Health & Safety and Hazardous Substances

The Synergy of Health Surveillance and Occupational Hygienist Services in Managing the Risks Presented by Hazardous Substances in the Workplace

Introduction -How Health Surveillance and Occupational Hygienist Services Interlink

Ensuring a safe and healthy working environment should be a top priority for all workplaces. This is an obligation enshrined in various pieces of legislation. The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (Northern Ireland) (COSHH) 2003 require employers to protect workers from hazardous substances, and this may involve a combination of control measures. Prior to the implementation of control measures, occupational exposure monitoring for airborne substances can be used to determine if a risk exists via environmental exposure. At the other end of the cycle, Health Surveillance can be used post control measures introduced to help ensure they are effective. In this blog post, we will explore how these two elements interlink and complement each other to help effectively manage the risks presented by hazardous substances in the workplace.

Read also: Health Surveillance: What is it and when is it required?

Understanding COSHH Regulations

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (Northern Ireland) (COSHH) 2003, lay out the legal framework for managing hazardous substances in the workplace in Northern Ireland. These regulations require employers to assess and control the risks associated with hazardous substances and protect employees’ health. Key aspects of COSHH include:

  • Risk Assessment: Employers must identify and assess the risks associated with hazardous substances. This assessment forms the foundation for risk management and involves evaluating the potential for exposure and the harm it can cause.
  • Control Measures: Employers must implement measures to control the risks, such as substitution, containment, and the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE). These measures aim to minimize or eliminate exposure to hazardous substances.

The Role of Occupational Hygienist Monitoring Services

Occupational hygienists play a crucial role in helping employers comply with COSHH regulations. These professionals are trained to assess and manage the workplace environment to ensure it is safe from the adverse effects of hazardous substances. Key services provided by occupational hygienists include:

  • Exposure Assessment: Occupational hygienists conduct comprehensive assessments to measure the levels of hazardous substances in the workplace. This data helps employers identify areas where exposures may exceed safe limits.
  • Air Quality Monitoring: They monitor the quality of air in the workplace to detect any deviations from safety standards, such as concentrations of gases or particulates.
  • Recommendations: Based on their assessments, occupational hygienists provide recommendations for control measures, including ventilation improvements, safe storage, and PPE selection.

The Role of Health Surveillance

Health surveillance is the process of systematically monitoring the health of employees exposed to hazardous substances. It ensures that employees’ health is not adversely affected by their work.

Employees routinely exposed to hazardous substances undergo periodic health surveillance to detect any early signs of adverse health effects. This may involve respiratory assessment, skin assessments, and although not classified as health surveillance, biological monitoring.

Complementary Nature of Health Surveillance and Occupational Hygienist Monitoring

Health surveillance and occupational hygienist monitoring services are two sides of the same coin when it comes to managing hazardous substances in the workplace. Here’s how they complement each other:

  • Data Exchange: Data from occupational hygienist monitoring informs health surveillance programs. For example, exposure levels assessed by hygienists help determine the frequency and type of health assessments required for employees.
  • Early Intervention: Health surveillance identifies health issues in employees, allowing for early intervention, which may include reducing exposure levels or implementing more effective control measures based on hygienist recommendations.
  • Continuous Improvement: The iterative process of monitoring, assessing, and surveilling creates a cycle of continuous improvement. Both services contribute to enhancing workplace safety and employee health.


The COSHH regulations in the NI require employers to prioritise the health and safety of workers exposed to hazardous substances. Health surveillance and occupational hygienist monitoring services are integral to achieving this goal. Their interlinking roles not only help organisations comply with regulations but also foster a safer and healthier work environment. By working hand in hand, these services ensure that the risks associated with hazardous substances are effectively managed, ultimately safeguarding the well-being of employees in the workplace.

If you require Health Surveillance, Health Matters can assist you to meet your legislative requirements. Equally if you require the services of a competent occupational hygienist, please feel free to contact us for recommendation and onward referral.