Occupational hygiene is the practice of achieving good health outcomes in workplaces where there are chemical, biological and physical agents. Safe Work Australia has stated that there is significantly more probability, up to 8 times more of Australian workers dying from an occupational disease from work accidents. Statistics further state that approximately 250 people will die from a work injury, while over 2000 people die from an occupational disease as per SafeWork Australia’s report.
The landscape of work in the modern context includes workplaces that contain a variety of materials and processes that are potentially hazardous to health.
Occupational hygiene is the discipline that identifies hazardous workplace agents that could affect the workers’ health. It also involves assessing the scope of the exposure risk and its control to prevent accidents and ill-health.
Awareness of risk and potentially harmful effects on health is essential to promote occupational hygiene in Australia. The objective of an Occupational Hygiene program is to make workplaces safe for workers, especially those working in manufacturing, mining, and production industries.
Nearly all work health and safety practitioners’ tasks involve dealing with workplace health, hazards involve some aspect of occupational hygiene practice. Exposure of workers to hazardous chemicals, environments, machinery, and temperatures needs evaluation to prevent health risks, accidents, and long-term diseases.
Occupational Hygiene Focus
It focuses on recognising, anticipating, evaluating, preventing, and controlling work environment health hazards. Workplace hazards are a cause of concern and have been affecting the health of the workers and employees and, in turn, affecting a company’s reputation.
The various health hazards result from processes, products, raw materials, lack of safety equipment, and internal and external work environments. These might result in long-term, permanent health or physical damages, thus affecting the well-being of workers.
Occupational hygiene health hazards
The various occupational hygiene health hazards are as given below:
1) Physical agents
It comprises vibrations and noise generated from equipment and manufacturing processes, cold and heat, lighting, electromagnetic fields, etc.
2) Chemical agents
The chemical agents are crystalline silica dust, asbestos, solids, gases, fibres, vapors, mists, liquids, fumes, etc.
3) Biological agents
The biological agents comprise bacteria and fungi. It includes biological pest control services.
4) Psychological factors
The psychological factors include workload and pressure, stress, and the organisation.
5) Ergonomic factors
The Ergonomic factors include stretching, lifting, and any repetitive motion. These activities can have a severe effect on the human body.
Importance of Occupational Hygiene
Occupational hygiene is a practice that offers valuable insights into the various workplace hazards and identifies the health risks caused.
Suitable assessment plans offer an idea of the safety controls implemented. It also provides advice on strategies to improve work environments and thus tackle workers’ health and safety issues.
1) Workers’ health
According to Safe Work Australia, the probability of Australian workers dying from an occupational disease is eight times that from work accidents. Statics further state that approximately 250 people will die from a work injury, while over 2000 people die from occupational disease.
Enterprise employees and workers contribute to the growth and reputation of a business. Workplace accidents or health issues can damage a company’s reputation. Hence, enterprises require occupational hygiene consultation and monitoring to overcome work accidents, prevent work diseases, and safeguard workers’ health.
An occupational hygiene assessment can bring noteworthy returns on the financial investment, enhance employee relations, exhibit social responsibility, and elevate an industry’s prestige. However, the monitoring must resonate with the company’s goals and vision.
Occupational Hygienist Consultant
An occupational hygienist consultant is a skilled professional who recognises, examines, and controls workplace health hazards to protect workers’ health and overall well-being, thus ensuring the wider community’s safety.
Role of an Occupational Hygienist Consultant
Based on the type of work, a hygienist will apply their expertise to improve work environments and protect workers, communities, and consumers.
Below mentioned are the role and responsibilities of an Occupational Hygienist Consultant.
1) Monitoring and tests
They perform air quality, audiometric, noise, etc., to assess work environments. The individuals perform a risk analysis for the factory ventilation, proper placement of equipment used and maintained, types of chemical exposure, manufacturing processes, workplace hygiene, and safety kit provided to the workers.
They use direct reading instruments, sampling techniques, and other methods to measure levels of physical agents such as lighting, heat, noise, vibration, and radiation.
2) Regulation and Compliance
They regulate the airborne exposure concentrations of contaminants and see if they comply with the regulatory standards, guidelines, and the standard occupational exposure criteria (e.g., Safe Work Australia workplace exposure standards (WES), ACGIH TLV).
Occupational hygienists also offer advice on administrative controls and check if the business complies with the latest legislative updates.
3) Guidance and enhancement strategies
Based on their findings, the hygienist offers professional guidance on modifications in ventilation, engineering, types of equipment used, safety tools, and personal precautions to be taken. An occupational hygienist offers advice on control strategies to eliminate various hazards. They provide guidance to both management and workers or employees.
4) Continual workplace evaluation
The consultants continually evaluate workplace safety and the effectiveness of control strategies implemented to protect against workplace exposures and hazards (e.g., personal protective equipment, local extraction ventilation (LEV) systems)
Who can be an Occupational Hygienist?
Occupational Hygienists certified in basic or advanced occ hygiene studies have a good future to help in enhancing work environments, and secure workers’ health. With their knowledge and course knowledge, they can help in building healthy work communities. A career in occupational hygiene is therefore a service to businesses and communities. They can pursue learning occupational hygiene science from a recognised graduate school or post-graduate university.
Occupational Hygiene Assessment
1. Occupational hygiene assessment assesses workplace conditions and hazards to evaluate their nature, impact, and control measures. It involves the below key three steps:
- Identify and measure risks.
- Recognise the health impact of risks on the on-site workers
- Suggest a strategy to control the hazards
2. Occupational Hygiene monitoring helps get accurate measurements of specific harmful hazards like noise, airborne, etc., encountered by the workers. 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.
3. Not only can monitoring strategies assist in determining the level of controls required in the workplace, but there are also legislative requirements to conduct monitoring in certain circumstances. They implement programs to evaluate workplace exposures compared to the relevant exposure standards and opportunities to improve safety outcomes.
Anitech’s Occupational Hygiene Consulting
Anitech is a boutique consultancy with industry experience in occupational hygiene and health services. Our consultants are certified professionals who have experience providing various occupational hygiene services.
We have a team who will assess your organisation’s environment and examine the impact of harmful chemicals and workplace hazards to offer guidance and enhancement strategies. We will also ensure that the enhancements comply with the legislative changes and standards.
Below are our critical occupational hygiene services:
- Heat Stress Monitoring
- Ventilation Studies
- Chemical Exposure Monitoring
- Noise and Vibration Studies
- Ergonomic Studies
- Ergonomic Furniture
- Hearing Protection Products
- Noise Monitoring
- Audiometric Testing