The Importance of Health Surveillance for Manufacturing Employees

The manufacturing sector is a vital part of the UK economy, employing millions of people across various industries. However, manufacturing work can expose employees to a range of health risks, such as noise, vibration, dust, fumes, and hazardous substances. As an employer in the manufacturing sector, it is your legal duty to protect the health and safety of your workforce, and one key aspect of this is implementing a robust health surveillance programme.

What Is Health Surveillance?

Health surveillance is a system of ongoing health checks that help to identify early signs of work-related ill health and enable timely intervention to protect employees’ well-being. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), health surveillance is required when employees are exposed to certain health risks and when there is a reasonable likelihood that an identifiable disease or adverse health effect may occur.

Legal Requirements for Health Surveillance

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, employers must conduct a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of the health and safety risks faced by their employees. Where a risk assessment identifies the need for health surveillance, employers must ensure that this is carried out by a competent person, such as an occupational health professional.

Common Health Risks in the Manufacturing Sector

Some of the most common health risks encountered in the manufacturing sector include:

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Exposure to loud noise can cause permanent hearing damage. The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 require employers to assess and control noise risks, provide hearing protection, and conduct health surveillance for employees exposed to high noise levels.

Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS)

Prolonged use of vibrating tools can lead to HAVS, a painful and disabling condition affecting the nerves, blood vessels, and joints of the hands and arms. The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 set out employers’ duties to assess and control vibration risks and provide health surveillance for at-risk employees.

Occupational Asthma

Exposure to dust, fumes, and chemicals can cause occupational asthma, a serious respiratory condition. The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002 require employers to assess, control, and monitor exposure to hazardous substances and provide health surveillance where necessary.

Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs)

Manufacturing work often involves manual handling, repetitive movements, and awkward postures, which can lead to MSDs such as back pain, neck pain, and upper limb disorders. Employers should conduct risk assessments, provide ergonomic equipment and training, and monitor employees’ health through surveillance.

Implementing an Effective Health Surveillance Programme

To ensure the effectiveness of your health surveillance programme, consider the following steps:

Conduct Risk Assessments

Identify the health risks present in your manufacturing operations through thorough risk assessments. This will help you determine the type and frequency of health surveillance required.

Choose a Competent Provider

Select an experienced occupational health provider, such as London City Healthcare, to design and deliver your health surveillance programme. They can provide expert advice, conduct occupational health assessments, and interpret results.

Communicate with Employees

Engage your employees in the health surveillance process by explaining its purpose, benefits, and procedures. Encourage them to report any health concerns and participate fully in the programme.

Act on Results

Use the findings of health surveillance to identify any trends or areas of concern. Take prompt action to control risks, adapt work practices, and support affected employees.

Keep Accurate Records

Maintain clear, confidential records of health surveillance activities, including consent forms, assessment results, and any actions taken. This will help you demonstrate compliance with legal requirements and monitor the ongoing health of your workforce.

Partnering with Occupational Health Professionals

Implementing a comprehensive health surveillance programme can be complex and time-consuming. By partnering with experienced occupational health providers like London City Healthcare, you can ensure that your programme is tailored to your specific needs, complies with legal requirements, and supports the long-term health and well-being of your manufacturing employees.

By investing in a robust health surveillance programme, you can protect your employees’ health, reduce absenteeism and turnover, and create a safer, more productive manufacturing workplace.

Dr Amun Kalia

Dr Amun Kalia

Dr. Kalia helps to run the Occupational Medicine provision for London City healthcare and is a company doctor for one of the largest multinational companies based in the UK.

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