What is An Occupational Hygienist?
Occupational Hygiene, or Industrial Hygiene (IH) as it’s also referred as is a science and engineering discipline used to control health hazards at work.
It is the anticipation, recognition, evaluation, control and management of hazards at work that may result in injury, illness or effect the well-being of workers.
Why do I need an Occupational Hygienist?
The HSE identified that in 2018/19 1.4 million workers suffered from work related ill health. An estimated 12,000 lung disease deaths each year were linked to past exposures to work.
What does an Occupational Hygienist do?
The discipline of occupational hygiene groups hazardous agents into three categories:
- Physical – Include noise, vibration, electromagnetic radiation, ionising radiation eg radon and excessively hot or cold environments.
- Chemical – Includes harmful dusts, mists, vapours and fibres.
- Biological – Includes bacteria, viruses and other materials of biological origin that are harmful to health.
Occupational lung diseases typically take a long time to develop following the exposure to the agent that caused them. The aim of the occupational hygienist therefore to prevent and protect the workforce from exposures that result in serious and even fatal illnesses including: cancer, asthma, dermatitis, hearing loss and many other potential diseases.
The hygienist can help you in a number of ways including:
- Identifying substances used on site where there is a potential for exposure which might result in harm;
- Identify jobs or tasks the lead to exposure;
- Reviewing the legal requirements;
- Assisting site implement the principles of good practice for control of exposure to substances hazardous to health;
- Developing a workplace monitoring plan to confirm operator’s personal exposure levels and current control measures;
- Advise on additional control measures to reduce exposures.
What am I legally required to do?
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) 2002 (as amended) requires that employers should not carry out work that is liable to expose employees to substances hazardous to health until all risks have been evaluated and minimised, before commencing any work.
Monitoring exposure at the workplace is required where the risk assessment indicates that it is needed to ensure control measures are adequate.
The monitoring needs to take place at regular intervals or when any change occurs which may affect exposure.
Records of personal exposure need to be kept for 40 years.
The law requires that anyone responsible for carrying out an occupational hygiene assessment must be competent to do so. This means that they have sufficient training, knowledge and experience to carry out the job they are employed to do. Asking for examples of reports, getting references and seeing copies training certificates are ways you can check competence.