Pulmonary Function Testing / Spirometry Test

Spirometry, the most common type of pulmonary function test (PFT), is used to evaluate worker respiratory health in medical surveillance programs and to screen workers for their ability to perform certain tasks. Spirometry results can play a central role in decisions about worker job assignments and personal protective equipment and in the assessment of exposure-related health effects. OSHA standards for asbestos, cadmium, coke oven emissions, and cotton dust require spirometry testing as part of medical surveillance (see 29 CFR 1910.1001, 1910.1027, 1910.1029, and 1910.1043). OSHA standards for formaldehyde and benzene require pulmonary function testing when respiratory protection is used at work (see 29 CFR 1910.1048 and 1910.1028).

Administration of a medical evaluation questionnaire

Whether spirometry is conducted to comply with an OSHA regulation or as part of another workplace-mandated program, its value is compromised when testing is conducted incorrectly, equipment is inaccurate, or results are misinterpreted. Technically flawed tests too often lead to inaccurate interpretations of worker respiratory health, falsely labeling normal subjects as “impaired” or impaired subjects as “normal.” Such flawed test results are not only useless but also convey false information which could be harmful to workers (1). Too often, those who conduct the tests or interpret the results are unaware of the impact of technical pitfalls and of current spirometry testing recommendations.

Because spirometry has become so important in occupational health practice, companies need to consider the required components for valid tests and strategies for interpreting results, so that occupational spirometry tests are usable and of high technical quality. A strategy for addressing a highly technical program will include:

(1) accurate measurement of worker lung function (training of personnel, equipment considerations, and spirometry test procedures);

(2) appropriate interpretation of valid tests (comparing worker results with normal reference values and evaluating worker results over time);

(3) Quality Assurance (QA) reviews; and 

(4) record-keeping.

Contact Your Safety DepartmentSM at 888-859-5653 to learn how we can help you achieve accurate spirometry measurements for your workers and to develop a highly rated technical approach to your spirometry testing requirements. 

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The Secret of Change and How to Build the New | Your Safety Department

Everyone says change is hard. Maybe that is why we have so many people who have addictions that are so hard to stop. Many companies have a difficult time changing processes, procedures, and people for that matter. But if we ever want to get more out of life we have to give up the bad behaviors that are holding us back, the bad processes that are slowing us down, and maybe the misaligned people that are creating havoc in our lives and identify what we want.

Leading Change

Every New Year people make resolutions to change some form of their behavior and usually by the 15th or 20th of the month those resolutions are out the window and the old behaviors creep back in. What is it that causes these short-lived resolutions to fail? Is it commitment? Is it that we didn't realize just what we were giving up? Is it a lack of willpower?

Changing bad behaviors is hard to do especially when we have become used to them over many, many years and hold on to them like old friends. Discarding bad behaviors is often difficult because we don't see the benefits of discarding bad behaviors immediately. And we are all about immediate gratification right?

CASE STUDY: Having smoked cigars for many years and making excuses about how I could quit at any time I realized that I had to get serious about quitting if I would ever see my grandkids grow up. I tried to quit 4 or 5 times usually going about a week to two weeks before I broke down and smoked another stogie for some excuse or another. Here I am, an HSE Leader, constantly reminding myself that the H stands for Health and I was having a problem with quitting smoking. I knew it was bad for me, everyone knows it is bad for them, but quitting? Really? It's tough. Tougher than those who don't smoke can imagine.

Something happened though - maybe it was mental but, the cigars started tasting bad, it seemed that many of them were poorly wrapped, I was spending too much money on them and not getting anything back in return and my dissatisfaction with smoking finally reached a new level. I put them down, threw them out, and quit cold turkey. The first few weeks were the hardest but, after racking up a month I looked forward to going for 2 months, then 6 months and now it has been 19 months. I won't say I have quit though until I reach 24 months since that is the threshold that most people who never return to smoking. The benefits are pretty impressive actually. I have been able to enjoy food more, much to my detriment. And at 56, I was able to start running a little around the block.

Resistance at all costs is the most senseless act there is. -Friedrich Durrenmatt

Do you have a bad behavior that you know will hurt or kill you? Do you have a process or procedure in your company that you know could be improved to prevent someone from being hurt, or do you have someone in your organization that just doesn't get it and will cause harm to themselves or others if they don't change or if you don't change them?

Are you going to delay making the change you know you need to make? For what reason? If you know it needs to be done are you dragging your feet thinking it will get better by itself? Normally bad behaviors don't go away by themselves and they tend to nag at you for years even after you have quit them.

You can change your behaviors when you change your spirit, your thinking, and your approach to life. The revitalization of the happiness generated in your life is the reward you get for dropping bad behaviors.

Now about my weight...

Chris Thuneman is an accomplished safety professional who shares lessons learned over a 40-year Oil, Gas, and Chemical career to help others achieve a higher level of safety awareness in some of the most hazardous working environments. Please feel free to connect with him at:

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How Leaders Sabotage Safety | Your Safety Department

Martin had been with the Company a short time - only 4 months but, he had pegged the leadership attitudes which foretold the events unraveling in front of him now. Only a month ago, he had been riding with the Company's VP of Operations, Wenscott, when they discussed shipping some samples to a customer for analysis which would lead to a big contract for the Company.

 Safety Culture

Martin, the Division's HSE Manager, had been expressing his concern regarding the handling of the samples when he was interrupted by Wenscott's phone ringing loudly in the console of the car. Wenscott picked up the phone and continued driving the rental car as they sped to the manufacturing site to secure this deal quickly with the customer. It was the President of the Company giving Wenscott some last-minute pep talk as if it were needed and probably just to show that he was still very much in control.

Wenscott hung up agitated and was quiet for a moment. As Martin began to resume the conversation about the samples Wenscott blew up and began exclaiming how there were way too many rules and regulations and that this discussion was unnecessarily slowing him down from securing the deal with his customer. Something the President had said to him left him worried about his future.

As Wenscott and Martin met with the shipping department Wenscott explained how important it was to get the samples to the customer as quickly as possible. Shipping began with a long explanation regarding the requirements to keep the samples chilled as part of the quality program. It was a busy part of the season, there had been recent downsizing in their department and they wanted to take the time needed to make sure they understood how to ship them safely but, Wenscott flew into another tirade - he didn't give a damn - get the samples there the fastest way possible and stormed out angrily. Geez, this Company is made up of fools he thought. No one is paying attention to the customer's needs. He felt restricted every time he asked to have something handled and he was fed up with it.

A week later Wenscott hung his head low on the desk rubbing his forehead as the Customer called to ask about the samples. Where were they? And by the way - since you can't deliver samples on time we have chosen your competitor to supply us.

A month later, a letter crossed Martin's desk from the FAA. He opened it and groaned when he read the ominous word "VIOLATION" along with a list of citations issued and a proposed penalty of $50,000.00. It appears the shipping department had submitted the samples by plane (the fastest way to the customer) and had packed them in dry ice without properly declaring them in the airway bill and failing to use the proper package. The FAA had intercepted the samples before they were shipped. The words, "There are too many rules and regulations" played quietly in Martin's head. 

A follow-up investigation with all of the senior leaders revealed that the root of the problem laid squarely at their feet. They had not been walking the talk. It was not enough to state the safety rules to employees and expect them to be followed when the leaders clearly did not consider them or even know them. This was a moment of truth - they had looked into the mirror and didn't like what they saw.

Martin considered the essential facts: Lost Customers, Lost Revenue, a $50,000.00 regulatory fine, legal costs, damaged reputation, and on and on. The Leadership attitude had been about how to get the job done at all costs rather than how to get the job done correctly.

After a long discussion about safety in a group meeting, the Leadership finally recognized their need for help - which was a breakthrough moment and the first step in any process where change is required.

Through a long and continuous campaign focusing on its safety issues, the Company achieved a very high level of safety awareness and significant improvements in its safety performance. Safety processes became embedded in many parts of the organization and it became regenerative at some of its work sites.  It is not an ending though, but a journey to continuously improve upon.

Do you need help with your Safety Culture? Are you or your leaders part of the problem? Check out "How to Change the Safety Behavior in Your Organization" with our free download. 

Chris Thuneman is an accomplished oil, gas, and chemical professional who shares lessons learned over a 30-year career to help others achieve a higher level of safety awareness in some of the most hazardous working environments. Please feel free to connect with him at:

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Confined Space Attendant Assaulted | Your Safety Department

Bucket-head was a cargo inspector in the Texas City area and had just boarded a chemical carrier to conduct cleanliness inspections of a number of cargo tanks. How Bucket-head got his nickname is not clear but it brings up images of a huge man with a thick skull. Bucket-head was about to have one of the luckiest days of his life.

 Confined Space Pictures 702812

After meeting with the Chief Officer and identifying the tanks to be inspected he was sent off with the 3rd mate and a crew member to begin conducting tank inspections. The 3rd mate would enter a tank as Bucket-head watched and then Bucket-head would enter behind him. The crew member was standing by the tank to assist in opening and closing the hatches and to perform confined space attendant duties.

While Bucket-head and the 3rd mate were in one of the tanks conducting an inspection the 2nd mate unknowingly came along and called the crew member to help with some other tasks aboard the vessel. The obedient crew member left his post. The confined space attendant was now missing.

Shortly thereafter Bucket-head and the 3rd mate, still in the bottom of the tank, heard the gut-wrenching sound of the cargo hatch swing close and lock down with a thud. They scrambled to the top of the tank with the only light they had, being the flashlights that they held, and using the lights and their hands began beating on the tank hatch for someone to open it. The 3rd mate, realizing he had his radio on, began calling frantically for someone to answer him and come open the hatch but, the radio did not penetrate the tank walls or reach anyone's ears on the outside of the tank. For nearly 45 minutes they beat on the hatch until their hands were bloodied and they wore themselves out with fear. They knew what was about to come.

Tearfully and regrettably they traveled their way back to the bottom of the tank to pray and to await their fate. They could hear the sounds of nitrogen purging begin in the tanks adjacent to them and figured it would be only a matter of time for them now. There was nothing left to do but wait.

In the control room the Chief Officer was ready to begin loading operations but he was missing his tank cleanliness inspection paperwork and was trying to sort out where it was. It was at that moment that he realized that the 3rd mate was missing and called for his crew to locate him. 

It was a joyful noise to Bucket-head and the 3rd mate when they heard clanging over-head and the hatch swing open letting the light of day into the tank. They scrambled out happy to be alive but, the crew member who left his post would regret it.

Bucket-head left his job voluntarily - he didn't want to go through that again and that saved HR some paperwork over the assault on the crew member. 

Confined Space Entry is serious business - people can lose their lives if it is not done well. Training is required for the Entrant, Attendant, Entry Supervisor and Rescue Personnel.

At a minimum the Attendant should understand his role which is:

  • To maintain an accurate count of workers

  • To stopping unauthorized worker entry

  • To identify potential hazards and signs of exposure

  • To monitoring activities inside and outside

  • To maintaining continuous contact with entrants

  • To know when to order entrants to evacuate

  • To never leaving the space unattended

  • To know the procedures for summoning rescue

If you need help with Confined Space Training or would like to know more about your role as an entry, attendant, supervisor or rescue personnel please feel free to call or visit:

Your Safety Department, LLC

Chris Thuneman is an accomplished oil, gas and chemical professional who shares lessons learned over a 40 year career to help others achieve a higher level of safety awareness in some of the most hazardous working environments. Please feel free to connect with him at:

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 888-859-5653 

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