Occupational Spirometry Update


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Occupational spirometry is a crucial component of ensuring the respiratory health and safety of employees in various workplaces. In this blog post, we will dive into the insights shared during the Occupational Spirometry Town Hall, featuring Dr. Laura Radke, a renowned expert in occupational health. Dr. Radke shed light on the importance of NIOSH certified technicians in performing pulmonary function tests and the guidelines associated with spirometry testing in accordance with OSHA standards.

Exploring the Role of NIOSH Certified Technicians:
Dr. Radke emphasized the significance of NIOSH certified technicians in conducting accurate spirometry tests. While some clinics may have non-certified staff members who can perform regular pulmonary function studies, specific circumstances, such as testing for Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS), cotton, and coal exposures, require the expertise of NIOSH certified technicians. These exposures fall under separate OSHA standards, necessitating a higher level of certification.

Ensuring NIOSH Certified Technicians Across Multiple Clinics:
Dr. Radke discussed the challenges faced by larger clinic systems in maintaining NIOSH certified technicians across multiple clinics. She explained that sending at least one technician for NIOSH certification is crucial for clinics dealing with exposures that require the expertise of certified professionals. However, as the geographic footprint expands, the number of certified technicians should correspondingly increase to serve various locations effectively.

Utilizing Non-NIOSH Certified Staff:
Although having NIOSH certified technicians is crucial, clinics can also leverage non-certified staff members for certain types of pulmonary function studies. Dr. Radke shared that their clinic uses non-certified staff to conduct regular spirometry tests, fit testing for respirators, and annual exams for certain occupational health programs. By effectively allocating resources, clinics can use NIOSH certified technicians for specific circumstances, maximizing efficiency.

Safety Precautions and Transitioning Post-Pandemic:
The COVID-19 pandemic brought about numerous challenges, including the safe resumption of spirometry testing in clinics. Dr. Radke highlighted the need for meticulous safety measures, such as assessing air handling capabilities, using inline filters, and providing adequate PPE, including N95 respirators. As clinics transition back to pre-pandemic operations, it is crucial to evaluate community transmission levels and adapt protocols accordingly. The impending expiration of the public health emergency and the associated guidance from the CDC also necessitate thorough planning and collaboration within clinics and health systems.

On-site Spirometry Challenges:
The conversation expanded to include the challenges faced when conducting spirometry tests on-site. Dr. Radke mentioned the need for a well-ventilated area and appropriate safety precautions when conducting spirometry testing outside of clinic settings. Factors such as air-handling capabilities and potential exposure risks should be thoroughly assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Occupational spirometry plays a vital role in assessing the lung capacity of employees and ensuring their safety in various work environments. The insights shared during the Occupational Spirometry Town Hall, particularly regarding the role of NIOSH certified technicians, provide valuable guidance for clinics and health systems. By aligning with OSHA standards and effectively utilizing NIOSH certified technicians, clinics can promote respiratory health and safety while optimizing their resources. As the world moves ahead post-pandemic, it is crucial to adapt safety measures in line with current guidelines and community transmission levels.

We hope this blog post provides you with a comprehensive understanding of the role of NIOSH certified technicians in occupational spirometry and their significance in promoting employee health and safety. If you have any further questions or would like to learn more, feel free to reach out to us.

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