• Simon Bice

What is occupational hygiene anyway? Some FAQs explained

Updated: Jul 1, 2021

If you are new to occupational hygiene services or are wondering when you might need them and why, we are here to help with the below frequently asked industry questions. Covering everything from relevant terminology to common services, uses and much more, all your occupational hygiene questions are answered here.

What is occupational hygiene?

As defined by the International Occupational Hygiene Association, occupational hygiene is the discipline of anticipating, recognising, evaluating and controlling health hazards in the working environment with the objective of protecting worker health and well-being and safeguarding the community at large.

Occupational hygiene has also been defined as the practice of identifying hazardous agents; chemical, physical and biological; in the workplace that could cause disease or discomfort, evaluating the extent of the risk due to exposure to these hazardous agents, and the control of those risks to prevent ill-health in the long or short term.

What do occupational hygienists do?

Using science and technology, occupational hygienists investigate environments, looking for and measuring any conditions that could potentially cause harm to workers and or the wider community. Occupational hygienists assess the level of risk within a particular workplace or residential premises. If hazards are identified, occupational hygienists use their expertise to recommend appropriate controls to protect worker and community health and improve overall work conditions, practices and environmental safety.

Example of controls that occupational hygienists may recommend include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Hazard elimination

  • Engineering modifications

  • Administrative controls

  • Personal protective equipment.

What are some common workplace or residential hazards?

Health hazards within work and home environments and can present themselves in a variety of ways including but not limited to the following.

  • Chemical agents such as fibres, gases, vapours etc.

  • Dust agents such as asbestos, respirable crystalline silica, coal dust and diesel exhaust particulates.

  • Physical agents such as noise, vibration, heat, cold, vibration, lighting.

  • Biological agents such as viruses, bacteria, moulds etc.

What qualifications does an occupational hygienist need?

The Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists states that there are varying levels of training offered in the field of occupational hygiene. The level of training required will relate to the role of the occupational hygienist or technician performing the work.

Generally, occupational hygiene training requires the successful completion of a degree in Science or Engineering (or an equivalent qualification).

What results can you expect from using an occupational hygienist?

There are several benefits that come with engaging an occupational hygienist in either a workplace or residential environment, such as the following:

  • Overall improvements to the health and wellbeing of workers and residents including an increase in life expectancy

  • Decrease in the number of workers/residents forced to end employment or leave premises prematurely due to illness or injury

  • Increase in workplace productivity and potential

  • Reduction in healthcare costs

  • Improvements to workplace processes and practices.

What are some of the most common services carried out by occupational hygienists?

Occupational hygienists can carry out a variety of services depending on the areas of occupational hygiene that they specialise in. Some common services carried out within the occupational hygiene industry include:

  • Mould inspections and reports

  • Clandestine drug lab inspections and reports

  • Inhalable and respirable dust monitoring

  • Silica exposures assessments and air monitoring

  • Chemical exposure assessments

  • Welding fume assessments.

  • Diesel exhaust particulates

  • Hazard materials identification

  • Asbestos inspections and registers

  • Contaminated land investigations

  • Air monitoring

  • Lead paint assessments and testing

  • Preliminary and detailed site investigations

  • Remedial action plans

  • VENM, ENM and waste classification.

  • Management plans for all of the above

What type of roles/industries might require the services of an occupational hygienist?

  • The health and safety departments within any workplace

  • Residential home owners

  • Federal, state and local government authorities

  • Commercial and industrial sectors

  • Mining industry

  • Construction industry, particularly the demolition sector.

What are the main things to consider when hiring an occupational hygienist?

When engaging an occupational hygienist safety, knowhow and experience are key. It’s important to choose a reputable provider, that you can rely on to deliver on your project’s objectives and trust to work to the highest standards of Australian safety. Make sure you choose an occupational hygienist with relevant industry qualifications and licenses.

If you have more questions on occupational hygiene or would like further clarification or information on anything mentioned above please contact the North Coast Occupational Hygiene team today.

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