Industrial Hygienist

The following is one reason why an employer may have a need for an industrial hygienist (IH). The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHAct) has brought a restructuring of programs and activities relating to safeguarding the health of workers. Uniform occupational health regulations now apply to all businesses engaged in commerce, regardless of their locations within the jurisdiction. Nearly every employer is required to implement some element of an industrial hygiene or occupational health or hazard communication program, to be responsive to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the OSHAct and its health regulations.

In carrying out such an assessment regarding health-related stressors, a company may not have the expertise or even the equipment that might be needed to do a viable and proper assessment to protect the health of its workforce. From the information, it can be determined when a company has limitations as well as why an IH is needed. Industrial hygiene has been defined as "that science or 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 and inefficiency among workers or among the citizens of the community."

The IH, although trained in engineering, physics, chemistry, or biology, has acquired, by undergraduate or postgraduate study and experience, the knowledge of the effects on health of chemical and physical agents under various levels of exposure. The IH is involved with the monitoring and analytical methods required to detect the extent of exposure and the engineering and other methods used for hazard control. All of this preparation is needed and desirable in order to address the myriad of workplace stressors that impact health in the workplace, such as the following:

  • • Physical stressors—radiation, noise, vibration, temperature extremes, and pressure issues
  • • Biological stressors—vermin, insects, molds, fungi, viruses, and bacteria
  • • Ergonomic stressors—design of work area and stations, tool design, material handling, repetitive motion, awkward work positions, lighting, and visual acuity
  • • Chemical stressors—poisons, toxins, dust, vapors, fumes, and mists
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