Safety critical work is where an adverse event can be serious, for example if you undertake safety critical work and suffer a sudden health problem, i.e. collapse, then it could result in serious harm, to not only yourself but to others as well.
The purpose of a safety critical medical is similar to that of health screening: to identify if the risk or likelihood of developing a health problem that could cause you to suddenly be taken ill, for example, whilst undertaking your work, and there are certain tests that can highlight this likelihood.
Eyesight is tested to ensure that the person can see near and distant objects clearly, as well as seeing the normal visual field (peripheral vision), and takes 15-20 minutes.
Hearing is tested using an audiometer, when the hearing threshold, at a range of frequencies is checked, and limits are set for specific jobs. The test takes 15 – 30 minutes. Alternatively, the examiner can do a Forced Whisper test to check they can be heard. The purpose of this as part of a safety critical worker medical is to ensure you can hear safety warnings, for example.
• Respiratory / Lung function (spirometry)
Your lung function is checked to ensure you have enough ‘puff’ to undertake the role safely, for example, if your job includes climbing up into a cab, or if you needed to escape in an emergency. This test involves blowing into a spirometer which measures lung function. This can detect asthma and other lung diseases.
• Blood pressure assessment
Blood pressure is normally checked to ensure that it is not excessively high, in which case there could be an increased risk of incapacitation.
• Urine analysis
Urine is tested for the presence of glucose (diabetes), blood and protein. The sample of urine is collected in a pot and tested with standard ‘testing strips’ that are dipped into the urine and the change of colour indicates the result.
• Musculoskeletal fitness
You will normally be asked questions about any aches or pains you have. A check of general physical function may be carried out to ensure normal balance, adequate movement of the spine and limbs, normal sensation, and adequate strength and co-ordination.