A Safe Working Environment: Industrial Hygiene Comes Down to These 8 Key Points
By Rylie Holt
Industrial hygiene is the science of anticipating, recognizing, evaluating, and controlling negative environmental factors in industrial workplaces. Without proper industrial hygiene, these factors could contribute to workplace injuries and illnesses. Industrial Hygienists are trained experts who specialize in this important field. Read on to find out about eight of the key points they look for when performing evaluations.
Industrial manufacturers use chemicals to facilitate manufacturing, clean facilities, power equipment, and more. It’s important to prevent worker exposure to these potentially dangerous chemicals and to prevent them from being absorbed, inhaled, or ingested. For business owners whose manufacturing facilities use potentially dangerous chemicals, airquestinc.com can help with environmental assessments, mitigation, and more.
Certain types of workers are more likely to be exposed to biological hazards than others. Those who work with plants or animals in laboratory, medical, or agricultural applications are at especially high risk. However, living organisms like viruses, bacteria, and fungi can become a problem in almost any workplace, so industrial hygienists always check for these biological hazards when performing assessments.
UV radiation is a common problem for outdoor workers, but ionizing radiation poses a much greater risk. Healthcare workers and nuclear reactors or support facility personnel must be protected against radiation in the workplace to prevent negative long-term health impacts like cancer and sterility.
Indoor Air Quality
There are many factors that influence indoor air quality ranging from machine emissions to dust from mechanical processes, chemical fumes, and even pollution entering the building from outside. Proper ventilation and air filtration are the best tools available for improving indoor air quality.
High and Low Temperatures
High temperatures in industrial facilities can leave workers vulnerable to heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Excessively low temperatures can lead to frostbite and hypothermia. Workers can be protected from high temperatures by upgrading the HVAC system and those who work in refrigerated environments can be provided with warm clothing and frequent breaks to warm up.
Long-Term Noise Exposure
Industrial environments can get very loud and long-term exposure to loud sounds can lead to hearing loss. Employers are responsible for addressing noise issues. They can do so by providing protective devices, redesigning facilities to reduce noise, or separating workers from loud machinery.
Ergonomics can be generally defined as the study of people at work. Proper ergonomics helps to prevent injuries associated with repetitive movements, overuse of certain muscles, and more. Solving problems with ergonomics can involve altering work stations, using tools to reduce the strain of repetitive tasks, or limiting how much time workers must spend on certain types of work.
Once industrial hygienists have identified potential environmental hazards, the final key point they look at is how to eliminate or minimize them. This process usually involves a combination of establishing better work practices, providing protective equipment, changing administrative policies, improving ventilation, and attempting to design the hazard out of the industrial process.
The Bottom Line
Trained industrial hygienists undergo substantial classroom and on-the-job education, so they’re familiar with relevant OSHA standards and know exactly what to look for when it comes to ensuring a safe working environment. There are no legal restrictions regarding who can be considered an industrial hygienist, though, so industrial business owners should always look for certified professionals. Get in touch to schedule a full evaluation.
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