Lung Function Testing

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Why is Lung Function (Respiratory) Testing required?

From lung disease to occupational asthma, exposure to hazardous substances within the workplace can lead to very serious health complications and diseases. It is estimated that there are 18,000 new cases of breathing or lung problems caused or made worse by work every single year, showing that this is a real issue that needs tackling within the workplace.

The role of lung function (or spirometry) testing is to detect and help to prevent damage to normal lung function caused by hazardous substances. Many respiratory conditions are “long latency” diseases, which means they start to develop and show symptoms years after the initial exposure to hazards. An exception to this is occupational asthma and allergic alveolitis, which can develop faster. The aim of bringing in a health surveillance team for lung function testing is to not only detect potential lung disease but to identify and control respiratory risks to protect employees from serious ill-health in the future.

Legislation for Lung Function Testing

Under The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002, employers are legally required to control substances that pose hazards to health. It is an employer’s responsibility to identify the exposure levels; exposure covers taking in chemicals by breathing in, skin contact or through swallowing. Then they must assess the risk that this exposure poses to health.

As part of this process, employers must:

  • Identify hazards to health and carry out a risk assessment,
  • Put proper control measures in place to reduce these risks, such as using RPE,
  • Make sure employees are using control measures appropriately,
  • Ensure control measures are effective, such as using a face fit testing service to check RPE is properly fitted and providing adequate protection, and
  • Provide comprehensive training to all employees.

Failing to comply with this legislation could result in litigation, make sure you don’t take the risk.

What causes Occupational Lung Diseases?

There are various hazardous substances which can lead to occupational lung diseases, some of these hazards include:

  • Asbestos
  • Ceramic fibre
  • Dust
  • Flour dust / grain dust
  • Glutaraldehyde
  • Isocyanates
  • Laboratory animals
  • Latex
  • Paints / adhesives/ resins
  • Solder & welding fumes

This is by no means a full list, please consult with health surveillance professional for more details.

Occupational Asthma

Occupational asthma is caused by breathing in various substances such as dust, chemicals, fumes, flour/grains and animal fur – to name a few. In 2018 there were an estimated 132 new cases of occupational asthma reported by doctors participating in the SWORD (Surveillance of work-related and occupational respiratory disease) scheme. Unfortunately, it is likely that this fails to represent the true scale of occupational asthma.

How we can help

We will work with you to ensure your employees are protected from exposure to hazardous substances to reduce their risk of developing work-related lung disease. Avoid litigation by partnering with health surveillance experts, who will help protect your employees and your organisation. Get in touch if you have any questions about lung function testing or to discuss your requirements further.

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