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Health surveillance, safety-critical medicals, or mini-health checks are all commonplace in our industry, but they often are confused.  There is nothing more frustrating than seeing organisations invest their resources into something to realise they thought they were doing something else.

This post explains the fundamental differences of ‘health checks’ and will help you to ensure you are investing in the things that you actually need.

Health Surveillance

If you work in construction it’s likely that your workforce will need to be in a health surveillance programme. Health surveillance is a system of regular health checks that are required by law for employees exposed to noise or vibration, ionising radiation, solvents, fumes, dusts, biological agents and other substances hazardous to health, or work in compressed air (Health and Safety Executive).

  • They will detect early signs of work-related ill-health, so you can prevent it from getting worse.
  • They will tell you if your control measures are effective, or if you need to do more.
  • They will help educate your workers on how to protect their health from workplace risks (e.g how to fit hearing protection).
  • They will be determined by your risk assessment -you don’t need to do every health check on each person, you’re likely to be wasting your money if you do.
  • They don’t always have to be face to face appointments and the programme will need to be managed by OH.

Pre-placement health checks

These are part of your recruitment process.  They are undertaken AFTER an offer of employment is made.

They will:

  • determine someone’s medical suitability for their role.
  • help you identify any adjustments needed to comply with the Equality Act 2010.
  • determine a baseline of someone’s health and could be part of an ongoing health surveillance programme.
  • they can be done online or on paper but you will need support from Occupational Health if someone declares a health condition.  Managers or HR are not competent to assess medical information to determine fitness for a role. This is something that I’ve seen happen too frequently in construction!

Safety-Critical Medicals (SCM)

Employers have a duty of care to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their workforce.

In construction, many tasks and roles can be classed as “safety-critical”.  This is defined as,

“where the ill health of an individual may compromise their ability to undertake a task defined as safety-critical, thereby posing a significant risk to the health and safety of others.”

  • There is no defined list of safety-critical roles, but it will often include plant operators, slingers/signallers, banksmen, etc.  This is down to you (or sometimes your client) to determine based on your risk.  The old constructing better health matrix may help you with this.
  • SCM’s are not a legal requirement but will go a long way to help you demonstrate how you’ve ensured your workers are “fit for work”
  • They are often undertaken every 3 years (unless clinically justified to be done more frequently).  Organisations are moving away from repeating tests more frequently due to age and treating everyone the same.
  • The outcomes of these assessments could impact a worker’s employment rights so they need to be managed very carefully, often with support from HR.
  • You’ll likely need a policy and procedure for how these will be managed.  It will also demonstrate how you’re complying with the Equality Act 2010 and help your workers understand the potential consequences.
  • These will be undertaken by occupational health, (could be a technician under supervision of an Occupational Health Advisor).

Wellbeing checks

These are the ‘nice to have’ health assessments that complement your wellbeing programme.  Construction often refers to them as mini-health checks or MOTs.  These are voluntary and individuals cannot be forced to attend.  

They don’t have to be undertaken by Occupational Health but could be done by wellbeing professionals, including personal trainers, a nutritionist, or someone that’s undergone training.  You will still need to ensure that your worker’s data is being processed in the right way but these shouldn’t be done instead of health surveillance or fitness for work assessments.  A common mistake that is done by well-intended managers.

We can help you review, select, and embed any new services.  If you’re looking for a review of your current providers to identify cost efficiencies or just for opportunities for continual improvement. Get in touch, or check out our support here.

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