Workplace Health Surveillance definition

Workplace health surveillance is concerned with removing the factors that cause injuries and ill health in the workplace. The International Labour Organization and World Health Organization’s Committee on Occupational Health defines workplace health surveillance as a “system which includes a functional capacity for data collection, analysis and dissemination linked to occupational health programmes.”

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) offers five reasons why workplace health surveillance is important:

  1. Detecting causative factors of ill health as early as possible so better preventative measures can be introduced
  2. Providing data to help organisations evaluate and mitigate health risks
  3. Helping employees to raise concerns about potential causes of ill health at work
  4. Highlighting lapses in workplace health controls which can be used to inform risk assessments
  5. Reinforcing training and awareness of the importance of safety equipment and the potential for ill health caused by the workplace

The HSE advises that blanket checks for all employees can provide ‘misleading results and waste money.’

In the UK and other jurisdictions, workplace health surveillance may be required by law if employees are exposed to certain hazardous stimuli including noise and vibration, solvents and fumes. It differs from medical screening, which aims to detect and treat diseases and health problems caused by workplace factors as quickly as possible.

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