Advanced techniques to promote worker safety: health surveillance

A well-known adage insists that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This saying may be most appropriate in the contest of health and safety in the workplace. Eliminating hazards before they lead to a serious safety problem is essential for any business that takes its workers’ well-being seriously. Eliminating hazards, however, requires companies to first detect them. This is where health surveillance comes in.

Many business managers and owners have never heard of the concept of health surveillance. This is to their disadvantage, since the process can help companies to systematically identify when working conditions or other factors are having an adverse effect on worker health. Health surveillance basically consists of being on the look-out for the early warning signs that can indicate problems, but to carry it out effectively, it must not be conducted on a “catch as catch can” basis.

Workers who handle caustic chemicals, for example, can be trained to look for skin damages on themselves or others. Those who might be exposed to harmful respiratory events can be closely monitored through the use of periodic questionnaires asking highly relevant questions about breathing issues.

Some working situations demand a more complex and technical system of health surveillance. To truly measure lung health so that any declines can spur an investigation into the work-related causes, employers may wish to include spirometry tests on relevant workers. These tests can identify the onset of occupational asthma as well as several other conditions of the respiratory system. Similarly, formalised hearing tests can be helpful for detecting the development of auditory problems. Such information can cue companies to find and correct the root cause of the problems, which in turn allows them to better safeguard their workers’ health on the job.

To learn more about promoting worker health, businesses should send personnel to the excellent Workstation Risk Assessment Course & Training offered by Winter & Company.