A Safety Critical Worker (SCW) within the Industry Standard is defined by CBH as:
“Where the ill health of an individual may compromise their ability to undertake a task defined
as safety critical, thereby posing a significant risk to the health and safety of others”
A suitable risk assessment of any activity should identify whether it has a safety critical nature
and whether in the event of worker incapacity this would be likely to result in a significant risk
of harm to the individual worker performing the task or to others i.e. third parties.
In construction the following have been defined as ‘safety critical’:
• All mobile plant operators
• Hi-speed road workers
• Rail trackside workers
• Asbestos licensed workers
• Tunnellers, or those working in a confined space
• Tasks carried out at height where collective preventative measures to control risk are not
• Others as identified by the risk assessment process
Whilst the use of professional judgment would help to ensure that an individual is fit to perform a task effectively and without risk to their own or others health and safety in broad terms, although there are general duties of care under the HSAWA, it is likely that only those exposed to safety critical work would need be subjected to a full medical assessment.
What is the Health Assessment for a Safety Critical Worker?
It is a medical assessment of an individual’s ‘fitness for task’ against defined criteria and the use of professional judgment to ensure that an individual is fit to perform a task effectively and without risk to their own or others health and safety.
The medical fitness standards for the rail industry (Railtrack PLC 2000) specify general health requirements, which may be broadly applicable to safety critical work in the construction industry:
“Candidates shall not be suffering from medical conditions, or be taking medical treatment
likely to cause:
• sudden loss of consciousness;
• impairment of awareness or concentration;
• sudden incapacity;
• impairment of balance or co-ordination;
• significant limitation of mobility.”
The requirement for assessment of fitness for safety critical work should only be applied where it is necessary and not used as a form of medical selection and potential disability discrimination.