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The Importance of Occupational Health Surveillance for Companies Using Metalworking Fluids in Kent

Metalworking fluids (MWFs) are used in various industrial processes, providing lubrication and cooling during machining operations. However, their use presents health risks that require robust occupational health surveillance for workers.

For companies in Kent using MWFs, implementing comprehensive health surveillance programmes is an important step in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of employees.

Understanding the Risks of Metalworking Fluids 

Metalworking fluids can expose workers to various health hazards. Prolonged exposure to MWFs can lead to skin conditions such as dermatitis, respiratory issues like occupational asthma, and even long-term conditions including hypersensitivity pneumonitis. These risks stem from the chemical composition of the fluids and the potential for microbial contamination. 

Milling on CNC machining centre with metalworking fluid.
Metalworking Fluids present health risks to workers and often require occupational health surveillance

The Role of Occupational Health Surveillance 

Occupational health surveillance involves routine medical assessments for workers to identify early signs of work-related illness. For companies using MWFs, surveillance plays a vital role in: 

Early Detection and Prevention 

By carrying out regular health checks, companies can detect symptoms of MWF-related illnesses at an early stage. Early detection allows for prompt intervention, potentially preventing more severe health problems and reducing the overall impact on workers’ wellbeing. 

Ensuring Compliance with Regulations 

In the UK, employers have a legal obligation to protect the health of their employees under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations. Implementing health surveillance helps companies comply with these regulations, avoiding legal repercussions and demonstrating a commitment to workplace safety. 

Reducing absenteeism and improving productivity 

Healthy employees are more productive and less likely to take sick leave. By monitoring health and addressing issues promptly, companies can reduce absenteeism, maintain productivity levels, and foster a more engaged workforce. 

Implementing effective health surveillance 

To establish a successful occupational health surveillance program, companies in Kent should consider the following steps: 

Conducting risk assessments 

Identify specific hazards associated with the use of MWFs in your workplace. This involves evaluating the types of fluids used, the processes involved, and the duration and frequency of exposure. Risk assessments should be thorough and regularly updated to reflect any changes in work practices. 

Health monitoring and record-keeping 

Implement regular health checks for employees exposed to MWFs. This may include skin examinations, lung function tests, and checking for respiratory symptoms. Keep detailed records of health surveillance activities and findings to track trends and inform future actions. The HSE has advice about maintaining employee health records for health surveillance and will expect to see your records during an inspection.

Employee training and education 

Ensure that employees are aware of the risks associated with MWFs and understand the importance of health surveillance. Provide training on safe handling practices, personal protective equipment (PPE) usage, and early symptom reporting. Empowering employees with knowledge fosters a culture of safety and responsibility. 

Collaborating with occupational health professionals 

Work with occupational health (OH) professionals to design and implement your surveillance program. OH experts can offer valuable insights, conduct health assessments, and make recommendations for mitigating risks. Their involvement ensures that your program is comprehensive and effective. 

For companies in Kent using metalworking fluids, occupational health surveillance is a valuable tool for safeguarding employee health. Businesses can create a safer work environment and promote long-term wellbeing by identifying risks, detecting early signs of illness, and complying with regulations. Prioritising health surveillance protects workers, enhances productivity, and demonstrates a commitment to responsible business practices. Implementing a robust surveillance program today can lead to a healthier and more resilient workforce tomorrow. 

Contact us to discuss your occupational health surveillance needs 




Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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