Introduction to industrial
Blog » Introduction to industrial hygiene monitoring
What is industrial hygiene monitoring?
Have you ever had an Industrial Hygienist perform a worksite analysis or conduct monitoring in your facility? Industrial Hygienists use environmental monitoring and analytical methods to detect the extent of worker exposure and utilize engineering, work practice controls, and other methods to control potential health hazards that can be dangerous to workers.
Industrial Hygienists should be utilized to ensure your facility is safe from hazardous exposures to prevent worker injury and illness. Industrial hygiene is the science of anticipating, recognizing, evaluating, and controlling workplace conditions that may cause workers’ injury or illness.
Industrial Hygiene includes observing workplace conditions and evaluating the best course of action to remove or reduce hazards or contaminants.
Industrial hygiene practices have been around for centuries, as early scientists and researchers realized the need to protect workers from harmful conditions. Along with the rise of industry, legislation relating to industrial hygiene and worker’s compensation in the United States was first developed at the beginning of the 20th century.
One of the most influential legislation pieces is the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. This act created the OSHA agency. It gave OSHA the authority to create, set, and enforce safety and health regulations for businesses, including industrial hygiene regulations. These regulations are now an essential part of our modern-day safety procedures in the United States.
Why does industrial hygiene monitoring exist?
The purpose of industrial hygiene is to protect workers from hazards present in the workplace. These include air contaminants, chemical hazards, biological hazards, physical hazards, and ergonomic hazards.
Air contaminants include particulate and vapor contaminants. The most common particulate contaminants include dust, fumes, mists, aerosols, and fibers.
Chemical hazards include harmful chemical compounds in the form of solids, liquids, gases, mists, specks of dust, fumes, and vapors that exert toxic effects by inhalation (breathing), absorption (through direct contact with the skin), or ingestion (eating or drinking).
Biological Hazards include bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other living organisms that can cause acute and chronic infections by entering the body either directly or through breaks in the skin.
Physical Hazards include excessive levels of ionizing and nonionizing electromagnetic radiation, noise, vibration, illumination, and temperature. Ergonomic hazards include excessive vibration and noise, eye strain, repetitive motion, heavy lifting problems, and improperly designed tools or work areas.
Safety professionals, such as industrial hygienists, can determine what hazards are present and take steps to either eliminate or control the hazards to reduce risk. One way to identify workplace hazards is through worksite analysis. A worksite analysis of the facility, accompanied by an industrial hygienist, can help determine what hazards need to be monitored.
Why perform a worksite analysis?
Worksite analyses are the first step to identifying the hazards that are present. They can also be done at any time—not just when investigating a reported hazard. A worksite analysis focuses on determining risks, problem tasks, and measuring exposures.
The most effective worksite analysis includes all jobs, operations, and work activities. The industrial hygienist inspects, researches, or analyzes how the particular chemicals or physical hazards at that worksite affect worker health. If a hazardous situation is discovered, the industrial hygienist recommends the appropriate corrective actions.
Industrial hygienists help to measure exposure levels of some hazard types by taking samples in the workplace. Sampling types include integrated, direct-read or instantaneous, breathing zone, area, or bulk. Taking samples and recording changes over time is essential as it gives hard data on the conditions and trends of contaminants in the workplace.
Another benefit is that some types of sampling (for example, integrated and breathing zone) involve worker participation, as they will need to cooperate with sampling over the workday.
Performing a worksite analysis can help get your workers in the mindset of looking for and reporting hazards, especially if they are involved in the monitoring process. It’s a good practice to promote the idea of being aware of possible safety hazards in the workplace environment and the “normal” workplace looks, sounds, and smells.
One of the best ways to prevent incidents is to eliminate risky situations before they occur—and worksite analysis helps to do this!
Which industrial hygiene guidelines apply to my facility and where can I find them?
It is also essential to understand Industrial Hygiene guidelines. What guidelines apply in a given facility? Every business will have different hazards and may need a slightly different approach to meeting established regulations.
However, OSHA has excellent resources that can aid in determining what the most immediate hazards are in your workplace, how to control them, and how to get professional assistance in going above and beyond compliance.
If you’re new to the OSHA regulations, it can seem daunting to wade through the Code of Federal Regulations to find the information you need. Thankfully, OSHA has compiled a list of compliance assistance resources. These are a collection of helpful articles providing recent health and safety information, sorted by industry.
Manufacturing is broken down into several sections, including chemical manufacturing, food processing, lead smelters, metal manufacturing, plastics industry, textiles, and more. Each section contains information specific to that branch of industry and gives the most relevant hazards, with additional links to the safety and regulation information on that hazard.
In terms of more general industry guidelines, OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910 Subpart G, Occupational Health and Environmental Control, covers ventilation, noise, and nonionizing radiation guidelines.
How do I comply with OSHA guidelines, specifically regarding industrial hygiene?
It can be helpful to first read up on OSHA’s Recommended Practices for Safety and Health. The OSHA Recommended Practices helps summarize the most critical aspects of management leadership, worker participation, hazard identification and assessment, and hazard prevention and control.
The next step is to perform a Workplace Analysis of your facility and look for potential hazards, both in various tasks and in the workplace environment. Industrial Hygienists can help from the start with a Workplace Analysis or can only monitor and suggest controls to minimize or eliminate exposure found from the monitoring results.