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Occupational Health Monitoring

Health and safety monitoring

Here at Leafcutter we love to help businesses understand their legislative requirements. One area in which we have been asked to provide guidance on, is “Health Monitoring”. We thought it timely to do a blog on this and especially as Silica Dust seems to be getting some traction in the media at present.

Monitoring programs can detect early signs of work-related health issues, such as: occupational diseases, respiratory problems, hearing loss, musculoskeletal disorders. Early detection enables timely intervention, treatment, and prevention measures, thus reducing the impact on workers' health and well-being.

Monitoring data forms the basis for evidence-based decisions regarding occupational health and safety. It helps identify trends, patterns, and emerging risks, allowing policymakers, employers, and health professionals to allocate resources effectively, prioritize interventions, and implement preventive measures.

Sometimes there is the misconception that if you have your employees conduct a Pre-Employment medical plus a Drug and Alcohol Test, then you have all bases covered. Here at Leafcutter, we want to knock these thoughts to the curb, but use this blog to increase your knowledge of what your legal obligations are as a business owner.

Another misconception we commonly hear is that there isn’t concern for the client's site who handles hazardous substances if the substance has no smell. Fact – odour threshold is not an effective risk management tool, in fact, some substances desensitise a sense of smell when the concentration levels increase.

One thing to get straight from the start, is that there is a difference between exposure monitoring, and health monitoring, and that businesses have an obligation to share information such as written in this blog with their contractors/subcontractors.

If you or your workers, including contractors, subcontractors, handle substances in your workplace, or at a clients site where there is a risk to health, then you need to be confident your control measures implemented are providing sufficient protection.

To determine concentration levels aren’t at harmful levels within the workplace, this is when exposure monitoring is completed. Exposure monitoring must be completed at intervals deemed appropriate OR after a significant change that may impact exposure.

To determine that workers health isn’t being impacted over time, then this is where health monitoring is completed. This type of monitoring can be completed in various ways, including biological monitoring, and the extent of the type of monitoring required is to be recommended by an occupational health practitioner.

If there is a need to undertake monitoring in your workplace, you need to keep your workforce involved with this process, and all records must be kept for at least 30 years or 40 years if relating to asbestos.

We have developed the following to be used as a “self-check”.

  • Can you be certain that substances being used in the workplaces aren’t hazardous to health? If not, follow the next bullet points:

  • Do you have Safety Data Sheets for all of the substances that you handle? This will help you identify the risk profile of the substances being used and what next steps are needed.

  • Have you conducted a review against the current Workplace Exposure Standards and Biological Exposure Indices (Edition 13)?

  • If you handle substances that require monitoring, engage an appropriate, independent third party to assist you such as an occupational health practitioner.

  • Do you have a hazardous substance register documenting maximum quantities of substances to be handled in the workplace? We can provide you with a template and talk you through the process of what is required to complete this.

Overall, occupational health monitoring plays a crucial role in protecting the health and well-being of workers in New Zealand. It enables the identification of workplace hazards, assessment of health risks, compliance with regulations, early detection of health issues, program evaluation, and evidence-based decision making to create safer and healthier workplace environments.

The purpose of this blog is to provide a quick point of reference for business owners to expand their knowledge in a simple, easy to understand format, and in doing so we should point out that the information given is not an exhaustive list of business requirements across all industries.

If you would like advice tailored to YOUR specific business and substances being used, contact us here at Leafcutter. Our team of specialists are here to guide and support you.

Find out more about the health & safety services we offer.

Supporting ambitious New Zealand businesses to thrive.


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