All the benefits of health surveillance: health assurance for workers and protection for companies

February 5, 2021

The Consolidated Occupational Health and Safety Act (Legislative Decree 81/08) clearly states, among its basic principles, that the health of workers is an asset that must be protected and safeguarded. For this to be possible, there needs to be a collective commitment on the part of the employer, employees and a number of specific figures called upon to deal with “health surveillance” within the workplace. We all have an obligation and responsibility to enforce the law, but they must put in place specific measures and carry out the assessments aimed at protecting the health and safety of workers in relation to the activity they perform, the type of environment in which they work, and the risks to which they are or could be exposed.

Health surveillance: what it is and who is required to perform it

Health surveillance is the set of all preventive actions and interventions carried out within the work environment, aimed at protecting the health and safety of workers in both the short and long term. The task of health surveillance is to monitor risk situations in various tasks, proposing interventions to employers to minimize them and thus reduce risks, the number of accidents, injuries and occupational diseases. In addition, health surveillance ensures timely periodic checks (medical examinations, interviews, instrumental examinations…) for workers that can bring out risk situations early. Health surveillance also has the task of identifying workers who, for whatever reason, temporarily or permanently have frailty conditions that must be taken into account when they are assigned particular tasks, e.g., L68/99 CDs. In the current risk situation related to the spread of the Covid-19 virus, health surveillance is called to specifically assess the fragile conditions of workers and suggest precautionary solutions to reduce the risk of infection within the work environment, also collaborating with local health authorities.

It is important to remember that the purpose of health surveillance is to protect the health and safety status of workers, promoting a true culture of prevention and making every employee aware of the importance of taking care of his or her own health and operating safely at all times. Through employee involvement and proper information regarding the risks and procedures to be followed, health surveillance can thus become a key tool for reducing injuries and improving the quality of the overall work environment.

The figures involved in health surveillance, which can never be missed, are:

  • Employer: the employer always plays a key role, since it is his or her job to assess all risks and determine how to ensure a high level of health and safety for employees. The employer’s duties also include selecting and appointing the primary figure responsible for health surveillance, the Competent Doctor, who is to cooperate with the Head of the Risk Prevention and Protection Service to prevent harm to the health of all workers.
  • Competent physician: this professional-who may be hired directly by the company or operate as an outside consultant-must be a physician registered as an Occupational Physician and specialized in the field of Occupational Medicine. His duties are many: he is called upon to cooperate with the Prevention and Protection Service in assessing risks, to visit workplaces at least once a year, to schedule a Health Surveillance Plan indicating the types and frequency of periodic examinations planned for employees in relation to the risks to which they are exposed, age, and sex, and also to carry out these examinations (or to supervise their effective conduct at external medical or diagnostic centers). In addition, the Competent Doctor also plays a key role in the training and information of employees, since it is his duty to inform workers about the health risks to which they are exposed and the health surveillance interventions that are carried out, as well as to collect any reports of potentially dangerous situations, communicating them promptly to the RSPP and the employer
  • Head of the Risk Prevention and Protection Service (RSPP): this figure-which may be, depending on the size of the company, an employee, an external consultant or even the employer himself-must be present in every production reality where there are employees, regardless of the size of the company or its scope of activity. The RSPP is in charge of coordinating the activities of the risk prevention and protection service: his duties include contributing to the identification of risk factors and measures to ensure the safety of the work environment, drawing up safety procedures to be applied to the various company activities as well as proposing training programs for workers on safety issues, actively and proactively cooperating with the employer and the competent doctor.
  • Workers’ Safety Representative (RLS): this figure is chosen directly by the workers and intervenes in all phases of risk assessment and safety action planning. The RLS is involved in the selection of those responsible for and in charge of the preventive services (first aid, firefighting…) and is responsible for promoting activities that inform workers about the preventive measures to be implemented and, finally, is required to notify the RSPP and the employer of any risk situation that he or she may become aware of in the course of his or her work.

Security applications: all the benefits for businesses

Health surveillance, as we have seen, is a key tool to safeguard workers’ health, helps them prevent occupational risks and diseases, and spreads the culture of prevention.

This activity, by its very complex nature, undoubtedly requires a great deal of effort on the part of all those called upon to implement it, but it can be made even more effective through the use of special applications, developed specifically to meet the needs of companies and to simplify the management of health surveillance, making it truly effective and enabling it to concretely improve working conditions and the health of employees.

Equipping oneself with applications of this kind, which make it possible to calendar the checkups employees must undergo, to visualize the risk profile of each worker in relation to the task he or she performs, and to keep track in a rational manner of the diagnostic examinations, visits and interventions performed, guarantees countless advantages:

  • Safety from a legal point of view: the use of applications allows the employer to be in compliance with regulatory requirements at all times, protecting him or her from legal disputes and enabling him or her to manage the safety of all employees efficiently and safely
  • Creation of a mindset that values safety: the use of apposite applications grows the corporate culture in terms of safety and helps to spread awareness at all levels of the importance of making choices that protect health and reduce risk, resulting in a decrease in occupational injuries and illnesses
  • Improvement of employees’ working conditions: the use of applications enables more thorough and rational monitoring of employees’ health conditions. In this way, it is possible to be certain that every employee is put in the best possible working conditions and is protected from the risk of contracting occupational diseases.
  • Decreased costs of employee management, treatment and examinations: managing health surveillance in a structured and rational way allows costs to be lowered and all documentation related to the various requirements to be available at all times, ready to be shown during inspection visits.

How can you best protect the health of your employees, and what steps are needed to grow your company’s safety? Find out by downloading our checklist!