With the increasing number of chemicals and hazardous substances used in the workplace, health surveillance, has become a key component of a workplace occupational health program.
When is health surveillance necessary?
Health surveillance is often a legal requirement in a workplace where an employee is exposed to substances hazardous to health. Our Medical Director is both a fellow of the RACGP and a Certified Occupational Hygienist, with over 20 years’ of industry experience and can provide advice and guidance on Health Surveillance requirements in your workplace.
If the health of a person is at risk as a result of exposure to asbestos at work, the employer must ensure that health surveillance is carried out in accordance with the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Regulations 1996. Regulation 5.1 defines ‘health surveillance’ and regulation 5.23 requires an employer, main contractor or self-employed person to provide health surveillance to a worker in relation to hazardous substances.
Assessing risk of exposure
When assessing risk of exposure it is important to determine the following:
- Activities carried out
- The presence of asbestos containing material (confirmed or suspected)
- The method used and risk of airborne fibres being generated
- The duration of potential exposure
- The level of potential exposure
- Personal protective equipment or other controls used and whether they were used correctly and appropriately trained and fit tested
Examples of those activities where asbestos health surveillance is required include:
- Removal or handling of friable asbestos materials (‘friable’ means the asbestos containing material is in a powder form, or can be crumbled by hand pressure);
- Handling asbestos using unsafe practices (e.g. cutting with power tools) or
- Activities where exposure to asbestos is at or above the occupational exposure standard in the workplace. In Western Australia this exposure limit is 0.1f/ml.