Let's take a peek behind the curtain of one of our practitioner specialties--industrial hygiene. Read on for an interview with one of Antea Group's experienced pros.
What is Industrial Hygiene?
Industrial hygiene is a science and art devoted to the anticipation, recognition, evaluation, prevention, and control of those environmental factors or stresses arising in or from the workplace which may cause sickness, impaired health and well-being, or significant discomfort among workers or among citizens of the community.
What is an Industrial Hygienist?
An industrial hygienist is someone who is specially trained to anticipate, recognize, evaluate, and control hazards that workers may encounter in the workplace. Based on the hazards or potential hazards that might be present, industrial hygienists can recommend administrative or engineering systems to control these hazards or can help the employer evaluate what type of personal protective equipment might be needed to do the job that needs to be performed.
What kinds of projects do you work on?
As an industrial hygienist, I work on projects that assess what the health risks might be to an employee in the workplace. This can be done using direct reading instruments or it might be done by taking samples of the air in the environment of the worker. Once data is collected, it needs to be interpreted to understand exactly what the risks might be and how perhaps the risk can be eliminated or minimized.
For instance, if we find that noise levels in a factory are too high, can we engineer a solution to reduce the harmful noise level? If we cannot engineer a solution, can we minimize the amount of time a person is in contact with the noise? Finally, if the source cannot be eliminated and an employee will continue to be in contact with the noise, can we find suitable personal protection equipment that will reduce the risk for the employee?
What kind of education and credentials do you need?
Industrial hygienists generally come from a heavy science or health background. Educational background in areas such as environmental health, biology, chemistry, toxicology, industrial hygiene are all needed for an understanding of the concepts of industrial hygiene. Once someone has been practicing industrial hygiene for over 5 years, they are eligible to sit for an exam to receive their certification in industrial hygiene and become a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH). The CIH is a difficult credential to receive, but the designation is recognized as the mark of professionals in the field.
What other specialties might you work with?
There is a lot of crossover between industrial hygiene and the safety field. Industrial hygiene encompasses a lot of the health aspects, and overall safety plays an important role as well. It is common for industrial hygienists to also hold the safety credential as a Certified Safety Professional (CSP). Depending on the industry, industrial hygienists may work with toxicologists, occupational health professionals, administrations, and directly with the workers themselves.
What’s the most unexpected thing about this role?
Each day can be entirely different. You may be writing a policy about radiation safety one day, and then the next day be out at a manufacturing facility educating employees about respiratory protection. A lot of critical thinking is used in making decisions about exposures and how to assess risks.