Chemicals miners, processors, manufacturers, handlers and transporters should initiate a medical surveillance programme of employees if there they may be exposed to hazardous substances linked to known diseases.
By gathering and interpreting information about the health status of employees, employers are able to detect and manage health risks that workers and clients may be exposed to.
Medical surveillance practice benefit employees and employers,” says Dr Laurraine Lotter, executive director of the Chemical and Allied Industries Association (CAIA). Workers are provided a fundamental level of protection at work, while employers save money on aspects like material loss, insurance, disputes, claims, and sheq awareness, and health culture development.
Health and safety practice standards
CAIA’s Responsible Care programme include safety, health and environment management practice standards (MPS), which require signatories to:
• Comply with relevant legislation
• Draft job specifications
• Draft and update workplace risk assessments
• Conduct health assessments, based on job specifications, to determine employee medical fitness for specific tasks, by medical personnel who are familiar with workplace conditions
• Tailor occupational medical surveillance programmes to work site hazards, including workplace risk assessments and appropriate medical examinations.
Employers should maintain a planned programme of periodic medical monitoring of employees, and systematic review of health data, to detect early signs of disease before any symptoms become apparent.
Health assessments should be conducted by professional medical personnel, familiar with workplace conditions. Periodic employee health assessments aim to review medical fitness of workers who are exposed to identified hazards.
Health baseline data
Health data collected by screening should be used to establish a baseline of health of each worker, and to monitor changes in health status that may be due to exposure to hazardous agents.
Medical surveillance costs must be borne by employers. Employees should report for regular examinations. Medical surveillance presents an opportunity for employees to learn about their health and wellness, and about managing workplace risks.
Health risk awareness supports team skills, morale, sheq performance, and sheq culture.
Medical surveillance results should also be used to continuously improve working conditions and the health and safety management system.
Occupational health costs
Costs of occupational injuries and disease affect company profit and employment policy. Employers bear the cost of lost work days and lost productivity due to sick leave, lost skills, re-training, and recruitment, medical insurance, and excess treatment.
Employee co-operation and involvement is vital. Workers should recognise medical surveillance as being for their own benefit, follow health and lifestyle recommendations, comply with treatment schedules, report and discuss risk incidents, symptoms and conditions.
PHOTO; Dr Laurraine Lotter, executive director of the Chemical and Allied Industries Association (CAIA).