Spirometry and COVID19 – What is the process?
We have had a lot of enquiries for workplace Spirometry tests throughout the pandemic but due to COVID19 this is classed as a high risk medical as Spirometry is a high risk aerosol. This is due to the breath being released in a sharp exhale that can be considered as a “Jet Like” airflow. As the world health organisation recommends keeping a distance of at least 1 meter for a normal, steady exhale with a mask the risk of a spirometry test that takes place with no mask, indoors will increase dramatically even at 2 meters distance.
So how can managers ensure their workforce are kept within the COSHH regulations and what is the process?
You would think we wouldn’t be able to complete spirometry tests due to how high risk this can be however as per the HSE website “Spirometry can be conducted after completing a suitable and sufficient risk assessment and putting in place appropriate controls.” A risk assessment would need to be completed at each location and any controls that may need to be put into place should be implemented prior to us attending site to complete the spirometry tests. Even with this being said, routine spirometry tests should not be conducted instead a health questionnaire for spirometry should be conducted. The questionnaire will be sent to the main contact persons to distribute to their employees. The questionnaire should then be completed and returned directly to Healthscreen either by postage or emailed securely to the contact from Healthscreen.
The questionnaire then goes through a reviewal process with a occupational health nurse. If the health questionnaire does not raise any concerns (for initial review / new clients and existing clients / review medicals) and previous lung function tests were normal (for exiting clients / review medicals) we can then defer the full spirometry test for up to a maximum of 12 months in line with the HSE advise. Healthscreen will defer the spirometry test for 6 months initially, each employee will need to confirm if there have been any changes on their questionnaire prior to receiving another 6-month deferral for a total of 12 months.
What happens if the test results raise concerns?
If a concern on the spirometry health questionnaire is identified a full spirometry test may be deemed a necessity, if this is the case an Occupational Health Physician will be consulted on how to proceed specifically for the employee on a case to case basis.
Although there is no physical medical with the health questionnaire option, it is still effective in early identification of possible ill-health. Spirometry surveillance is required by law and the health questionnaire is fully compliant with HSE guidance for workplace assessments. Substances that can cause Occupational Lung Disease, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) or Occupational Asthma normally trigger a Health Surveillance requirement, this would be classed as your routine surveillance.
Due to the current climate with COVID19 it is uncertain as to when occupational health can continue Spirometry tests however with the new COVID19 vaccine being rolled out we hope to be on site completing your spirometry health surveillance soon!
For more information on our spirometry tests please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on 01455 243700.