Industrial hygiene has been defined as “that science and art devoted to the anticipation, recognition, evaluation, and control of those environmental factors or stresses arising in or from the workplace, which may cause sickness, impaired health and well-being, or significant discomfort among workers or among the citizens of the community.”
Industrial hygienists use environmental monitoring and analytical methods to detect the extent of worker exposure and employ engineering, work practice controls, and other methods to control potential health hazards such as:
- Physical Agents such as ionizing and non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation, noise, vibration, illumination, and temperature.
- Air Contaminants such as dusts, fumes, mists, aerosols, and fibres.
- Chemical Hazards such as neurotoxins, immune agents, dermatologic agents, carcinogens, reproductive toxins, systemic toxins, asthmagens, pneumoconiotic agents, and sensitizers.
- Biological Hazards such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other living organisms
- Ergonomic Hazards such as repetitive movement, manual handling, workplace/job/task design, uncomfortable workstation height and poor body positioning.
In sum, industrial hygiene encompasses a broad spectrum of the working environment. Early in its history, OSHA recognized industrial hygiene as an integral part of a healthy work setting. 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. By recognizing and applying the principles of industrial hygiene to the work environment, North America’s workplaces will become more healthful and safer.