What Is Industrial Hygiene?

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Industrial Hygiene: A Brief Introduction

Industrial hygiene is the process of determining worker and environmental exposure to hazardous chemicals and materials used in various products/processes. By using various methods of collection and testing, the resulting data can be used to help employers comply with regulations and keep their employees out of harm’s way.

Industrial hygiene by definition is “the science and art devoted to the anticipation, recognition, evaluation, and control of those environmental factors or stresses arising in or from the workplace, which may cause sickness, impaired health and well-being or significant discomfort among workers or among the citizens of the community.”

Industrial Hygienists use monitoring and analytical methods to detect worker exposure and engineering, work practice controls, and other methods to control potential health hazards.

A Brief History of Industrial Hygiene

Industrial Hygiene was recognized as early as 400 BC whenever lead toxicity was noted in mining. Fast forward a few centuries later to health risks being recognized by those working with zinc and sulfur. This event led to the creation of the first face mask made from animal bladder to protect workers from dust and lead fumes as industrial hygiene’s first attempt at protective measures. Later in the 1700s, the first book on industrial medicine was written containing descriptions of occupational diseases such as silicosis in mining. In 1833, the first legislative acts in industrial safety were established due to the effects of soot on chimney sweepers. European Nations developed workers’ compensation acts which led to an increase in factory safety precautions and industrial plant medical services.

The United States of America - Industrial Hygiene

In 1911, the states passed the first worker’s compensation laws. Two years later, the first industrial hygiene program was established by the New York Department of Labor and the Ohio Department of Health.

Today, almost every employer is required to implement industrial hygiene, safety, and occupational health elements into their program while abiding by OSHA regulations.

Industrial Hygiene and the Workplace

A majority of OSHA compliance officers are Industrial Hygienists. The two main roles at a workplace job site for the Industrial Hygienist include: spot the conditions, then eliminate or control the conditions through appropriate measures. The Industrial Hygienist will conduct a workplace analysis first to determine the sources of potential problems. The analysis will include any type of chemical exposure, problems completing tasks and potential risks. The Industrial Hygienist will evaluate the analysis and recognize which controls to implement.

Industrial Hygiene Controls Include:

  • Engineering Controls: Eliminating chemicals/substituting chemicals, enclosing work processes, ventilation systems
  • Work Practice Controls: Changing existing procedures to follow procedures that minimize exposure
  • Inspecting & maintaining process & control equipment
  • Implementing good house keeping
  • Administrative Controls: Controlling exposure by scheduling operations that minimize exposure levels such as operating when the fewest amount of employees are present during the highest exposure potential.

Amerisafe Group offers a full range of industrial hygiene and occupational health services, and are experienced at assisting clients in all aspects of anticipation, recognition, evaluation and control of health hazards. Our Certified Industrial Hygienists (CIH) and Staff Industrial Hygienists have provided these services to construction companies, electric utilities, manufacturers, and other industries nationwide. We are a member of AIHA, American Industrial Hygiene Association. Need industrial hygiene assistance? Call us for a consultation and quote on our industrial hygiene services today!

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