What is medical surveillance and why is it important?

In spite of the technological advancements over the last 20 years, there are still a number of industries and work environments that require physical human labour in order to perform arduous and often life-threatening tasks. Mining, construction, and even the transport industry can be dangerous to employees’ health. This is why we have strictly monitored Occupational Health and Safety laws in place: to create safe and healthy work environments for employers, employees, and anyone visiting the work site.

However, Occupational Health and Safety laws don’t ensure a 100% safety rate. While on-site accidents may be prevented by the installation of stringent workplace regulations and standards of practice, there may be other threats to the workforce that go undetected, which is why medical surveillance is very necessary in today’s work environments.

What is medical surveillance?

It is the employee’s responsibility to ensure that he puts his training to good use and applies it in the field to protect his and his colleagues’ physical health and safety. It’s up to the employer, however, to ensure that the work environment isn’t having a detrimental effect on his employees – that he is aware of the risks and isn’t subjecting employee health to them unnecessarily. Medical surveillance includes a range of physical checks and examinations that are performed three to four times per year.

These examinations and check-ups include screenings for hearing, blood tests, as well as joint pain (tenosynovitis). They can also include heart and lung function, as well as a battery of other cardiovascular tests. The tests and screenings will vary from one industry and workplace to the next. Machine operators, for instance, will need to have regular eye tests and hearing tests. These screenings can really lower the risk for accidents – preventing them rather than needing to clean up the mess afterwards.

Why is medical surveillance important?

By regularly testing and monitoring employee health and wellness, the process of medical surveillance can give you a bird’s eye view of your employees’ health for the duration of their employ with your company. Regular medical surveillance will indicate health conditions such as a steadily decreasing heart function, deteriorating lung conditions, as well as increased or decreased fitness levels.

If you can see that exposure to chemicals or other harmful substances, for example, is having a negative effect on your employees, medical surveillance provides the tools for you to monitor this effect and then mitigate the risks to save employees’ lives, to prevent occupational illness and injury lawsuits, as well as to keep your workforce optimally healthy and productive.