Health surveillance

What is health surveillance?

Health surveillance involves putting in place systematic, regular, and specific procedures to detect work-related ill health in staff exposed to certain health risks, and acting on the results. These procedures: 

  • protect the health of staff through early detection of any adverse health effects as early as possible
  • assess the control measures in the workplace
  • collect information regarding workplace hazards. 

Surveillance ranges from a simple annual questionnaire to comprehensive assessments such as hearing tests and lung function tests. Examples of some hazards include: 

  • very noisy workplaces - hearing tests
  • working with substances which can cause asthma - questionnaire and lung function tests
  • working with substances which can cause dermatitis - questionnaire and skin inspection. 

For the majority of substances used in University work, health surveillance is not required as a result of a COSHH assessment. Under the University Policy, health surveillance will be carried out where it has been deemed appropriate via a COSHH assessment. Where surveillance is appropriate, staff will need to be referred to the Occupational Health Service by using the health surveillance survey form

Advice for employees attending health surveillance 

The Occupational Health Service provides health surveillance for University staff who are exposed to hazards whilst at work: noise, fumes, chemicals, dust, vibration, for example. Your employer has a duty of care to you and in order to check that the hazards are not affecting your health, and that the safeguards in place are working correctly, they are required under law to provide health surveillance.

The laws: 

  • Management of Health and Safety at work Regulations 1999
  • Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002
  • The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005
  • The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005.

FAQs about health surveillance

Q. Why do I need health surveillance?

A. If you are working with tools, or in an area where you are exposed to any hazardous materials, noise or vibration your employer has to provide appropriate health surveillance, this is a legal requirement, and is based on the assessment of risk, and what health surveillance you require depends on the job you do and the tools and/or hazards to which you are exposed. 

Q. Can I opt out of attending for health surveillance? 

A. If you are working in an area, or with tools, which are covered by the laws outlined above, then you are required to attend for health surveillance. Attendance is mandatory, not voluntary and you cannot opt out. 

Q. What will happen when I arrive for my appointment? 

A. The Occupational Health Advisor will introduce him or herself to you and request that you complete a questionnaire. The questions are about: lungs, hearing, skin and vibration and depend on your answering them honestly. If you have any problem with this form, the advisor will be happy to help you, just ask. Once you have completed the questionnaire, the advisor will go over it with you and may ask a few more questions depending on the responses you have put on your questionnaire. The advisor will only ask questions related to the questionnaire, usually to clarify something. 

Q. What tests will I have to do? 

A. Depending on what risk you are exposed to, the health surveillance will involve what is appropriate for you.