skip to content

Occupational Health


Health surveillance is a system of ongoing health checks. These health checks may be required by law for employees who are exposed to noise or vibration, ionising radiation, solvents, fumes, dusts, biological agents and other substances hazardous to health, or work in compressed air.

Health surveillance is important for:

  • detecting ill-health effects at an early stage, and ensure better controls to prevent them getting worse
  • providing data to help employers evaluate health risks
  • enabling employees to raise concerns about how work affects their health
  • highlighting lapses in workplace control measures, therefore providing invaluable feedback to the risk assessment
  • providing an opportunity to reinforce training and education of employees (eg on the impact of health effects and the use of protective equipment)

Your risk assessment should be used to identify any need for health surveillance. Health surveillance should not be used as a substitute for undertaking a risk assessment or using effective controls.

Health surveillance is needed to:

  • protect workers who are at an increased risk
  • identify work-related ill health at an early stage so that steps can be taken to treat the condition and prevent further damage
  • give early warning that protective control measures are no longer effective

Health surveillance does not reduce the need to eliminate or manage health risks.

Health surveillance is a particular legal requirement and should not be confused with:

  • activities to monitor health where the effects from work are strongly suspected but cannot be established
  • workplace wellbeing checks, such as promoting healthy living
  • fitness to work assessments such as fitness to drive forklift trucks or health assessments requested by night workers

When is health surveillance conducted?

Criteria for conducting health surveillance includes when:

  • an individual being exposed to a hazardous substance that is linked to an identifiable disease of adverse health effect
  • there is reasonable chance that the disease or adverse health effect may occur under the conditions of work
  • there are valid techniques of detecting the disease or adverse health effect

At the University health surveillance is likely to be necessary where there is exposure to:

  • carcinogens—in practice valid tests and techniques do not exist but the a health record is needed
  • dangerous pathogens, e.g., hepatitis B, HIV and TB
  • certain sensitisers, such as  substances that may cause occupational asthma, e.g., laboratory animals, mineral oils, wood dust, solder fumes
  • substances that may cause dermatitis, e.g., latex
  • noise and vibration
  • substances with systemic toxicity such as lead, arsenic and mercury

Manager/Departmental Safety Officer responsibilities

  • After a carefully conducted, suitable and sufficient COSHH risk assessment inform OH of the potential need for health surveillance
  • Ensure that all people intending to working with substances requiring health surveillance have completed a the Job Hazard Evaluation Form and are registered on the appropriate health surveillance programme
  • Record and maintain all health surveillance results on the Health Record Form to be kept for 40 years in line with the COSHH Regulations 2002
  • Ensure prompt referral to OH if a member of staff reports ill health symptoms that could be related to their working environment, e.g., respiratory/skin problems
  • Ensure that where reasonably practicable any recommendations from OH are implemented

OH responsibilities

  • Ensure that health surveillance is undertaken on staff identified as requiring it and at the appropriate level, e.g., one off registration for carcinogen work or initial face-to-face assessment and follow up assessment for laboratory animal workers. The level of health surveillance will depend on the assessed health risk of exposure and individual susceptibility.
  • Report the results of all health surveillance carried out back to the department to maintain the COSHH Health Record
  • Report anonymised results of all health surveillance programmes to Consultative Committee for Safety
  • Report any occupational diseases identified through health surveillance to the Health and Safety Office for reporting to the Health and Safety Executive under the Reporting of Injuries, Disease and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR)
  • Maintain a recall system to ensure that the named contact person is advised when an individual's health surveillance is due as well as supplying information about non-attendees

Employee responsibilities

  • Register and comply with the health surveillance programme
  • Early reporting to management/DSO and OH any possible work related ill health symptoms