OSH resilience via training and health surveillance

OSH excellence

One is reminded of a quote by Dalai Lama which goes thus: “Man surprised me most about humanity. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health…”

Preventive screening remains controversial and confusing to the health care consumers. While the advantages of preventive screening for diseases is hard to counter, there are arguments that screening does not always lead to better health.

In developing countries the workers most exposed to occupational risks are those employed in agriculture, chemical and primary extraction industries and heavy manufacturing. Quite apart from this poor equipment, heavy workload and even poisoning due to pesticide’s and organic dusts take their heavy toll on workers, health and safety. Further, work related hazards is changing with the introduction of new chemical substances which pose a threat to community and workers alike.

Moreover, occupational risks such as temperature (excessive heat or cold), humidity of air, dampness inducing chill, low air movements and defective lighting in the workplace affect the workers. Further other factors like noise, sustained vibration, excessive uncontrolled ionizing radiation, high voltage electric current and abnormal air pressure produce damaging effects on certain organs of the body. Quite apart from this certain substances cause poisoning or disease in industry.

While training serves as a constant reminder and an active tool for workers to deploy against such hazards, topical work especially field work invites differing opinion as to ‘how exactly’ can the trainings be more practical in addressing field challenges. Health surveillance therefore becomes a factfinder as to worker exposure to their risks, its effects and ultimately the effectiveness of training programs.

Health surveillance is the process of monitoring the health of employees exposed to certain hazardous substances for which there are known and acceptable health surveillance procedures. The main purpose of health surveillance is to detect adverse changes to health due to exposure to substances in the workplace. Health surveillance can also help evaluate the effectiveness of risk controls. However, it should never be used as an alternative to the implementation and proper maintenance of risk controls.

Trainings ultimately mold safe behaviour and support a safe work environment for all. However, health surveillance helps to stitch together the active health performance status of workers in sync with their training knowledge.

Risk assessment should be used to identify any need for health surveillance.  Health surveillance should not be a substitute for undertaking a risk assessment or using effective controls. This means that training for safe work procedures, EHS agenda and overall safe operations remains sacrosanct.

Health surveillance in conjugation with training can sometimes be used to help identify where more needs to be done to control risks and where early signs of work-related ill-health are detected, employers can take action to prevent further harm and protect employees.

Training evaluations done with this added dimension of health surveillance is a proactive management technique that can literally point into the direction of variable trends noticed over period of time in the occupational health index of an organizations. Learning and monitoring at this level opens the safety and health field for resourceful collaborations.

This blog has been adapted with respect to training programs from original article appearing in the B Proactive EHS magazine (Jul’-Sept’ 2016) scripted by Dr. Kevin Dalsania on health surveillance and OHS. 

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