Industrial Hygiene: Recognizing and Controlling Workplace Hazards

industrial-hygieneIndustrial hygiene encompasses a broad spectrum of the work environment. OSHA places a high priority on using industrial hygiene concepts in its health standards and as a tool for effective enforcement of job safety and health regulations. Recognizing and applying the principles of industrial hygiene can help make workplaces safer and healthier.

Industrial hygienists recognize that engineering, work practice and administrative controls are the primary means of reducing employee exposure to occupational hazards.

Engineering controls minimize employee exposure by either reducing or removing the hazard at the source or isolating the worker from the hazard.  Engineering controls include eliminating toxic chemicals and substituting non-toxic chemicals, enclosing work processes or confining work operations, and the installation of general and local ventilation systems.

Work practice controls alter the manner in which a task is performed. Some fundamental and easily implemented work practice controls include: (1) changing existing work practices to follow proper procedures that minimize exposures while operating production and control equipment; (2) inspecting and maintaining process and control equipment on a regular basis; (3) implementing good housekeeping procedures; and (4) providing adequate supervision.

Administrative controls include controlling employees’ exposure by scheduling production and tasks in ways that minimize exposure levels, such as scheduling operations with the highest exposure potential during periods when the fewest employees are present.

When effective work practices or engineering controls are not feasible, or while such controls are being implemented, appropriate personal protective equipment should be used.  Examples of personal protective equipment include gloves, safety goggles, helmets, safety shoes, protective clothing and respirators. To be effective, personal protective equipment must be individually selected, properly fitted and periodically refitted; conscientiously and properly worn; regularly maintained; and replaced, as necessary.

For more information, download OSHA’s handy 8-page Industrial Hygiene pamphlet.

The OSHA Training Center is offering OSHA 521 – OSHA’s Guide to Industrial Hygiene on December 5-8, 2016, in Dublin, CA.

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