Understand what Industrial Hygiene (IH) is, its importance, basic principles, standards, how to conduct exposure assessments, training, and using a mobile-first app for IH practices.
Published 11 Jul 2023
As defined by the Harvard School of Public Health, industrial hygiene deals with the process of identifying, evaluating, and controlling real or potential workplace environmental stressors or hazards that can impact the wellbeing of workers and community members. It’s also called Occupational Hygiene.
Industrial hygiene aims to focus on the safety of workers by implementing effective control of workplace hazards. This practice helps protect employees from various types of injuries and illnesses, such as nonfatal illnesses, respiratory conditions, skin diseases, poisoning, hearing loss, and repetitive stress injuries among others.
One common way of practicing industrial hygiene is by mandating the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to improve working conditions, provide respiratory protection, and prevent or eliminate workers’ exposure to hazards.
Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) refers to the process of dealing with the effects of hazard exposure such as damage to human health, prescribing medicines for treatment and prevention, and conducting pre-employment, along with periodic, medical examinations. Ultimately, OHS aims to assess potential occupational diseases so that continuous healthcare assistance can be provided to workers.
On the other hand, industrial hygiene aims to reduce or remove work hazard exposure by implementing a series of controls and programs toward keeping the workplace clean, free from environmental stressors, and hygienic.
Industrial hygienists perform risk assessments to anticipate health and safety concerns so that they can create and implement solutions and plans for prevention. Before conducting assessments, it’s a must to understand first the fundamentals of industrial hygiene. Here are its 5 principles:
This step entails a thorough documentation of the workplace design, operations, processes, specific work tasks, materials, and worker population. One notable example of anticipating industrial hygiene hazards is the use of Safety Data Sheets (SDS) as required under the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
SDSs include important information on the properties of each chemical, the various hazards, protective measures, and safety precautions for proper handling, storing, and transporting of the chemical. Employers must ensure SDSs are readily available to all workers to serve as their guide on how to handle hazardous chemicals in the workplace.
This step also covers the importance of identifying any potential exposure issues caused by workplace hazards. In this phase, using a hazard identification checklist would be useful.
Having a system on surveying each worker about how they get their work done is a key part of recognizing hazards. Employers must consider the layout of the workplace as employees working close to each other, also called as simultaneous operations, can affect their hazard exposures.
This is where the exposure assessment comes in. Strictly done by qualified professionals such as industrial hygienists, the process involves evaluating the exposure risk and determining the who, what, where, when, and how, based on the work environment and industrial hygiene instruments necessary.
According to OSHA, there are 3 main ways on how to reduce employee exposure to occupational hazards:
Once measures and controls have been established, the last step is to check the performance of what was implemented. Proactive confirmation also involves investigating issues, both present and potential, and employing corrective actions that complement your industrial hygiene program initiatives.
Under the OSH Act of 1970, some examples of OSHA standards involve requiring employers to:
Now, what are the types of hazards defined by industrial hygiene?
Considered as a type of risk exposure assessment, a comprehensive industrial hygiene exposure assessment program is designed to gauge exposure profiles and then assess the acceptability of workplace exposures environmental agents.
This program is especially important in these situations:
As prescribed by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), the basic steps of this systematic exposure assessment and control process include the following:
Make sure to gather the necessary details to characterize the project site or facility, process, operations, workforce, and environmental agents. For this step, it’s highly crucial to conduct documentations that are well-organized. In most cases, this characterization is done as part of the job safety analysis, which is also known as the job hazard analysis.
Conducting qualitative exposure assessments paves the way to screening exposure risks and letting employers set priorities on the type of program to be implemented.
This process also defines the groups of similarly-exposed workers through the Similar Exposure Groups (SEGs). After this, their exposure profiles will be described, and judgments on these profiles will depend on the: (1) estimated exposure level, (2) gravity of health effects, and (3) level of certainty associated with the available data.
Further, industrial hygiene risks may be classified as:
Mainly applied for uncertain exposure judgments, collecting supporting information on health effects helps in resolving such uncertainties with increased confidence. Hence, exposure monitoring can also be conducted as needed.
Once priority measures have been confirmed, establish strategies most especially for unacceptable and uncertain exposures. While organizations should ensure that this step doesn’t necessarily happen often, having principles and programs in place is important to take the proper precautions or steps to protect worker health.
As part of an employer’s responsibility in promoting a culture of safety and quality, conducting thorough periodic reviews of exposures is a must. This is where identifying the frequency of routine monitoring comes in, and whether certain exposures remain acceptable and tolerable. Continuous monitoring is highly recommended, most especially if changes in processes or operations happen regularly.
Make sure to fully document SEGs, the workers’ exposure profiles, exposure judgments, monitoring results, and hazard control measures. Further, be transparent to your employees about the results of exposure assessments. Occupational health managers may use these data to gauge whether recommended practices are being followed and monitored well, and help gauge the accuracy and integrity of the results.
Empower your team with SafetyCulture to perform checks, train staff, report issues, and automate tasks with our digital platform.
Getting everyone on board with organizational initiatives toward industrial hygiene starts with training the workers involved.
Through a powerful mobile Learning Management System (LMS) like SafetyCulture (formerly iAuditor)’s Training, you can conduct training on industrial hygiene and make it easier and more efficient for your organization to deliver engaging and effective learning to your team. In fact, you can use this free and editable Industrial Hygiene course to make it more aligned with your objectives.
You may also choose to integrate key information that you may find on the OSHA Industrial Hygiene Training guide to enrich your course.
Maximize the power of technology in monitoring and ensuring your organization complies with industrial hygiene standards and workplace safety. One way to do so is by utilizing digital checklists.
Having digital checklists lets you keep track of the regulations you need to comply with, making it easier for you and your employees to stay updated and view everything in one place. SafetyCulture is a mobile-first checklist inspection app that empowers employers, managers, and employees in the frontlines to maintain quality and safety in the workplace.
Apart from downloading industrial hygiene monitoring templates, you can also take advantage of SafetyCulture’s features to do the following:
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Use this template to conduct industrial hygiene hazard identification, exposure assessments, sampling plan and data collection, determination of exposure levels and control, communication of exposure monitoring results, and quality control.
This industrial hygiene monitoring form is used for the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) to prevent serious illnesses and other health problems. Use this free template to identify work process hazards, and list the control measures and PPE to be used when handling these substances, as well as first aid measures in case of an emergency, and means of disposing hazardous wastes. Summarize the report by providing a risk rating after control measures were implemented.
Based on guidance provided by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), this template is helpful in documenting a risk assessment to manage health and safety hazards in your workplace. Identify observed potential and existing hazards, assess the risk level, and provide necessary control measures. Monitor and review planned control measures and advise if further measures are required. Lastly, provide overall recommendations to avoid and manage risk hazards.
Patricia Guevara is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture. With her extensive content writing and copywriting experience, she creates high-quality content across a variety of relevant topics. She aims to promote workplace safety, operational excellence, and continuous improvement in her articles. She is passionate about communicating how technology can be used to streamline work processes, empowering companies to realize their business goals.
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