Industrial hygiene services are critical to any working environment. As workplaces change with COVID-19, these services have become even more crucial for decreasing contaminants and keeping employees safe.
What Is Industrial Hygiene (IH)?
The American Industrial Hygiene Association defines industrial hygiene as “the science and art devoted to the anticipation, recognition, evaluation, and control of 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 citizens in the community.”
It’s a wide-ranging field that ensures facilities are compliant in preventing and responding to industrial hygiene challenges. Some services include proactively responding to air contaminants like dust or fumes, biological hazards like viruses or bacteria, chemical risks, physical hazards such as noise or temperature, and ergonomic hazards such as pulling or climbing.
For businesses looking to use industrial hygiene services, it’s important to note that it is a fundamental part of OSHA compliance. Many OSHA officers are professionally trained industrial hygienists. These same officers have a hand in creating the OSHA standards many businesses must comply with every day, of which industrial hygiene plays a significant role. Understanding the full range of industrial hygiene services and partnering with an experienced provider can mitigate risk, keep workers safe, and increase workplace productivity.
How Industrial Hygiene Services Can Minimize Workplace Risk
Industrial hygiene services cover a long list of items, including indoor air quality, asbestos inspections and removal, lead inspections, and sound level monitoring. Certified professionals like SITEX will offer in-depth IH services for each item and more. Still, it’s essential to understand what kinds of workplace hazards a business may be dealing with when talking about industrial hygiene.
Improving air quality is a common request for businesses when it comes to industrial hygiene. According to OSHA, poor indoor air quality has been tied to symptoms like headaches, fatigue, trouble concentrating, and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs”. If unaddressed, poor air quality can lead to long-term risks for workers, and most indicators are not easily detected with sight or scent.
Noise is another issue that can be dealt with via industrial hygiene services. Loud construction taking place next door to an office may prove frustrating, but there are more pressing matters to deal with. For example, the CDC states that loud noises in the workplace can lead to potential physical and mental stress, aside from the potential ear damage that may take place. Industrial Hygienists can conduct sound surveys to identify specific noises and create solutions to mitigate them as well.
One of the other significant issues industrial hygiene services can address is the exposure to hazardous materials such as lead and other metals. Contaminants can lead to more than just bad smells. One study proved that some metallic elements could cause similar damage to lead and are classified as carcinogens for humans. Many commercial buildings, especially older ones, contain lead and possibly other harmful metals. By testing for these materials, industrial hygienists can make sure workplaces are safe from toxic materials.
Industrial Hygiene Can Benefit The Overall Business
The most valuable part of proper industrial hygiene is the prevention of workplace-related illnesses and injuries. Keeping workers and the surrounding community safe is the number one priority of industrial hygienists and providers like SITEX. But the benefits that industrial hygiene services bring go beyond safety.
Employees benefit from good occupational hygiene as it improves their overall health and can increase life expectancy. This has a direct effect on healthcare costs as well. Injuries that can be avoided with good industrial hygiene have a high potential of resulting in either short- or long-term disability. Lowering the number of injuries at a workplace can help lower insurance premiums and keep workers happy.
Similarly, keeping the workplace hygienic is a great way to increase employee effectiveness. The BC Ministry of Health stated that people who have a safe environment and low job stress report greater work-life balance and higher productivity. The presence of high-quality industrial hygiene can also help businesses increase their professionalism as they’re more likely to be well regarded by employees and customers. These kinds of cost savings and productivity boosts are all great reasons to begin implementing industrial hygiene services on top of safety measures.
Steps Businesses Can Take To Ensure High Industrial Hygiene
Improving hygiene in the workplace can be done in several ways. One of the first steps involves assessing the level of risk in the workplace. This is done by an industrial hygienist who observes employees at work and determines the level of exposure to hazards during specific tasks. The assessment then moves to the worksite, where a professional evaluates vulnerabilities and controls per OSHA standards.
In worksite assessments, industrial hygienists will measure exposure levels, analyze risks, sample air, and work surfaces, and perform any other specific tests for that location. The ideal analysis includes testing or observing all activities being conducted on-site to create a proper mitigation plan.
Once the results of the surveys and assessments have been communicated, businesses can begin to plan for mitigation if necessary. Providers like SITEX have in-depth experience providing industry-standard solutions and services to address industrial hygiene challenges. Working with the customer, our team of professionals will develop a plan to eliminate risk wherever possible. This could include removing hazards, if possible, replacing hazardous materials with alternatives, and providing PPE to protect employees. Having an in-depth analysis and complete industrial hygiene plan is key to creating a productive and safe working environment.
Contact SITEX today and speak to an industrial hygiene expert to better understand how industrial hygiene services can keep your workplace safe and your employees protected.