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Who needs a safety critical medical?

Numerous industries may require employees to undergo a safety critical medical, some key occupations are:

  • Plant operators
  • Scaffolder
  • Driver and Mechanical Handling Equipment Operator
  • Asbestos licensed worker
  • LGV/HGV Driver
  • Maritime Operative (Specialist)
  • Steel Erector Structural/Fabricator
  • Confined Space workers
  • Working at Height where control measures not practicable
  • Roadside (high speed)
  • Tunnelling worker
  • Electrician

Any ill health within those working in safety critical roles pose great harm to the health and safety of the general public, their colleagues and themselves. Providing tailored safety critical medicals for those in specific vocations allows employers to adhere to the duty of care they have for both their employees and the general public.

What does a safety critical medical involve

The safety critical medical will vary depending on occupation and role, but usually takes up to 60 minutes to complete. However, if additional tests are required the medical may last longer. The requirements state that those under the age of 54 years old must have a medical every 3 years, whilst people aged between 55 – 65 years require a medical every 2 years. Annual medicals are required for those over the age of 65. Despite this, if there is a change in working environment or risk level, medicals may be required more frequently. The outcome is a ‘Fit to Work’ Certificate issued to the employee and employer that is SEQOHS accredited.

To establish an individual’s general physical and mental health, the medical usually begins with a baseline questionnaire. This identifies any current or previous medical/psychological health history and/or ongoing treatment. This is followed by simple, non-invasive tests which include but are not limited to:

  • Blood pressure, pulse, height and weight measurements to calculate BMI
  • Urinalysis (test for glucose/proteins), finger prick test (glucose/cholesterol)
  • Audiometry (hearing) test
  • Spirometry (lung function) test
  • Visual acuity, colour vision and peripheral (eye) test
  • Musculoskeletal (mobility) test – physical examination
  • Mental-health test

Aside from the above standard tests, optional tests for an additional cost may include:

  • Drug and alcohol testing
  • Working at Height assessment
  • Confined space assessment (Includes assessing risks for extreme temperatures, low levels of oxygen, toxic/explosive gases, leaking water)
  • Night worker assessment
  • Hand-Arm Vibration assessment (HAVs)
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)

Who can perform one?

Safety critical medicals are performed by occupational health specialists, fully trained doctors and nurses. Occupational health specialists have a competent and thorough understanding of the possible health hazards that can arise within the workplace.

Health surveillance by occupational health experts allows identification of any skin disorders, noise-induced hearing loss, respiratory diseases such as COPD and asthma and various musculoskeletal disorders, which all put an individual at risk of harm. Mental health assessments are also key when carrying out a safety critical medical. The initial questionnaire may be carried out by a technician or nurse and then further analysed by the occupational health doctor of qualified nurse. On some occasions referral to a GP is required at additional costs.

What you need to know

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, section 2, stipulates that employers have a duty of care for their employees. Health and safety legislation state general duties that employers have for their employees and the general public, and this also implies to those who are self-employed. This dictates that employees must be ‘fit to work’ for their specific job roles, in a safe and practical environment.

Safety critical medicals are in-depth medical assessments to establish whether an individual is suitable and safe to carry out a task that is deemed ‘safety critical work’. This term refers to work that puts an individual at risk, unless the person has full unimpaired control of their health and well-being. An example of safety critical work is working with unguarded or moving machinery.

Safety critical medicals help to identify any risk or likelihood of an employee developing a health problem whilst undertaking their work. By detecting adverse changes in health or disease development, it ensures that a company is protecting the health of their employees. Carrying out SCMs can form part of the company’s health and safety procedures. It is vital to ensure that safety-critical workers are not suffering from medical conditions or undergoing medical treatment which is likely to cause, ‘sudden loss of consciousness or incapacity, impairment of awareness or concentration, balance or co-ordination or significant limitation of mobility’.

Regular medical assessments allow companies to safeguard both their employees and reputation, whilst promoting optimum productivity within the workplace. Strikingly, over 23.4 million working days were lost due to work-related illness in Great Britain in 2018/19 and the prevalence of working days lost due to illness has been ever increasing since. Industries such as electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning rank amongst the most frequent causes. Early detection through SCMs enable employees to proactively raise any concerns regarding work-related health and in turn reduce the risk of work-related illness claims. This allows employers to comply with health and safety work practices and put in place robust and effective control measurements.

If you’re in need of a safety critical medical, call us on 0808 1963 688 or get in touch HERE.



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