Occupational hygiene sums up all activities geared toward detecting and neutralizing existing and potential risks in the workplace, ensuring safety for workers and the community at large. Executing the action is crucial in mining, pharmaceuticals, hospitals, farms, and petrochemicals.
The practice involves an occupational health risk assessment executed by a team of occupational hygienists spanning occupational physicians, engineers, biologists, chemists, etc. Together, these professionals evaluate all work areas, equipment, and job activities, to ensure minimal employee exposure to harm.
Types of Occupational Hazards
Diverse workplace hazards reinforce the need for occupational hygiene assessment. Possible hazards at workplaces include:
- Biological hazards caused by bacteria, fungi, viruses, nutritional deficiency, etcetera
- Environmental dangers from heat, pollution, radiation, etcetera
- Chemical hazards from carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, acids, etcetera
- Psychological threats originating from work stress
- Ergonomic hazards from moving heavy pieces of equipment
Reasons for Occupational Hygiene
Many industries require the service of occupational hygienists for the following reasons:
- Reducing loss of life due to work-related accidents and illnesses
- Lowering the global economic cost of workplace hazards
- Minimizing the incidence of cancer and respiratory diseases due to toxic substance exposure at work
Benefits of Occupational Hygiene
Conducting health surveillance in work environments has become essential in recent times.
Specific benefits of conducting occupational hygiene include:
- Optimal employee health
- Increased life expectancy
- Minimise work exit due to injuries or illness, prompting a reduction in the workforce
- Reduces healthcare cost
- Heightens employee potential and overall productivity
Aspects of Occupational Hygiene
Occupational hygiene is a gradual process that requires diligent and meticulous effort from seasoned experts. Therefore, you need to find the best occupational hygienists within your region for continual safety assurance in the workplace.
Individuals skilled in assessing work environment safety often perform these procedures:
- Prediction of Health Hazards
Professionals in the team anticipate health hazards by surveying parameters like workplace design, tasks, operations, processes, materials, and employee population.
Assessment of these features helps identify possible hazard sources and prioritize interventions. For context, an industry’s chemical inventory paints a picture of possible harms that are graded and tackled based on hazard potential.
- Identification of Health Hazards
Next is identifying potential work environment hazards and possible precipitating factors. At this stage, hygienists critically evaluate the work environment, operational processes, and tasks to discover areas and procedures with high potential risks.
For instance, performing specific tasks may involve generating a large number of toxic fumes. Therefore, workers in such sectors have increased risk exposure.
- Assessment of Exposure
Having predicted and identified potential hazards, this process assesses employee exposure to such risks. Here, experts execute industrial hygiene monitoring, measuring essential physical, biological, or chemical agents in a vulnerable employee population.
After quantitative and qualitative data analysis, findings can be acceptable, unacceptable, or uncertain.
- Setting Up and Evaluating Control Measures
After exposure assessment, enacting control measures is the way to go. Usually, it’s best to follow the hierarchy of control for the best result. Afterward, checking the performance of the control measures takes precedence. Usually, an effective route is collecting and storing performance data and reports.
Employees in different industrial sectors often face physical, chemical, biological or psychological hazards which can negatively impact their well-being. Therefore, hiring occupational hygienists has become necessary to ensure employees work in safe spaces throughout their employment.
Consequently, employers need experts to predict, identify and control probable workplace hazards to uphold workers’ safety.