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Occupational Health During Coronavirus

occupational health remotely

how to ensure the health and welfare of employees

Continuing Health Surveillance during a Pandemic

During this coronavirus pandemic (March 2020) where sites are locked down, new guidance was issued by The Society of Occupational Medicine for employers, on how to maintain occupational health checks and health surveillance for their employees still working, allowing continued compliance with health and safety legislation. 

Safewell's Occupational Health

During the coronavirus pandemic our occupational health service is still operational and we have moved, temporarily, to paper based occupational health screening and telephone / video call based occupational health assessments. Visit our normal occupational health services…

Provision of Coronavirus Testing Kits

14/4/20 Currently there are no approved publicly available Coronavirus self testing kits. The Government has stated any conronavirus test kits currently being sold for personal or business testing are not CE marked and should not be used because the results are currently unreliable. Government’s Page on Coronavirus Testing Kits  Visit our normal occupational health services…

Guidance for occupational health providers, appointed doctors and employers on performing health/medical surveillance.

In the light of advice from Public Health England on COVID-19, HSE has set out in guidance below, a proportionate and flexible approach to enable health/medical surveillance to continue. It applies where workers are undergoing periodic review under several sets of health and safety regulations. The guidance balances the current constraints presented by the COVID-19 outbreak and the need to protect the health, safety and welfare of workers.

The guidance will be subject to review.

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Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH)

For health surveillance under COSHH regulation 11, the assessment can be undertaken as a paper review by administering the appropriate health questionnaire (eg respiratory) remotely. If no problems are identified, then a full assessment can be deferred for six months. Those with problems can be assessed further, for example, by telephone in the first instance. A judgement can then be made on whether to see the worker face to face and, if so, how to do so safely.

For medical surveillance under COSHH Schedule 6, the appointed doctor can use discretion to determine the content of the review. Therefore, they can perform a telephone review and if there are no problems, they can defer a full assessment for up to six months. Where there is a problem, a judgement can then be made on whether to see the worker face to face. If it is they should make a suitable and sufficient risk assessment and put in place appropriate controls, taking into account PHE advice regarding COVID-19.

For those workers who previously had no problems and, on that basis, had a full assessment deferred for three months in accordance with HSE guidance issued on the 20th March 2020, the occupational health professional/appointed doctor can further defer a full assessment for up to three months without reviewing the worker again. They should issue a new medical certificate, ensuring it clearly states for how long it is valid.

For initial assessment of new workers, the occupational health professional/appointed doctor can follow the guidance above for periodic health surveillance. If there are no problems, they can defer a full assessment for up to six months. They should issue a new medical certificate, ensuring it clearly states for how long it is valid.

Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR)

To undertake medical surveillance under CAR, appointed doctors can establish the worker has no significant symptoms by using a respiratory symptom questionnaire undertaken remotely. Providing there are no problems, they can then issue a new certificate for up to six months. Those with problems can be assessed further, for example, by telephone in the first instance. A judgement can then be made on whether to see the worker face to face. If it is they should make a suitable and sufficient risk assessment and put in place appropriate controls, taking into account PHE advice regarding COVID-19.

For those workers who previously had no problems and, on that basis had an assessment deferred for three months in accordance with HSE guidance issued on the 20th March 2020, the appointed doctor can further defer a full assessment for up to three months without reviewing the worker again. They should issue a new medical certificate, ensuring it clearly states for how long it is valid.

For initial assessment of new workers, the appointed doctor can follow the guidance above for periodic health surveillance. If there are no problems, they can issue a medical certificate for up to six months. They should issue a new medical certificate, ensuring it clearly states for how long it is valid.

Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017 (IRR)

For routine medical surveillance of classified persons under IRR, the appointed doctor can conduct a paper review. For high risk radiation workers such as industrial radiographers, or those classified persons at the end of the five-year cycle where a face to face review is planned, they can carry out a telephone consultation and review the dose records and sickness absence records. If there are no problems, a follow up face to face review can be deferred for up to six months. Where there is a problem, a judgement can then be made on whether to see the worker face to face. If it is they should make a suitable and sufficient risk assessment and put in place appropriate controls, taking into account PHE advice regarding COVID-19.

For those workers who previously had no problems and, on that basis, had a full assessment deferred for three months in accordance with HSE guidance issued on 20 March 2020, the appointed doctor can further defer a face to face review for up to three months without reviewing the worker again.

For new workers who have not previously been classified persons, the appointed doctor can assess fitness on a case by case basis, taking account of the type of work to be undertaken and the work environment. They can consider whether enough information could be obtained using video consultation to enable them to adequately assess fitness. If there are no problems, they can defer a full assessment for up to 6 months. Where there is a problem, a judgement can then be made on whether to see the worker face to face. If it is they should make a suitable and sufficient risk assessment and put in place appropriate controls, taking into account PHE advice regarding COVID-19. 

For those who have worked previously as a classified person, are returning to work with ionising radiation and have had a face to face review within the last 4 years, the appointed doctor can review their medical records and conduct a telephone consultation. They can check they have not got any new health problems that would affect their fitness to work with ionising radiation. They should then follow a normal pattern of medicals going forward. If the individual has not had a face to face review in the last 4 years, the appointed doctor should follow the guidance above for new workers.

Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002 (CLAW)

For medical surveillance under CLAW, where workers continue to be significantly exposed to lead, blood tests should continue. However, where a worker has been having annual blood tests, their blood lead level is low and stable and their risks from exposure to lead have not changed, the blood test can be deferred for six months.

Where a worker’s periodic medical assessment is due, the appointed doctor can assess them by telephone. Providing there are no problems, the next full review can be scheduled three months later. Where there is a problem, a judgement can then be made on whether to see the worker face to face. If it is they should make a suitable and sufficient risk assessment and put in place appropriate controls, taking into account PHE advice regarding COVID-19.

 For those workers who previously had no problems and, on that basis, had a full assessment deferred for three months in accordance with HSE guidance issued on 20 March 2020, the appointed doctor can further defer the full assessment for up to three months without reviewing the worker again. If the worker has not been exposed to lead for several weeks (eg they have not been in work), the appointed doctor should obtain their blood lead level within 4-6 weeks of resuming work with lead.

For initial assessment of new workers, the appointed doctor can follow the guidance above for periodic medical surveillance and obtain baseline blood lead and haemoglobin levels. They should do this before the individual starts work for the first time with lead, and in any event not later than 14 days after first exposure. If there are no problems, they can defer a full assessment for up to six months.

Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005

Providing the worker does not identify any relevant problems, audiometry can be deferred for a period of six months. Where there is a problem, a review can be undertaken by telephone and then a judgement can be made on whether to see the worker face to face and, if so, how to do so safely.

For those workers who previously had audiometry deferred for three months in accordance with HSE guidance issued on 20 March 2020, the occupational health professional/ audiologist can further defer audiometry for up to three months.

Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005

The usual tiered approach to health surveillance will apply. Questionnaires can be administered remotely. Where there is a problem, a review can be undertaken by telephone and then a judgement can be made on whether to see the worker face to face. If it is they should make a suitable and sufficient risk assessment and put in place appropriate controls, taking into account PHE advice regarding COVID-19.

For Safewell’s occupational health customers still operating we moved their health surveillance from site visits over to paper based screening with telephone follow up.

All occupational health assessments are still continuing and are all done over the telephone or Microsoft Teams for video call. 

If you would benefit from our flexible approach to maintain your occupational health through this period from the expertise of Safewell’s Occupational Health Team, please get in contact via a contact form or 01793 852951.

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