If your business handles hazardous substances, you are obligated by law to have a health surveillance program.
There are onerous obligations imposed on the Appointed Medical Practitioner to comply with the health surveillance requirements.
EMPLOYER LEGAL OBLIGATIONS
Occupational Safety Health Regulations 1996; regulations 5.23–5.25 relate to health surveillance and obligations of an employer and the role of the Appointed Medical Practitioner (AMP).
Schedule 5.3 of the regulations lists 16 hazardous substances which require health surveillance by law.
WHAT IS HEALTH SURVEILLANCE?
Health surveillance is the monitoring of a worker’s health.
The purpose is to identify early changes from exposure to hazardous substances. This is so that appropriate action can be taken to prevent irreversible harm.
Health surveillance generally includes:
- Work history
- Health screening questionnaire
- Physical examination
- Specific tests depending on the health effects of the hazard; for example silica etc.
Health surveillance is undertaken:
- Before commencement of employment
- At regular intervals depending on the substance
- At termination of employment
The role of the AMP by law include:
- Education of the worker; about potential effects of the hazardous substance, the importance of personal hygiene, and use of PPE
- Notifying the worker of the health surveillance results and provide an explanation
- Providing feedback to the employer regarding effectiveness of control measures based on the health surveillance results
- Advising the employer on interventions to take including removal from work if there is evidence of adverse health consequence from exposure
- Notify Worksafe if required
- Keeping records for at least 30 years
Health surveillance monitoring is required where exposure to hazardous solvents and metals can adversely impact cognitive capabilities, the neuropsychological functional screen can be used to objectively measure, test cognitive decline due to workplace exposure.
With an aging workforce, neuropsychological function screening for cognitive decline, decision making impairment can assist with periodic, ongoing monitoring of the health of the workforce, in many high risk job/roles and industries.
LEGISLATED & INDUSTRY SPECIFIC EXAMINATIONS
Including health surveillance when lead, crystalline silica, arsenic, isocyanates, organophosphates etc. are in use.