Occupational Hygiene: What is it and how can a consultant help your business?
The word hygiene is derived from the name of the Greek goddess of health, Hygieia. The activities performed by an occupational hygienist aim to improve the safety of the work environment and ultimately the health of the workers.
With advances in technologies, increasing awareness of workplace hazards, and recent changes in legislation and workplace exposure standards, it is important businesses and organisations investigate workplace hazards with the aim of improving workplace conditions.
Businesses and organisations can strive towards improving the health of workers by engaging an occupational hygienist to assist in identifying and evaluating hazards with the aim of reducing health risks to workers.
What is occupational hygiene?
Occupational hygiene is the practice of identifying hazardous agents in the workplace that could cause disease or discomfort, evaluating the extent of the risk due to exposure, and the control of risks to prevent ill-health in the long or short term.
Why is occupational hygiene important?
Occupational hygiene is a valuable discipline, capable of providing insight into the presence of hazards within the workplace and evaluating the associated health risks. The implementation of appropriate occupational hygiene monitoring strategies facilitates an understanding of the level of controls implemented and provides guidance on strategies to assist improve the working environment and with the aim of reducing the risks of ill-health effects encountered by workers.
What does occupational hygiene focus on?
Occupational hygiene focuses on anticipating, recognising, evaluating and controlling health hazards in the working environment. A range of hazards occur in, or arise from the workplace and may result in illness, impairment, or affect the wellbeing of workers and members of the community.
These health hazards are typically divided into the following categories:
- Biological agents (bacteria, fungi etc);
- Chemical agents (gases, vapours, solids, fibres, liquids, dusts, mists, fumes etc.);
- Physical agents (noise and vibration, heat and cold, electromagnetic fields, lighting etc.);
- Ergonomic factors (lifting, stretching and repetitive motion); and
- Psychological factors (Stress, workload and work organisation).
Occupational hygiene aims to improve health outcomes by gaining an understanding of the nature of these hazards within the workplace and where applicable providing guidance on opportunities to enhance controls providing greater worker protection.
WHAT IS OCCUPATIONAL HYGIENE MONITORING?
Occupational hygiene monitoring strategies are aimed at assessing the nature, extent and control of workplace hazards.Monitoring of the conditions in the workplace is important for the purpose of preventing illness or injury of workers.
Monitoring is the process of obtaining measurements of specific hazards (for example, noise or airborne contaminants) that workers may encounter during work activities. Information obtained from appropriately established monitoring strategies can assist the development of risk assessments guiding decisions on the level of controls implemented at the workplace.
Not only can monitoring strategies assist in determining the level of controls required in the workplace, there are also legislative requirements to conduct monitoring in certain circumstances. Programs can be implemented to evaluate workplace exposures for comparison with the relevant exposure standards and opportunities to improve safety outcomes.
What is the difference between industrial hygiene and occupational health?
Americans typically refer to it as industrial hygiene, in Australia it is named occupational hygiene.
Occupational health is a broad category of disciplines focusing on the well-being and safety of workers by preventing work-related illness by providing resources such as pre-employment screening, well-being programs, occupational medicine and developing safe working procedures.
Occupational hygiene is the discipline involved in identifying and assessing workplace hazards and providing guidance on appropriate controls required to to reduce adverse health outcomes encountered by workers in the workplace.
Speak to a member of our team now to find out how we can help to make your workplace safer.