OSHA, NIOSH Team on New Respiratory Guidance Documents

The documents explain how spirometry testing helps to protect workers from respiratory hazards. One is meant for employers and the other for workers.

OSHA and NIOSH have created two guidance documents, one for workers and one for employers, showing how the use of spirometry testing will reduce and prevent workers' exposure to respiratory hazards. This is a common pulmonary function test that measures how well a person moves air in and out of the lungs.

Inhaling some types of dusts, gases, or other air contaminants can damage lungs. The spirometry test may detect breathing problems or significant changes in a worker's lung function at an early stage; the documents are meant to help employers identify and eliminate hazardous exposures and thus reduce the likelihood of lung disease.

The new OSHA/NIOSH-produced Infosheet for employers clarifies what spirometry is, when it is needed, and critical elements employers can use to evaluate the quality of spirometry services provided to their workers. The second document, OSHA-NIOSH Worker Info, explains to workers the importance of taking a spirometry test, what to do during the test, and their right to receive an explanation and copy of test results.

"Spirometry is the best available test for early detection of decreasing or abnormal lung function," said OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels. "Our joint effort with NIOSH in developing these products will help broaden outreach and enhance knowledge of preventive measures aimed at protecting worker health and safety." NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard said spirometry tests "are a vital component of health and safety programs in workplaces where workers may be exposed to hazardous airborne contaminants."

OSHA recommends spirometry testing for workers exposed to diacetyl and diacetyl substitutes. The agency's recent Safety and Health Information Bulletin, Occupational Exposure to Flavoring Substances: Health Effects and Hazard Controls, and a companion Worker Alert on Diacetyl and Substitutes offer assistance to employers.

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