Industrial hygiene is a series of practices performed to ensure the health of buildings as well as the people who work inside them. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) describes industrial hygiene (IH) as:
A science and art devoted to the anticipation, recognition, evaluation, prevention, 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 citizens of the community originating from chemical, physical, and/or biological sources.
Good industrial hygiene addresses biological, physical, chemical, and ergonomics factors as a path to achieving worker safety. As defined by the American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH), these technicians are:
dedicated to the well-being of people – at work, at home, and in the community.
A big factor to consider are chemical hazards that include gases, vapors, dusts, and mists resulting from manufacturing processes or everyday work activity. However, Industrial hygiene is also concerned with indoor temperature and humidity levels of buildings. A warm and humid environment contributes to the growth of mold. Proper ventilation maintains safe carbon dioxide levels, and removes harmful contaminants.
Good industrial hygiene is all the things that make buildings safe for occupants, yet, industrial hygiene goes beyond standard plans and procedures for workplace safety. In fact, OSHA regulations recognize industrial hygiene as a separate discipline. Asset managers and facility directors should consult with certified industrial hygienists to devise plans that meet all legal requirements and protect workers.
Key Focus Points
The five pieces of a good industrial hygiene plan, as outlined in the definition provided by the American Industrial Hygiene Association are:
Anticipation involves identifying how and where hazards are likely to occur. It is key to preventing these risks from developing and elevating. Elements of noise, low or high temperatures and humidity levels, the presence of mold and chemicals—all these are potential threats to safety.
Prevention is the development of strategies to stop conditions that pose safety risks before they occur. Recognition is the identification of unanticipated potential risks, after which, evaluation is necessary for an assessment of the specific risks to worker safety.
Finally, control seeks to mitigate the damage and devise procedures for wearing protective gear and limiting worker exposure, as well as training and education and signage.
Why Industrial Hygiene Matters
A safe indoor environment and better productivity are the top benefits of a good industrial hygiene plan. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost 2.9 million non-fatal injuries occurred in 2018. Of these, close to one million of these occupational injuries resulted in at least one day away from work. The average number of days away from work was eight. Allergies and asthma as a result of poor IAQ are a large part of these statistics. While these numbers are an improvement over years past, worker safety is still a huge factor affecting organizations.
Industrial hygienists are dedicated to occupant safety. It is their responsibility to implement plans and procedures that incorporate the five points outlined above. They work to develop and maintain a safe indoor environment which limits work loss and lowered productivity.
Promoting Best Practices
Industrial hygiene matters to public sector agencies, schools and businesses, and it matters to us. Our Building Sciences division provides building assessments, forensic investigations, indoor air quality consultation, indoor environmental testing, and expert witness testimony related to the health, comfort, and energy efficiency of the occupied space. We work to resolve issues that impact worker safety.
Our Building Sciences Services include a building health check to evaluate indoor environmental conditions of the buildings in your portfolio, as well as an HVAC Hygiene Assessment to identify mold and allergens, contaminant risk, moisture, temperature and humidity levels resulting in a detailed report of remedial recommendations.
Contact Pure Air Control Services for a complete Building Health Check or an HVAC Hygiene Assessment. Call 1-800-422-7873 today for a free consultation or email us here.