Lungs at Work

Regular and sustained contact to respiratory hazards without the appropriate health and safety controls at work can give rise to occupational lung disease.  There are a range of substances and hazards, for example:

  • Coal and stone dusts: pneumoconiosis and silicosis
  • Asbestos fibres: asbestosis and mesothelioma
  • Isocyanates: asthma
  • Dusts, e.g. wood: rhinitis, asthma, Chronic Obstructive Airways Disease Copd, cancer
  • Fumes, e.g. welding fume, chemicals: rhinitis, asthma
  • Animal proteins in hair, fur, skin and urine: rhinitis, asthma
  • Cotton dust: byssinosis
  • Moulds from fungus and plants: alveolitis, farmer’s lung

Under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (as amended), employers need to risk assess all activities which involve such hazards and put in place controls to prevent exposure at such a level where it would cause harm to employees. 

Employees have a duty to comply with all control mechanisms put in place for their safety, e.g. wearing Personal Protective Equipment, using guarding or ventilation equipment, engaging with health surveillance programmes run by the employer.

There are two types of respiratory health surveillance to monitor for occupational lung disease to be considered in the workplace. Namely, low level and high level surveillance.

Low level respiratory surveillance may be considered if;

  • There is only suggestive evidence that there may be a respiratory hazard.
  • There is little likelihood of exposure in the specific work activity.
  • The substance is handled in a way that usually prevents inhalation.

Low level respiratory surveillance can include;

  1. Provision of an annual lung function symptom questionnaire performed by a responsible, trained person.
  2. keeping a health record.
  3. If you have a confirmed case of asthma, you should use a higher-level respiratory health surveillance, as detailed below.

High level respiratory surveillance may be considered if;

  • There is strong evidence of a respiratory hazard.
  • It is not possible to conclude that the risk to lung function or respiratory health is insignificant or that there is no risk from the working activity.

High level respiratory surveillance can include;

  1. Assessment of a worker`s respiratory symptoms or lung function test (spirometry) before they start a relevant job. Otherwise known as "Baseline assessment".
  2. Provision of an annual respiratory symptom questionnaire and spirometry performed by a suitably trained occupational health professional.
  3. Interpretation of the lung function test results by us and advice necessary to revisit the risk assessment.
  4. Provision of a health record which is also offered to the worker. 

Provision of the most appropriate form of respiratory health surveillance can assist in the detection of occupational lung disease at an early stage and could protect the worker from getting this disabling disease. 

The Health and Work Consultancy Respiratory health surveillance assessment includes:

  • Baseline workplace spirometry
  • Provision of high or low level respiratory health surveillance depending upon the indication and level of risk.
  • Provision of chest x-rays (dependent upon risk)- where workers are deemed to have significant exposure to respirable silica.
  • Confidential data management and reporting, with employee consent.
  • Worker education at time of test
  • Permanently retained records (40 years)
  • Completed COSHH report for each individual to be kept at your company to demonstrate to regulators that you are compliant with the law

Further sources of information

If you have any questions about lung function testing in the workplace or any other occupational health services for your business in Cardiff, Wales or the UK, don't hesitate to call us on 02920 682028 or Contact us.