Health Checks at Work
Health assessments are medical checks on individuals to:
- Find early signs of work-related ill health
- Check fitness to do a particular job.
Employees refuse to attend health assessments because they do not understand why the assessments are needed. Many fear/suspect their jobs are at risk.
If an employee refuses to cooperate with health assessment processes, then it is up to the employer to decide whether the employee can continue working in that same job. It is no use for employers to shrug their shoulders and say that it is a personal decision.
Some health assessments are required by law, while others required by the company (see below).
A refusal to cooperate is a serious matter. Managers must consider the implications of an employee refusing a health check. Insisting on attendance is an integral part of both the employer’s and employee’s responsibility. If an employee continues to say no, then consider disciplinary action.
How Can Occupational Health (OH) Services Help?
The main reason that employees refuse to attend health assessments is they do not understand why they have to have them. There may be a lot of misunderstanding and suspicion about a new program, with employees believing their jobs are at risk.
OH services will advise you on the correct type of health assessment programme and how to inform your workers. They can talk to workers’ representatives, explain the process and have input into the policies and procedures around the health assessment. They can also give out leaflets and information to employees. However, if an employee refuses to have a health check despite all this, it is up to management to decide on the next course of action.
What’s the Impact on Your Business?
Employers need to provide appropriate health assessments based on existing health risks in the work.
The health checks at work could include any of the following types of investigation:
- Simple methods, such as looking for chemical skin damage on hands
- Technical checks on employees (e.g., hearing or breathing tests)
- More involved medical examinations (e.g., blood tests for those working with lead or full vibration assessment)
Organisations need to set out which health assessments are necessary for particular job roles, such as assessments for those who:
- Work with or around excessive noise or use vibrating hand-held tools
- Work with solvents, biological agents and other substances hazardous to health or who work with fumes and some dusts
- Use asbestos or lead or who work with compressed air or with ionising radiation
- Work in the railways industry or at sea or who dive as part of their work (in this case, fitness for work health checks may be needed)
- Work nights
- Use display screen equipment (DSE)
Employers may also require workers to have preplacement and annual medical examinations to assess individuals’ fitness for work and to comply with legislation.
What’s the Impact on Your Workers?
By attending and cooperating with health surveillance and medical checks, workers are protecting themselves from potential ill health effects of work. The health checks provide a record of their health while working in your company.
Managers can use the records as evidence of protection; while workers use their health check results as a basis for the claim for industrial benefits in the event of damage occurring.
Is There Any Law about This?
- Health and Safety at Work Act and Management Regulations are general health and safety laws that set out the need to protect workers and to do assessments for health risks.
- Health assessments are required by some workplace laws, such as the Control of Noise at Work Regulations and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (although there are many others). Employers may decide that a health assessment is required to ensure fitness for a particular role (e.g., checking the health of a lift truck driver every year).
- Some work-related diseases are reportable to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR).
- Employers have a duty to consult with their employees, or their representatives, on health and safety matters. Employees must be consulted in different situations, and there are two sets of regulations that require employers to consult their workforce; and one, none or both Regulations may apply depending on your business. For more information: download the Consulting Employees on Health and Safety guide from the HSE.
- Confidentiality is important when dealing with medical information, as it is ‘sensitive information’ under the Data Protection Act
- The HSE’s Health Surveillance at Work (HSG 61) free download
- Health and Safety Law from the HSE
- Complying with data protection legislation from Business Link
- HSE guidance on involving your workforce in health and safety
- Information and consulting with employees, guidance from ACAS
Many workers are afraid of health surveillance and health checks at work – because they fear something will be found – making them unfit for their job. If you follow the advice in this piece and explain the benefits of health checks, most workers see the point. However, if they don’t and remain uncooperative, then you have the option to put your foot down and insist.
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