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Medical surveillance: What you need to know

by , 22 August 2015
As an employer, it is your responsibility to reduce risks in the workplace. Medical surveillance is one of the many measures that can greatly reduce exposure to workplace hazards. Its very purpose is preventative in that it sets out to identify underlying causes of exposure and eliminate them.

So, here's what you need to know:

What are your duties?

As the employer, you are required to:

Make sure that an employee who was exposed to hazardous agents is placed under medical surveillance;
Offer medical examinations to your employees;
Get an occupational medical practitioner to draw up a 'medical surveillance programme';
Bar any unfit employees from working in areas where there is a risk of exposure, at least until he is declared fit again; and
Keep all medical surveillance records for at least 40 years.
When must medical surveillance be carried out? 

You must make sure that medical surveillance is carried out if: 

Your risk assessment indicates that possible exposure has taken place;
The occupational medical practitioner can justify the need for one; and if
The employee has an identifiable disease that could be linked to exposure to any hazardous agents in the workplace.


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What classifies as 'hazardous agents'?

Hazardous agents can be classified into chemical, physical, mechanical, psychological and ergonomic hazards: 

Chemical hazards include hazards such as dust, vapours, fumes and gas;
Physical hazards include hazards such as noise, radiation, lighting and extreme temperatures;
Mechanical hazards include vibrations;
Psychological hazards include work-based stress; and 
Ergonomic hazards can include poor posture due to manual handling for example.

So, there you have it! There are some important points that you need to know about medical surveillance. 

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