What is a Lung Function test?

A lung function test (spirometry) measures how well your lungs are working. The test looks out for how much air your lungs can hold and how well you move air in and out of your lungs. The test is called a spirometry lung function test. An abnormal lung function test may indicate that you have early signs of a lung condition.

Why do I need a lung function test?

Exposure to certain substances such as isocyanates, silica dust (construction dust), flour dust, wood dust, epoxy resins, latex, laboratory animals, welding fumes and metal cutting fluids can cause harm to the lungs and cause conditions such as asthma or respiratory sensitisation.

If your staff work in an environment with substances that could cause harm to their lungs you have a duty under the COSHH Regulations 2002 and Management of Health and Safety Regulations 1999 to carry out a risk assessment and perform respiratory health surveillance where necessary.

Testing your employees’ lung function is an accurate and efficient way of monitoring their respiratory health and will help detect diseases such as asthma in its very early stages. Detecting adverse health effects at an early stage will mean steps can be taken to stop the disease progressing or minimise its impact.

If your employees work with respiratory hazards, then we recommend that a basic lung function test is carried out on all employees as they start working for your company. This will allow us to identify any existing problems with respiratory function and identify any individuals who are particularly at risk so that additional safety measures can be put in place. We can advise on the most appropriate frequency of ongoing lung function tests depending on the risks of the work performed by your employees.

What happens at a lung function test?

You’ll be asked to complete a questionnaire about relevant respiratory history. To perform the test, you will be seated and asked to blow through a mouthpiece attached to a spirometer a number of times, at varying speeds. The test takes approximately 10 minutes. You will be provided with information on the risks, preventative measures and types of symptoms that may indicate a problem.

There are a number of substances which can cause occupational lung disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or occupational asthma, and will normally trigger a health surveillance requirement.

These substances include:

• Isocyanates (Silica Dust / Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS), wood dust, grain and flour dust, coal dust)
• Epoxy resin
• Welding fumes
• Metal working fluids
• Fibreglass
• Latex
• Laboratory animals

Our team can help you implement an on-site respiratory health surveillance and lung function testing programme to keep your employees safe and meet your legal obligations.


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