On January 7, 2019, the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) issued its first-ever public policy agenda to address what it deems critical issues of worker health and safety in the United States. Over the next two years, the AIHA is proposing to work with federal and state governments and other concerned organizations to enact new and additional policies to address issues such as hazard banding, opioids in the workplace, training for a growing teen workforce, worker fatigue, and workplace violence. These, and other more familiar worker issues, such as noise protection, indoor air quality, and transportation safety, are all part of the realm of “industrial hygiene.” OSHA defines industrial hygiene as "the practice of anticipating, recognizing, evaluating, and controlling workplace conditions that may cause workers' injury or illness” and includes a wide range of potential hazards including:
- Noise exposure
- Indoor air quality
- Chemical exposure
- Biological hazards
Ideally, hazards are identified and controlled early when a workplace is being planned, when conditions or processes change, or through yearly reviews, before they become an issue for workers. After a potential hazard is identified, an industrial hygienist can utilize the scientific data and a well-designed sampling and analysis plan to quantify the exposure potential of the hazard and provide solutions to control or eliminate the hazard. There is a systematic, hierarchical approach to eliminating or minimizing these hazards.
- Engineering controls include eliminating or replacing the hazard with less hazardous ones, enclosing work processes or confining work operations, and installing general and local ventilation systems.
- Work practice controls alter the way a task is performed to minimize exposures and may be as simple as inspecting and maintaining process and control equipment on a regular basis, implementing good housekeeping procedures, or providing additional supervision.
- Administrative controls include controlling employees' exposure to hazards by scheduling production and tasks in ways that minimize exposure levels. For example, the employer might schedule operations with the highest exposure potential during periods when the fewest employees are present.
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, safety goggles, helmets, safety shoes, and protective clothing can be implemented when effective work practices and/or engineering controls are not feasible to achieve worker safety. To be effective, PPE must be individually selected, properly fitted, and periodically refitted, as well as conscientiously and properly worn, regularly maintained, and replaced as necessary.
Because of the scope and breadth of industrial hygiene hazards and controls, many companies do not have the in-house capability to manage IH. Tioga’s scientists are adept at hazard identification, quantification, and hazard management, and look forward to helping you with your industrial hygiene needs.