Why are spirometry tests conducted in a workplace setting and what are the benefits for the employer?
As far as employers are concerned, if they have a work site where this individual is being exposed to any respiratory toxins — that can be things like general dust, it can be paint fumes, it can be more harsh things like asbestos or silica — it's actually regulated that this testing has to be completed, and it’s part of a lung health program that the employer should have. The benefit is that you can receive the results of this test. If someone, whether upon hiring or at any point during their tenure, has abnormal function, you would want to send them for a chest X-ray and have those results evaluated by a physician. A spirometry test can actually help detect lung disease, especially if we forward the results to a pulmonologist, although additional testing would still be required to make a diagnosis. It's a good early detection tool, but it also lets the employer know whether or not their control measures for controlling respiratory toxins in the workplace are working.
For example, suppose you have a bunch of workers who are exposed to silica as part of their work. Let's say that when they all started work, they had normal lung function, but two years later, they're all showing signs of abnormal lung function. That's a signal to the employer that they need to re-evaluate the control measures they have around silica. Maybe they need to be using a different type of respirator or do better fit testing. Or maybe there are different administrative or engineering controls that can be put in place to reduce employees' exposure.
Spirometry testing is a way to make sure employers are doing their due diligence to keep their workers safe.
Written by Kyle Powell
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