Many workers are exposed to substances that can adversely affect their ability to breathe, thus causing them ill health or a worsening of pre-existing conditions e.g. asthma. Therefore health surveillance for such substances is a legal requirement under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002. Lung function testing is also a major part of the protocol for those working with asbestos, which causes its own specific occupational lung disease.

Who is at Risk?

Those working within certain occupations are more at risk from occupational asthma, as they work with certain substances are that known to cause occupational asthma. These include:

  • Paint sprayers - automotive, metal component manufacture
  • Panel beaters - automotive body shop workers
  • Bakery workers
  • Joiners and carpenters
  • Forestry workers, gardeners and arbourists
  • Welders
  • Solderers
  • Quarry workers
  • Hairdressers
  • Cleaners
  • Those working with isocyanates
  • Those working in the printing industry
  • Those working with silica dusts
  • Those working with oil mists
  • Those working with epoxy resins or glues
  • Those working with animals
  • Those with pre-existing chest conditions or asthma

When assessing the risks posed within a workplace, material safety data sheets supplied with products should be checked for the following risk phrases:

  • R37 Irritating to respiratory system
  • R42 May cause sensitisation by inhalation may lead to asthma
  • R42/43 May cause sensitisation by inhalation and skin contact
  • R49 May cause cancer by inhalation

What's involved?

Lung function testing, or spirometry can be carried out at your own premises, provided that there is a quiet room made available. Obviously, a table, two chairs, a power point, spirometer and employees are all required.

Each spirometry takes between 10 and 15 minutes. A maximum of 24 sprirometries can be carried out in one day. If other forms of health surveillance are additionally required for each employee, this number will fall.

A questionnaire is provided by us prior to attendance on site and the employee is given this preferably the day before they attend. They complete the questionnaire and bring it with them to their appointment. The employee will have an explanation of how to use the spirometer and then the lung function test will be carried out using initially using a hand held device that measures the four major parameters and if abnormal results are found, a state of the art USB laptop spirometry will be carried out. These require nothing more than the employee blow into the spirometer.

Next, the employee will have their results explained to them. If referral is required due to abnormal results they will be given a copy of their results to take to their own General Practitioner.

The final stage involves collating all the results by job title or department and supplying the company with anonymous results.


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