Industrial Hygiene

A significant amount of the work that we do on the consulting side of things still deals with industrial hygiene. There’s a textbook definition of what industrial hygiene is and it’s fairly convoluted, but it actually does mean something. It’s the anticipation, recognition, evaluation, and control of health hazards that arise in the workplace so that people are not exposed to those health hazards. If you look at those four words, which are anticipation, recognition, evaluation, and control, it really is nothing more than sophisticated problem-solving.

Now, if you know that your employees are working with a hazardous chemical, that’s the anticipation part. We know it’s bad for you and we need to evaluate whether or not it’s a problem. So we recognize that an organic solvent can be dangerous, we then find ways to evaluate it and there are ways to evaluate it through its use and the controls that are in place. The number one thing that we typically do is to perform exposure monitoring and that’s by actually using testing equipment that’s mounted on the employee. They work for their full shift and they carry that around through all the different tasks that they do so we can measure exactly what their exposure is to that chemical during the day.

Once we have the ability to then evaluate what their exposures are, then we can come up with recommendations or evaluations to control it. Again, 90-something percent of the cases that we do monitoring for right now we don’t find hazardous exposures or if we do, it’s not necessarily through airborne exposures, they may be skin contact or something else that’s involved.

So we then make recommendations that can control that exposure, but the whole science of industrial hygiene is based around that very simple concept of anticipation, recognition, evaluation, and control. And that’s the same approach that we take whether we’re looking at hazardous chemicals, heat, stress, noise, exposure or any of the other myriad of things that we take a look at from an industrial hygiene standpoint.