Pulmonary Function Testing
Pulmonary Function Testing
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PULMONARY FUNCTION TESTING
Pulmonary function tests are an essential component of your respiratory protection program because they measure an employee’s lung function. When performed on a new hire, a pulmonary function test can identify employees who may not be suited to wearing a respirator or working in an environment where there are potential hazardous exposures.
The information gained from respiratory health surveillance, including medical evaluation and pulmonary function testing, may lead to detection of early lung disease. Detecting lung disease early allows for earlier access to management and treatment. Pulmonary function tests truly are a safety net for employees.
Spirometry is the most common pulmonary function test. Arkansas Center for Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation uses spirometry to measure:
- Air volume breathed out, or forced vital capacity (FVC)
- Air volume expelled in one second, or forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) and
- The relationship between the two (the FEV1/FVC ratio)
To be compliant, pulmonary function tests must be performed by technicians who have been certified by completing a spirometry training course approved by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Arkansas Center for Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation has certified technicians for performing pulmonary function tests.
We have talked about pulmonary function tests as a valuable component of respiratory protection in your occupational health and safety program, but what exactly does that entail?
First, it’s important to understand that OSHA requires pulmonary function testing only in the medical surveillance provisions of standards related to specific substances, such as asbestos, cotton dust, benzene, formaldehyde and, more recently, silica and beryllium.
OSHA’s respiratory protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134) requires an employee’s health and physical condition to be assessed to determine if he or she is able to safely wear a respirator in the performance of job duties. The standard does not require any specific procedure, such as pulmonary function tests, but our experience in occupational health supports the value of this method.
Pulmonary function tests help give you confidence in meeting OSHA’s requirement to provide a safe and healthful workplace. An employee scheduled for a spirometry test may have questions about how it is done.
First, you can assure your employee that the test is non-invasive. In a spirometry test, the individual blows into a mouthpiece that is connected to a tabletop device called a spirometer. Arkansas Center for Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation’s certified technicians will demonstrate the testing device and the importance of standing straight, not bending the neck, and correct placement of the mouthpiece. The mouthpiece goes behind the front teeth and lips to form a seal around it before blowing forcefully, when instructed to do so.
During the test, a nose clip may be worn to ensure that all air exits through the mouth for measurement. The test is done multiple times because results of three acceptable spirometry test readings are needed. Forceful breathing like this may cause an individual to feel light-headed or cough. The technician will address these potential concerns before the test and stand behind the individual, even offering support with a hand on the shoulder, as a safeguard in case of light-headedness.
To prepare for a spirometry test, tell your employee:
- Do not smoke for at least an hour before the test
- Do not exercise heavily for at least 30 minutes before the test
- Do not eat a large meal within two hours before the test
- Do not wear tight-fitting clothing that makes it more difficult for you to breathe
- Ask the clinician if there are any medications you should avoid taking before the test
All of these activities can interfere with achieving a good spirometry test.
*Please note, when mask fitting is requested have the employee bring their mask from work to ensure a proper fit.
Sometimes, employees don’t want to take a pulmonary function test because they worry the results might restrict their ability to return to work. Our technicians understand these concerns and help educate employees about pulmonary function testing.
Pulmonary function tests are viewed in two ways:
- Pulmonary function test results are interpreted by comparing the individual’s results with the results predicted for a person of the same gender, age, height, and race (all demographic factors that may be associated with differences in lung performance).
- Pulmonary function tests from the same individual over time can help identify when lung function is beginning to decline so this can be addressed with treatment or work modifications.
Pulmonary function testing, as part of a respiratory protection program, helps you manage and reduce work-related lung injuries from inhaled hazardous exposures. When provided by Arkansas Center for Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation’s certified technicians, you can be sure you are getting not only best-in-class occupational health care and testing, but also the most complete knowledge of current respiratory standards and compliance fulfillment.
Protect your employees and avoid an OSHA penalty. Call us today.