From workers on the factory floor to supervisors in the office, the main priority of an organization is to keep employees healthy and safe. That’s indeed first and foremost. Consequently, an organization can be adversely affected by health, safety, and environmental issues. Work related injury and illness impact both employee productivity and a company’s bottom line.
Maintaining proper industrial hygiene in the workplace can help tremendously.
Work related injury and illness impact both employee productivity and employers’ bottom line.
What is Industrial Hygiene?
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, industrial hygiene is the science of keeping workers safe by identifying, evaluating, and controlling real or potential workplace environmental hazards that impact the wellbeing of workers and community members.
The effect of the work environment on the well-being of those in the workplace dates back to 4th century BC. Over the centuries, governments began enacting legislation on industrial hygiene, starting with England’s Chimney-Sweepers Act of 1788. Today, OSHA requires companies to enforce certain industrial hygiene regulations and health standards.
Industrial hygiene often entails the use of workplace monitoring, engineering solutions, and analysis to determine the levels of hazard exposure.
Industrial hygiene focuses on worker safety by implementing effective control of workplace hazards.
Types of Industrial Hazards
Dangerous work environments and hazards fall into five different categories:
- Physical Hazards (heat, radiation, noise)
- Biological Hazards (viruses and bacteria)
- Chemical Hazards (fumes and vapors)
- Ergonomic Hazards (lifting and pushing)
- Air Contaminants (fibers and aerosols)
Industrial hygiene helps identify and prevent workplace hazards, which can have short and long-term effects on workers. Industrial hygiene specialists can examine the workplace and propose plans to filter or eliminate them.
Benefits of Maintaining Industrial Hygiene
Identifying and controlling environmental hazards is conducive to a safer work environment and helps keep workers safe. Here are other benefits of maintaining proper industrial hygiene.
A direct effect of healthy and safe workers is increased productivity. Without a doubt, the conditions of a worksite directly impact how workers do their job. Unclean and unsafe environments put workers at risk and can induce stress and anxiety. Proper industrial hygiene can both eliminate these issues and initiate plans to deal with emergencies as well.
The result is a more focused workforce with energy to carry out tasks safely and efficiently.
Lower Healthcare Costs
Having a business means dealing with rising healthcare costs. The potential for serious injuries due to heavy material handling or other physically demanding tasks increase costs. These situations have an impact on the company’s insurance premiums and the cost of healthcare. Investing in industrial hygiene creates a safer facility, resulting in reduced healthcare costs.
When hazards are not controlled, absenteeism becomes a problem. By definition, absenteeism is a tendency to not show up for work, leave early, or avoid work altogether. Both controllable and uncontrollable, there are factors that contribute to absenteeism…
- chronic health issues
- parental responsibilities
- unsafe working conditions
- stress from working in those poor conditions.
Maintaining industrial hygiene can help control potential work hazards and keep workers healthy and safe on the job.
Lower Turnover & Training Costs
Replacing workers is another expense associated with occupational illness. The extra labor involved in finding qualified candidates, vetting applicants, and onboarding magnify costs and impacts productivity.
Embracing industrial hygiene practices help reduce turnover and can translate to more cost savings long term.
How to Maintain Industrial Hygiene in the Workplace
Workplace related illnesses and injury can affect business…but they can also be prevented. Here’s how your operation can maintain industrial hygiene and protect the wellbeing of your workforce.
First, anticipate what’s coming. Anticipation of health hazards is essential to keeping your workplace safe. This typically requires a survey of the workplace design, operations, processes, work tasks, and materials. Have a current inventory of chemicals and other materials to identify all the possible hazards in the workplace.
Recognize and understand the potential hazards of the work environment, including chemical and physical hazards (as mentioned previously). This also includes individual work tasks and how they may create exposure to hazards for other workers in the facility. Additionally, it’s important to know if there are occupational exposure limits for hazardous products identified in your chemical inventory.
After anticipating and recognizing health hazards, evaluate the risk of possible exposure. In an industrial work environment, evaluation means monitoring. Work environments and processes can be complex, so monitoring should be done by a professional such as an industrial or occupational hygienist. Did you know that Total Safety can help conduct monitoring of employee exposures based upon WEA hazard ranking? Find out more.
When exposure is determined to be hazardous, controls need to be implemented to protect your workers. Controls should guide decisions on handling workplace exposure. Controls considered may include:
Confirmation assesses the performance of your operation’s hazard control measures. Investigating existing or potential issues and applying corrective actions help make your industrial hygiene program more effective. Data and report examination is also key to track the success of your industrial hygiene program.
Looking to improve your operation’s industrial hygiene performance? We’re ready to help! Total Safety can create and maintain a safe workplace with industrial hygiene services that match your occupational health and safety needs. Talk to a Total Safety expert today!