During health surveillance assessments, occupational health physicians are able to detect early signs of work-related ill health and highlight causes for concern to employers who can take action to prevent further harm and protect their employees.
Why is health surveillance important?
All employers have a duty of care to their employees, meaning, they agree to take reasonable care of your safety, avoid exposing you to unnecessary risks and ensure a safe system of working.
Some jobs carry certain risks and some risks are unavoidable, this is where health surveillance comes in. It monitors the health of employees to assess the risk factor is not having a negative impact on the health of the employee and if it is, what can be done.
Employees benefit with accurate, independent monitoring of health conditions that could potentially be brought on or made worse through a known workplace risk, such as:
- Noise-induced hearing loss
- Respiratory disease
- Skin disorders
- Musculoskeletal disorders
- Work-related stress
Health surveillance can also provide invaluable feedback on workplace risk factors. Highlighting areas of concern and where an increase in training and education of employees eg. on the impact of health effects and the use of protective equipment, can benefit the company as a whole.
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Hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) Assessment
HAVS stands for Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome. This is the collection of conditions which can develop in people who are exposed to vibration in their hands and arms, usually a result of frequently using hand-held power tools.
Symptoms of HAVS include vibration white finger (when it affects the circulation), numbness and reduced dexterity (when it affects the nerves), carpal tunnel syndrome, and other conditions of the arm/hand.
HAVS cannot be cured, the damage is permanent. The priority is to prevent it occurring in the first place, or halt its progression. Employers must provide health surveillance (periodic monitoring) of workers exposed to hand/arm vibration. Health surveillance helps to show if the measures used to control and limit vibration exposure are working properly, and it helps to identify those people who have the condition so that measures can be taken to prevent progression.
Exposure to excessive noise levels at work can be harmful. Prolonged exposure can lead to deafness, ringing in the ears and/ or other ear conditions. If your employee is exposed to prolonged excessive noise for their job, it is worth putting in place noise assessment with an independent PH physician for health surveillance.
Monitoring your employees will highlight those who are suffering from early signs of hearing damage and give you an opportunity to do something to prevent the damage getting worse. It is important for employers to protect the hearing of their employees.
When it comes to your health, experience is everything.
Experience translates into good clinical judgement, early and accurate diagnosis, timely treatment, and excellent, all-round care. It also brings fast access to a broad network of world-class specialists across the full range of medical and surgical disciplines.
When it comes to delivering excellence in private medical care, experience counts.
The doctor will first ask you about your work with vibrating tools, employment history, and general medical history. He/she will then conduct a non-invasive examination including some standard tests to assess the nerves and circulation in the hands and upper limb.
The doctor may also undertake a broader examination, for example listening to your heart and lungs. The examination takes about one hour.
Following the assessment the doctor will advise you of their opinion and any implications this might have for your work. Following a discussion with you they will write a report to your employer to give advice regarding your fitness for work with hand/arm vibration.
The report will include the HAVS diagnosis, and the stage of the condition (how advanced it is).
You may be referred for an assessment with the Occupational Health Doctor if you are undergoing health surveillance for HAVS, and if the Occupational Health Nurse is concerned that you may have symptoms or signs of the condition. The purpose of the assessment with the doctor is to make a formal diagnosis, and to give advice on measures required to prevent progression.