Health Monitoring – do we have to?

As a business, you have legal requirements to protect not just the safety of your workers but also their health by identifying hazards and managing the associated risks. If your business creates health risks you have an obligation under the HSWA 2015 to monitor the health of your workers to ensure that the controls you are using to manage the health risks within the business, are working. These will depend on the type of work they are undertaking.

Health monitoring should be seen as a method to ensure that control measures are effective, and it provides an opportunity to reinforce specific preventative measures and safe work practices in the workplace, for example dust extraction, hearing protection, etc.

Some of these workplace hazards can include:
• noise or vibration
• high exposure to sunlight/UV rays
• temperature extremes of hot and cold
• chemicals and solvents
• welding fumes
• dust from concrete or asbestos
• Biological agents such as fungi/mould, insect bits, faecal matter.

If your business creates these health risks, it would be expected that new and existing workers have a baseline health monitoring test upon commencing work and depending on the level of exposure, at least annual health monitoring tests conducted. This would make sure the workers health is not deteriorating over and above what would be expected for their age and stage in life.
Examples of health monitoring include:
• spirometry testing which detects early changes in lung function
• audiometric testing to detect early hearing loss.

Exposure monitoring should also be considered in conjunction with health monitoring to monitor the conditions at the workplace and this can also include biological monitoring of people. This type of monitoring checks to see if workers are potentially being exposed to hazards at harmful levels.

Examples of exposure monitoring in the workplace include:
• monitoring noise levels
• monitoring the air workers are inhaling.

Businesses can request workers take part in health monitoring or exposure monitoring however workers must give their informed consent before monitoring can be undertaken.

If a worker does not wish to undergo any type of monitoring, the worker should discuss the matter with their manager or health and safety representative to consider other options which do not expose them to any of the risks in the workplace.

For any Health & Safety or Human Resource queries, contact SBS on ph. 0508424723 or email info@safebusiness.co.nz.