What is Health Monitoring?
Put simply, Health Monitoring means keeping a check on your workers’ health to identify any changes because of exposure to certain hazards from doing their everyday work. It also aims to detect early signs of ill health or disease (i.e. diabetes). While it is important, it is not a replacement for controls to minimise the risk.
Health Monitoring can include lung function tests, hearing tests, vision checks, blood tests and drug and alcohol testing. It can also be useful to include other wellness checks around blood pressure, BMI, cholesterol and glucose. All Health Monitoring must be carried out, or supervised by, a Doctor/Registered Nurse or Nurse Practitioner with the appropriate skills, knowledge and experience in Health Monitoring. Workers must be consulted about the testing to be carried out and sign a consent prior.
A typical health monitoring regime would involve:
- Identifying all the environmental hazards workers may face;
- Sending workers for a ‘baseline’ medical test within 3 months of them starting work. This can also include other checks – for example physical functionality;
- An annual health check to see if exposure is worsening their health.
What are Wellness initiatives?
This is the other part of ‘health’! Workplace Wellness initiatives aim to improve the health of workers by encouraging healthy habits, which can prevent, or lower the risk, of serious health conditions developing. This can include improved nutrition, smoking cessation and increased physical activity. Wellness initiatives are linked to greater productivity, less absenteeism and fewer sick days for the employer and increased self-confidence and overall life satisfaction for workers.
Do we have to do it?
Health Monitoring is now a requirement under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and General Risk and Workplace Management Regulations 2016. This requirement is part of your duty of care as a PCBU - to monitor worker health as far as is reasonably practicable if exposure to a health risk warrants it. The results are an important step to assessing whether the controls you have put in place are managing the risk effectively.
Take a common-sense approach – think about whether the situation is potentially harmful and ask workers their opinion. Remember - all employees must be fit for work. Unfit employees can be unsafe!