Health surveillance and hazard control in the workplace

Health surveillance and hazard control in the workplace

Health surveillance is a process of continuous monitoring of employees when they’re working in situations that could be harmful to health.

Companies need to conduct health surveillance is when hazards such as noise, manual handling, biological agents or other factors are present in the workplace and have known ill-health outcomes. Employers sometimes mistakenly consider surveillance as a method of ensuring that the workforce is not being harmed by these hazards. Although this may seem the most direct and simplest approach, it will not prevent exposure and can only confirm the unwanted outcomes. Prevention of exposure, as far as reasonably possible, is the most appropriate and only fully effective way of controlling risks to health from exposure to a known hazard in the workplace.

Health surveillance can be considered part of health risk management. It requires a systematic approach for early detection of disease and follow-up to prevent progression of ill-health and also hopefully to prevent further exposure to others. It can also be valuable for confirmation that an effective health control programme is in place such as audiometry (hearing testing) after implementation of a hearing conservation programme in the workplace, for instance.

Hierarchy of hazard control

This is a system used in industry to minimise or eliminate exposure to hazards. The infographic below is produced and used by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).