Lung function tests (spirometry)

A lung function test – also referred to as spirometry – is a breathing test to assess lung function.

Why is it needed?

  • To assess lung function as part of a routine programme of health assessment, where an individual is exposure to respiratory sensitisers or other substances which could cause harm to how your lungs function.
  • To identify and prevent conditions such as occupational asthma.
  • To ensure that employers meet their obligations following risk assessment under the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1992
  • In response to COSHH assessments where regular assessment is required.

Who needs it?

If you work with any of the following substances, you may require respiratory health surveillance:

  • Isocyanates (eg two pack spray paints)
  • Flour/grain/wood dust
  • Glutaraldehyde
  • Respirable crystalline silica (RCS)
  • Rosin-cored solder fume
  • Latex (powdered natural rubber latex gloves)
  • Glues and resins
  • Laboratory animals

However, requirements are not restricted to the above, as occupational asthma can also be associated with the following industries:

  • Motor vehicle repair
  • Beauty services
  • Cleaning services
  • Healthcare services
  • Painters
  • Repairers
  • Welders

How often is it needed?

Pre-exposure to ensure fitness for work and to obtain baseline data 3 months, 6 months and 12 months following initial exposure and annually thereafter for respiratory sensitisers.

What is the process?

A questionnaire regarding relevant medical and smoking history and previous respiratory hazards at work is completed.

The lung function test is completed using a digital spirometer and the technique will be explained to the individual.   Where employees use regular inhalers these should be omitted on the day.

Results will be discussed with the employee.   Any results of concern will be discussed with the Occupational Health Physician and, if necessary, further medical assessment or information will be activated.

A report will be sent to the employer, usually HR, for their records, including any advice and a review date.

For more information visit the HSE website or contact us on 01284 247040 or email