Respiratory Sensitisers and Health Surveillance

Occupational Health Procedure


Respiratory sensitisers are substances which have the potential to cause sensitisation (allergy) such as rhinitis and occupational asthma. Potential sensitisers in use within Loughborough University include isocyanates and other polymers used in the science faculty; and flour used within the kitchen areas. Respiratory sensitisers are identified on the data sheet by the classification R42 – Potential to cause sensitisation by inhalation.

Those who work with such substances are required to undergo respiratory surveillance, unless the risk of exposure can be shown to be extremely low. This will be determined by risk assessment carried out in accordance with the COSHH regulations (2002) and the associated university guidance.

Health Assessment

Where there is a need for respiratory surveillance this will be carried out by the Occupational Health Adviser, with referral to the Occupational Health Physician where appropriate.

Baseline health assessment will involve completion of a questionnaire to assess health history and the presence of any respiratory symptoms (link); and assessment of lung function (spirometry). Individuals will also be reminded of the importance of following good practices and of reporting any new respiratory symptoms which may indicate sensitisation.

Health assessment should be carried out before any exposure or potential exposure occurs; failing that, as soon as possible after an individual is identified as being at risk.

Further assessment will usually be carried out annually. This may consist of repeat spirometry, or questionnaire only (administered by post/e mail) depending on the level of risk identified by Occupational Health and the departmental risk assessment.

Occasionally , where there is a higher level of risk additional surveillance may be carried out 6 weeks and 6 months after initial exposure/potential exposure (as this is the highest risk time for development of sensitisation). Additional surveillance should also be arranged if there is an unexpected increase in exposure (e.g. following an incident).


The appropriate manager (with assistance from the Departmental Safety Officer (DSO) will carry out risk assessment in accordance with University guidance and identify individuals who may require respiratory surveillance. Advice on this should be sought from the Health Safety and Environment office.

Individuals identified are likely to be employees; however, where postgraduate or undergraduate students are at risk they should also be included.

The Occupational Health Adviser will carry out respiratory surveillance on request and will arrange repeat surveillance as appropriate.

The Occupational Health Adviser will advise the DSO and the appropriate manager if any restrictions to an individual’s working practices are required following surveillance; or if results suggest that the departmental risk assessment should be reviewed

The individual will attend for surveillance/ complete a health questionnaire as required.

The individual will alert the manager/DSO/Occupational Health to any new or unusual respiratory symptoms.