Industrial Hygiene practices are becoming significant with the increase in workplace accidents and diseases that harm the well-being of the factory workers. In 2018-19, according to SafeWork Australia, a total of 87% of musculoskeletal disorders compensation claims were done for serious workers. Out of this, 40% of the claims were made for muscle, ligament, joint, and tendon injuries.
Introduction to Industrial Hygiene
Industrial Hygiene is the science that deals with the anticipation, examination, and overcoming of workplace hazards that can have a fatal effect on workers’ health.
Industrial Hygiene consists of the development of remedial measures to control health hazards by either eliminating or reducing the exposure.
It is essential to secure the health of workers employed at manufacturing, chemical, and other factories that deal with hazardous chemicals, raw material, heavy machinery usage, etc.
Industrial hygiene plays a key role in the well-being and safety of global workers. Governments, as well as industries, have developed standards that aim to secure health and well-being for employees and associated communities.
Objectives of Industrial Hygiene
Industrial hygiene is important because it can prevent potential illness, injury, and stressors at workplaces, which can have short- and long-term effects on the health and well-being of the people who work there. Employees at a factory, for example, may be exposed to harmful chemical agents.
The key objectives of a Company’s Occupational Safety and Health Program that help in preventing occupational injury and illness are as below:
The anticipation of harmful health hazards before their occurrence allows more efficient use of resources by minimising costly retrofits and renovations needed to protect workers’ health.
With an understanding of the work processes, it will be easy for consultants to uncover potential physical and chemical and physical hazards that can harm employees of an organisation. They should ask employees of the organisation how they complete their work. Based on the company’s layout analysis, they can evaluate adjacent activities that could affect employee exposure.
The Industrial Hygienist can implement and monitor controls that will reduce exposure to acceptable limits by working with other work team members. The Industrial Hygiene Monitoring Program is an integral part of this process.
Sources of Hazards
It is essential to know the sources of hazards to analyse and overcome or eliminate workplace hazards. The consultants must know the industrial processes, chemicals, and materials used.
Industrial hazards are physical, chemical, biological factors or workplace environments and machinery that affect the health of industrial workers. These factors can be fatal and life-changing causing permanent ailments.
We have explained in brief the various industrial hazards factory workers are exposed to:
Manufacturing processes that produce dust, particulates, vapour, or gas lead to airborne hazards. The most common air contaminants that factory workers are exposed to include:
- Dust results from processes that involve crushing, burning or grinding, burning rock, stones, wood, grain, and metal.
- Fumes – They result from materials that have been converted to vapors and then cooled to transform into suspended particulates.
- Mists – It is a vaporised material that condenses back to a liquid state or liquid droplets that remain in the air for a long time.
- Aerosols – They are fine liquid particles that can easily penetrate into our lungs.
- Fibers – It is a solid particle whose length is several times its diameter.
Ergonomics is a discipline that deals with the working of people in their work environments. Ergonomic hazards are caused when factory workers deal with jobs and machinery that involves body movements, and their continuation through the day creates physical pressure on the human body and causes permanent injuries to the back, spinal cord, etc.
Physical hazards include exposure to noise, vibration, radiation ionising, and nonionizing) and illumination. Physical hazards can cause short-term, long-term, or fatal injuries.
The biological hazards comprise viruses, fungi, and bacteria that can cause chronic diseases and infections. Medical and laboratory workers and the ones dealing with plants and animals are more prone to the risk of biological hazards. Other industrial workers can also contract mold and Legionnaire’s disease-causing bacteria.
Industrial Hygiene Instruments
Industrial Hygiene Instruments are used to detect and monitor dust, fugitive emissions, and toxic gases. They are used to keep industrial workers safe from gases, leaking pollutants, or toxic vapors. It ensures that your facilities comply with regulations and, thus, secure your investments. Ensure that you are using instruments that are in sync with the latest technology and accurately calibrated for examinations.
Industrial Hygiene Monitoring Plan
Industrial Hygiene Monitoring Plan is a continuous observation, measurement, and judgment program. It combines examination, questionnaire, and quantification to find potential hazards present in the workplace and the effectiveness of each hazard control.
An industrial hygienist is either an engineer or scientist with a minimum of three years of experience in industrial hygiene and baccalaureate training. They must be certified professionals recognised by the Australian Institute of Health and Safety (AIOHS). They anticipate, find, analyse, and help in overcoming industrial health and environmental hazards.
Key Duties of Industrial Hygiene Consultants
An Industrial Hygiene Consultant plays an important role in helping Australian businesses overcome workplace hazardous conditions that might harm employee health. They work on various projects and perform key duties as mentioned below:
- To anticipate, identify, evaluate and curb workplace hazardous conditions and processes affecting people, the environment, and the organisation’s property.
- To create reports based on findings of their monitoring and audits.
- To create and implement a corrective plan to overcome or eliminate workplace hazards and secure workers’ health.
- To create and maintain standards that comply with the legislative requirements.
- To work individually as well as a part of the team and take a leadership role in addressing and managing problems.
- To effectively communicate with the technical team, workers, employees, and the management.
- To acknowledge that the practice of occupational hygiene health and safety consultation is a continual learning process that requires them to conduct essential activities to address hazards and provide solutions. Occupational Hygiene Management Plans & Programs
Industrial injuries are workplace mishaps that can cause temporary or severe permanent damage to the physical health of the workers. They are common among manual labourers who deal with heavy machinery, poisonous chemicals like silica and coal, asbestos etc.
Industrial injuries are broadly classified into two categories namely accidents and diseases affecting the factory workers’ health. Each is as explained below:
It includes workplace accidents that can have dangerous and life-threatening or fatal effects on an organisation’s workers. It includes the manual handling of machinery, chemical explosions at mines, rock, stone, or glass cutting mishaps, etc. These can lead to physical injuries like fractures, wounds, burns, cuts, and mental or psychological injuries.
Repetitive stress injuries:
Repetitive stress injuries result from performing the same work activities several times throughout the day.
Poisoning can result from accidental ingestion of toxic chemicals like formaldehyde, cleaning agents, pesticides, or herbicides. Industrial workers’ skin might absorb these chemicals on exposure.
The top industrial diseases are as follows lung cancer, silicosis, and its types, chronic obstructive lung diseases, musculoskeletal injuries, coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, noise-induced hearing loss, asbestosis, byssinosis, and pesticide poisoning.
The various industrial diseases are explained in detail below:
Noise hearing loss
Exposure to higher noise levels above 80dB can have a dangerous effect on workers’ eardrums. Repeated exposure can lead to a partial or permanent hearing loss. This is a very prominent issue in Australia and needs
Nonfatal illnesses include gastrointestinal diseases like anthrax among agricultural workers, Hepatitis B and C among the lab and medical employees.
Respiratory diseases like chronic bronchitis, pneumonitis, and asbestosis are common occupational health hazards affecting the health of workers from mining and other industries.
Industrial skin infections include eczema, dermatitis, blisters, and rashes among workers exposed to hazardous chemicals.
Importance of Industrial Hygiene program
An Industrial Hygiene Monitoring Program allows industrial hygiene consultants to scientifically measure worker exposures to hazards on the job site. They can implement hazard controls based on the exposure data. Successful implementation of the program is essential to prevent hazards and promote the health of workers.
Mandatory Precautions by Organisations
Businesses and organisations need to follow certain precautions in order to prevent any health disorders and accidents. Below are some mandatory requirements and precautions to be taken by organisations to protect employee health and company environments.
1) Mandatory personal PPE, measuring hazards with sound level meters, as well as offering guidelines on noise exposure in the industry.
2) Mandatory reference to PPE and offering guidelines on the chemical usage labelling and the storing process at the business location.
3) Training programs for employees on the correct posture and lifting techniques.
4) Mandatory breaks for workers engaging in repetitive tasks.
5) Mandatory use of personal protective equipment (PPE) that provides respiratory protection and improves working conditions.
6) Proper hygiene practices like hand washing, air ventilation, personal protective equipment such as respirators or gloves, and isolation of the hazard can help in minimising the risks associated with biological hazards.
7) To maintain occupational health with monitors and analysers that provide real-time to instant detection and warning of hazardous air quality levels caused by leaking pollutants, airborne particles like dust, or toxic gases.
8) Employees must also have work and safety knowledge and must practice measures based on the information.
What is WHS act?
The WHS act has been implemented in major Australian jurisdictions. The key objective of the Act is to offer a nationally consistent and balanced framework to secure the health and safety of workers and workplaces. It aims to prevent or eliminate workplace injuries to secure the health and well-being of Australian workers
What is the difference between Industrial Hygiene and Occupational Hygiene?
There is no difference between Industrial Hygiene and Occupational Hygiene. The term Industrial hygiene is used in the United States, and Occupational Hygiene is used in other parts of the world.
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