Health monitoring is used to detect changes in a worker’s health because of exposure to certain substances and is a requirement under the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012 (SA).
Health monitoring is not a substitute for using effective control measures to eliminate or minimise risks.
Employers must ensure that the health of workers is monitored to prevent illness or injury. Health monitoring must be provided for workers who use hazardous chemicals and asbestos, with additional requirements for those exposed to lead.
Health monitoring must be carried out by a registered medical practitioner. In order to supervise and/or carry out the health monitoring, the practitioner must be sufficiently trained in the appropriate medical examinations and tests for the chemical in question.
Safe Work Australia provides a Health monitoring when you work with hazardous chemicals guide.
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians maintains a list of medical practitioners who provide occupational health monitoring for workers.
Hazardous chemical monitoring
Health monitoring is required where there is substantial risk of workers developing an occupational disease from exposure to the following hazardous chemicals:
- arsenic (inorganic)
- chromium (inorganic)
- crystalline silica
- lead (inorganic)
- mercury (inorganic)
- 4,4'-methylene bis (2-chloroaniline) (MOCA)
- organophosphate pesticides
- pentachlorophenol (PCP)
- polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH)
- vinyl chloride.
Health monitoring must also be provided:
- if there is a significant risk to a worker’s health when using, handling, generating or storing hazardous chemicals, alongside a valid way of determining available exposure
- before workers carry out licensed asbestos removal work
- if workers are carrying out licensed or other ongoing asbestos removal work or asbestos-related work at a workplace and are at risk of exposure to asbestos when carrying out the work
- before workers start and one month after they start lead risk work
- as ongoing biological monitoring (blood lead testing) for workers carrying out lead risk work.
Because of the specific risks associated with mining, there will be situations where health monitoring of workers is required.
Mine operators must ensure that health monitoring is provided to mine workers if:
- there is a significant risk of an adverse effect on the worker's health because of the worker's exposure to a hazard associated with mining and
- valid techniques are available to detect that effect on the worker's health.
Health monitoring must be carried out at intervals determined by a registered medical practitioner with experience in health monitoring.
If the mine is operated by a sole mine operator with no workers then there is no requirement for health monitoring. However, the mine operator retains a duty to prevent exposure to themselves and others in close proximity to airborne dusts that are arising because of the mining activities.
A mine operator must conduct health monitoring if silica’s naturally occurring deposits of mineral fibres or other known carcinogens are present in the soil.
Registered medical practitioners carrying out or supervising a health monitoring program for workers should refer to the following information:
- Hazardous chemicals requiring health monitoring - Safe Work Australia
- Contains information about known chemical hazards, exposure symptoms, medical tests that should be used and when to recommend certain actions such as removal from work, along with examples of health monitoring reports.
- Health monitoring for registered medical practitioners guide - Safe Work Australia
Health monitoring in the workplace is a means of identifying changes in your health because of exposure to certain substances as part of your work. Some example scenarios may include:
- consultation, such as asking questions regarding your previous work and medical history or lifestyle (dietary, smoking and drinking habits), and discussing how this may affect your health
- physical examinations, including skin checks or a spirometry (lung function) test
- clinical tests, for example urine or blood samples
- undergoing x-rays.
For workers who require additional information, see Safe Work Australia's Health monitoring when you work with hazardous chemicals guide.
Health monitoring reports
Health monitoring reports must include:
- the name and date of birth of the worker
- the name and registration number of the registered medical practitioner
- name and address of the PCBU who commissioned the health monitoring
- the date of the health monitoring
- if a blood sample is taken, the date it is taken
- the test results of biological monitoring that indicate blood lead levels in the worker's body
- the name of the pathology service used to carry out tests
- any test results that indicate the worker has reached or exceeded the relevant blood lead level for that worker
- any advice that test results indicate the worker may have contracted a disease, injury or illness as a result of carrying out the work that triggered the requirement for health monitoring
- any recommendation that the PCBU take remedial measures, including whether the worker can continue to carry out the type of work that triggered the requirement for health monitoring
- whether medical counselling is required for the worker in relation to the work that caused the requirement for health monitoring.
Health monitoring reports should only contain information relating to the health monitoring program for the chemical(s) being used. They should not contain other confidential health information on workers or details of medical conditions that have no relevance or bearing on the work being performed. Details of pre-existing medical conditions can only be included in reports with written permission.
Submitting health monitoring reports
PCBUs must provide a copy of health monitoring reports to SafeWork SA if:
- test results indicate that a worker may have contracted a disease, injury or illness as a result of carrying out work that triggered the requirements for health monitoring, or
- it recommends that the PCBU take remedial measures including whether the worker can continue to carry out work that triggered the requirement for health monitoring.
Email a copy to email@example.com or post to SafeWork SA, GPO Box 465, Adelaide SA 5001.