What does COSHH Health Surveillance mean for your business?

July 16, 2013

As a business required under COSHH to install a Local Exhaust Ventilation system to prevent or reduce employee exposure to hazardous fumes or dust you will have no doubt heard the term COSHH Health Surveillance, but what does it mean practically for your business?

Health surveillance for the purpose of COSHH Regulations is defined as “any activity which involves obtaining information about employees’ health and which helps protect them from health risks at work.”

The first thing to note is that this shouldn’t be confused with general health screening – it is intended to monitor, detect and evaluate specific health issues or diseases that are caused a result of working with substances and the processes they are used in.

So when do you need to undertake Health Surveillance?

The requirement for health surveillance only comes into effect when there is a disease associated with the particular substance in use, for example, occupational asthma, dermatitis or cancer.

It also has to be possible to detect the disease or an adverse change in the overall health of your employee and reduce the risk of further harm.  Finally, it must be completed where the conditions in the workplace make it likely that the disease will appear.

The starting place therefore when determining whether health surveillance is required are the risk assessments completed as part of the COSHH process.

If during the risk assessment process, you have identified the need to install an LEV system to control the exposure of your employees to solvents, dust or fumes then you will certainly need to consider health surveillance.

Having installed appropriate ventilation systems and taken necessary steps to remove or reduce the risks, health surveillance forms an important part of the overall monitoring process and is used as a means of checking that control measures are working effectively.

Having established a requirement for Health Surveillance, what is actually involved?

The health surveillance process should be completed on a regular basis but can be confined to specific areas of an employees’ health.  There are a number of ways that the surveillance can take place depending on the exact disease or condition being monitored including the use of specific medical tests, examinations and/or specific health questionnaires.

It is important here to note that it isn’t sufficient to simply complete the monitoring, as an employer your responsibility continues to the interpretation of the results so that any necessary action to eliminate or further control exposure can be completed including the redeployment of affected workers if necessary.

For many businesses, this is where it gets difficult as it is unlikely you will be or have a member of your team that is, medically trained or competent to undertake this work.

Unless there is a legal requirement for medical surveillance (when dealing with certain substances such as asbestos), you can look to appoint a member of your organisation as a responsible person to undertake this work, most likely with some relevant training.

Alternatively, you can look to employ the services of an occupational health advisor to help identify what form the surveillance should take and the interpretation of the results for specific individuals as well as provide grouped data to help highlight trends.

How can we help?

At Vent Tech we work closely with a number of occupational health advisors as part of our work in designing, installing and testing industrial ventilation systems.  We are always happy to introduce a local provider to any business that needs assistance in completing their health surveillance at the start of the design process for their ventilation system.

Similarly, if you already have a ventilation system in place but you need assistance with understanding the requirements of a responsible person to meet your health surveillance obligations get in touch and we can provide you with details of a local provider that can help.

Additional Resources

We hope you found the information in this post informative.  Further information about this subject can be located on the HSE website.  We particularly feel that the following are useful starting points:

Health Surveillance Decision Making Map– download here

Health Surveillance Process Lifecycle– download here

For help and assistance on this or any aspect of your industrial ventilation system please call the team at Vent-Tech on 0117 9712163, we are always happy to help.