PFT plays an important role in an occupational respiratory health surveillance program. It can assist the health professional by determining if a worker demonstrates a specific pattern of respiratory impairment and can help to assess the effectiveness of measures implemented to protect the individual worker. In addition, results from defined groups of workers can be evaluated in relation to potential workplace hazards.
Protecting the health of individual workers is a primary objective of various workplace surveillance programs. Results from an individual should be further assessed if abnormalities are detected or if pulmonary function values show an excessive decline in comparison to the individual’s previous tests. After ruling out technical causes for low or declining pulmonary function, efforts must be made to identify the cause. If the cause is related to a workplace exposure, then steps must be taken to better control or eliminate the exposure and prevent further damage to the worker’s lungs.
Public health surveillance is the ongoing, systematic collection, analysis, and interpretation of health data essential to the planning, implementation, and evaluation of public health practices, closely integrated with the timely dissemination of these data to those who need to know. The periodic evaluation of disease patterns and analysis and reporting of aggregated PFT results are important in documenting the effectiveness of workplace exposure control efforts and in assuring the timely recognition of gaps in disease prevention.
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