What is health surveillance at work

What is health surveillance at work? According to HSE, these risks can be exposed to noise, vibrations, ionizing, radiation, asbestos, lead, fumes, dust, biological agents, solvents or any other substance that may be dangerous to health. The term “health surveillance at work” is aimed at preventing occupational risks, whose general objectives have to do with the identification of health problems and the evaluation of preventive interventions.

Surveillance of occupational diseases and injuries consists of systematic and continuous monitoring to prevent and control occupational risks, as well as the diseases and injuries associated with them. The meaning of what is health surveillance at work? Surveillance of the health of workers is a preventive activity that serves to protect the health of workers because it allows for identifying failures in the prevention plan.

What is health surveillance at work meaning?

Monitoring means being vigilant to prevent unwanted things from happening. In this case, monitoring the health of workers means being vigilant to prevent it from being damaged by working conditions. This surveillance can be carried out through medical examinations. Anything that provides information on the health of workers can become a valid indicator for health surveillance. Health surveillance serves three things:

  1. To realize in time that a worker is getting sick and to be able to act as soon as possible.
  2. To study if the illnesses of a group of workers are related to work.
  3. To verify if the preventive measures avoid damage to the health of the workers.

Participation of workers’ representatives

The workers’ representatives as members of the Health and Safety Committee have the right to participate in the planning of health surveillance activities, as part of the activity of prevention services. In general, in the rights of participation and consultation in a broad sense. Such is the case, for example, of mandatory consultations on “organization and development of health protection and occupational risk prevention activities”.

Lastly, the close link between health surveillance, risk assessment and the preparation of prevention plans opens up wide possibilities for participation in a field in which the role of prevention delegates is perfectly recognized. The concept of ‘workers’ health’ is defined by the World Health Organization as a state of physical, mental and social well-being and not just the absence of disease. 

Types of health surveillance

What is health surveillance at work
What is health surveillance at work?

Next, we are going to see what type of health surveillance exists:

  • Initial: After joining the job or assigning new tasks with new specific risks.
  • Periodic: According to the products or working conditions to which the worker is exposed that require by law.
  • After a long absence for health reasons: Workers in a situation of pregnancy or recent childbirth or breastfeeding.
  • Prolonged: In the cases in which the nature of the risks inherent to the work makes it necessary, the right of workers to regular monitoring of their health status.

You may like

  1. Safety of work at height
  2. Health and safety training
  3. Welding safety precautions
  4. Incident investigation method
  5. Electrical safety hazard

Health surveillance is important to:

  • Detect harmful health effects at an early stage, so that employers can introduce better controls to prevent them from getting worse. ?
  • Certainly, provide data to help employers assess health risks.
  • Certainly, allow employees to raise concerns about how work affects their health.
  • Firstly, highlight flaws in workplace control measures, thus providing valuable feedback to the risk assessment. 
  • Secondly, provide an opportunity to reinforce employee training and education (for example, on the impact of health effects and the use of protective equipment).

Importance of health surveillance

There is an identifiable disease or adverse health effect associated with exposure to the substance (s) in the workplace, for example, dermatitis, cancer, or asthma. Surveillance of occupational diseases and injuries consists of the systematic and continuous control of health-related problems in the workforce to prevent and control occupational risks, as well as the diseases and injuries associated with them.

Health surveillance is a process of evaluation of one or more aspects of a worker’s health. For example, lung function or skin condition. However, taking proper tests is. Employers must then have the results interpreted and take steps to eliminate or further control the exposure. It may be necessary to reassign affected workers if necessary.

What is health surveillance at work
What is health surveillance at work?

The term “workers’ health surveillance” encompasses a series of activities, referred to both individuals and communities and aimed at the prevention of occupational risks, whose general objectives have to do with the identification of health problems and the evaluation of preventive measures. 

  • It is possible to detect the disease / adverse health effect
  • Techniques to detect disease / adverse health effects do not pose any risk to employees.
  • Conditions in the workplace make the disease likely to appear.

Health surveillance at work – Acoustic health surveillance

Medical examinations before resuming work after a period of prolonged illness or in case of conditions that may be specified in national legislation or internationally recognized standards. The purpose of health surveillance is:

  • Warn employers when employees may be experiencing early signs of hearing damage
  • Give employers a chance to do something to prevent the damage from getting worse

Surveillance of workers’ health may include: 

  • Most importantly, determine any contraindications to noise exposure.
  • Moreover, detects any sensitivity to noise
  • In addition, establish a useful reference record for subsequent medical surveillance
  • After that, detect the first symptoms of the occupational disease such as the appearance of any hearing reduction due to noisy working conditions.

Health surveillance test – Acoustic

A suitably soundproof environment must be provided for testing. Individuals must be properly instructed and monitored during testing to ensure continued care and compliance.

During the test, the patient wears headphones connected to the audiometer. The audiometer sends a series of sounds that differ according to their pitch (frequency) and volume to the headphones or the bone conductor. Each ear of the patient will be evaluated individually. Each time the patient hears a tone. 

For example, the audiologist controls the volume of the sound emitted and lowers it until the patients hear nothing. The examiner will display a technically louder sound so the patient can hear again. The process will be carried out repeatedly with high-frequency sounds each time to accurately determine the patient’s hearing threshold at various frequencies.

What is health surveillance at work
What is health surveillance at work?

Many audiometers can speak through microphones and headphones to the person in the test booth. This should be used if responses to audiometric tones appear unusually poor or inconsistent.

The objective of the audiometry test:

  • Legal accomplice
  • Prevention of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL)
  • NIHL prevention reduced the risk of workers’ compensation payments
  • Hearing loss can also be reduced or eliminated, as well as tinnitus and other noise-related safety hazards. 
  • Employees are less likely to feel fatigued and upset, and the chance of stress-related illnesses can also be reduced
  • Decreased likelihood of antisocial behaviour.
  • Analysis of the results of the health surveillance of groups of workers can give an idea of ​​how well the program is working to control noise risks. Use the results to target noise reduction.

Health surveillance at work – Vibration health monitoring

A pre-employment medical examination should screen applicants for jobs affected by hand-arm vibration for Raynaud’s phenomenon. Or hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) from a previous job. If a worker is exposed to hand-transmitted vibrations, the occupational health professional is responsible for health surveillance. Examine the worker periodically, as prescribed by national laws and regulations, for HAVS and ask about symptoms;

  • If these symptoms seem. ?
  • Injuries resulting from work and non-work accidents
  • Illness that occurs at work or on the way to or from work
  • History of absences due to illness. 

Exposure limit values ​​and exposure values ​​give rise to an action.

  1. For the vibration transmitted to the hand-arm system:

The normalized daily exposure limit value for a reference period of eight hours is set at 5 m/s2. 

The normalized daily exposure value for a reference period of eight hours rises to action, set at 2.5 m/s2.

  1. For the vibration transmitted to the whole body:

The normalized daily exposure limit value for a reference period of eight hours is set at 1.15 m/s2. 

The normalized daily exposure value for a reference period of eight hours rises to action, set at 0.5 m/s2. 

Health surveillance at work – Biological monitoring

The assessment of the overall hazard presented by the work environment should be based on the results of the group of workers. Who is exposed to a certain level of the harmful substance, to counteract the effect of individual biological variability? Any worker whose findings exceed biological limits must undergo additional and repeated biological and medical investigations.

In interpreting biological monitoring data, the clinician must take into account the factors that contribute to individual variation in response to exposure. Two workers are likely to have differences in lung function, hemodynamics, body composition, the efficiency of excretory organs, and the activity of enzyme systems that mediate the metabolism of the chemical. 

Other factors to consider include personal factors (age, gender, pregnancy, medications, health status), and lifestyle choices (smoking, drug use. The amount of a substance absorbed by the subject depends on factors other than the degree of exposure, such as the physical effort required by work, ventilation or climate.

What is health surveillance at work
What is health surveillance at work?

The amount of a substance absorbed by a subject is a function of individual factors that can influence the toxicokinetic of the toxic agent in the body; for example, age, sex, genetic characteristics or the functional state of the organs where the toxic substance undergoes biotransformation and elimination.

There is not always sufficient knowledge about the relationships that exist between the levels of environmental exposure and the levels of biological indicators on the one hand and between the levels of biological indicators and the possible effects on health on the other.

Health surveillance at work – Radiation monitoring

The ionizing radiation exposure surveillance program (IR) in the work environment involves the surveillance of the personal dosimetries of exposed workers. Their comparative assessment with the reference values ​​in force at the national level (Nuclear Regulatory Authority in Radioprotection) and international [International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP).

And the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)] and the corresponding recommendations for preventive actions and medical control. In the surveillance program for workers exposed to IR, exposure monitoring, allows taking action. In which this case radioprotection measures and medical surveillance of the effects of IR. The criteria used for radioprotection screening, are classified into category A and category B.

Category A limitation of the total annual dose of 20 millisieverts (mSv) (average 5 years).  In addition, pregnant women, should not exceed a total annual effective dose greater than 1 mSv.


For workers, the performance of medical examinations will be voluntary with express consent, free, within the working day or with a discount if it is impossible for it to be carried out during the day and will cover the specific risks of their job position.

Health and safety-related topics:

fire extinguisher inspections requirements

5 types of workplace hazards

Welfare facilities required construction site

Alcohol and drug test at work

Scaffold safety requirements

Heat stress hazards and control measures

Housekeeping hazards on construction site

Unsafe act and unsafe condition difference



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *