Work health assessments

Work health assessments determine existing conditions, capabilities or other factors that could pre-dispose a person to possible ill-health by matching their physical and mental capabilities to the requirements of a specified task/s.

Everyone – the worker, PCBU and treating doctor – is a key participant in this process and has an important role to play in achieving a successful outcome from the health assessment.

Work health assessments can be carried out:

  • before starting employment
  • before placement in a new job or work environment
  • periodically as prescribed where necessary during employment
  • for rehabilitation and return to work following illness or injury, or
  • cessation of work due to disability or ill health

There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach – work health assessments should involve specific tests and screening required for the identified respiratory hazards at the PCBUs workplace, such as spirometry and lung function tests.

SafeWork NSW recommends that, as far as is reasonably practicable, work health respiratory assessments are done by an occupational physician. Referral to a physician will assist with further investigations, establishing a diagnosis and developing a workplace respiratory management plan if required.

The physician should obtain information from the PCBU about the workplace, such as identified hazards; required tasks; length of shifts; current controls in place; etc. It is highly recommended the physician visits the workplace to obtain direct and visual information for their assessment. If the worker is asthmatic the physician should also review the worker’s inhaler technique and adherence – and, if poor, advise how to correct and/or improve it.

When the results of the worker’s health assessment is known, it is vital that the worker, their PCBU and physician / treating doctor work closely together to develop a workplace asthma management plan for the worker that includes strategies to reduce exposure to workplace triggers and irritants.

SafeWork NSW acknowledges that in many areas of NSW, it can be difficult to access to such specialists in a timely manner. The Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand (TSANZ) and the Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (AFOEM) can provide assistance in locating specialists.

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