We all know that the present situation is fraught with numerous threats to our health, environment, and livelihood. No matter where we are – whether in our home or at work – there’s a good chance that we’re being exposed to some sort of harmful contaminants. That’s why industrial hygiene is the need of the hour. It deals with occupational and environmental hazards, keeping us healthy and safe at work and outside office hours.
What Is Industrial Hygiene?
Industrial Hygiene (IH) involves planning and implementing measures that aim to protect employees from health hazards through elimination/minimization of exposure levels or providing personal protective equipment if this cannot be done.
Today, the world faces various challenges and threats related to pollution, global warming, and ecological imbalance. Industrial hygiene programs can significantly reduce environmental pollution, eliminate occupational health hazards, and improve worker productivity.
How Does It Help?
Industrial Hygiene programs can help:
- Reduce Occupational Hazards. Operations of an industrial unit must be carried out with the least possible exposure, or at least with minimal exposure, to hazardous materials and other contaminants. Therefore each man employed in an industrial unit must be protected from dangerous toxins of whatever form (chemical hazards are not restricted to particulate material).
- Reduce Environmental Hazards in the workplace. Practicing industrial hygiene can play a vital role in protecting workers from exposure to hazardous chemicals, microbial hazards, and physical agents such as vibration and noise.
- Protect the Health of Workers. Industrial Hygiene programs protect workers from the effects of hazardous chemicals, microorganisms, dust, heat, and cold stress. They also prevent injuries by providing safety equipment such as masks and safety shoes to help workers maintain personal protection during their time at work. Properly designed and implemented Industrial Hygiene programs can help halt the spread of diseases and the worker’s ability to compete in the international markets.
Sectors Impacted by Industrial Hygiene
Industrial Hygiene refers to applying accepted engineering and scientific principles to protect workers from health-related dangers, including chemical and physical injury.
According to industrial hygiene, various hazards can be hazardous for workers (for example, noise, dust, heat waves, and vibration). The most important factor in industrial hygiene is determining which type of hazard is causing harm to workers.
The processes covered under industrial hygiene include:
- Risk assessment – involves assessing the risk from a particular hazard by working with environmental engineers on exposure scenarios and documentation. It also involves establishing critical control points in operating systems and setting up emergency plans for employees who may be affected if exposed to hazards. Risk assessment is the basic component in controlling risks from hazardous chemicals.
- Environmental hygiene – involves workers working safely by using engineering controls, process safety, and engineering design of equipment. This works in conjunction with risk assessment procedures to minimize the risk of exposure to hazardous materials.
- Training of employees – involves training programs offered to workers so they may be well-versed with workplace safety procedures and facilities that could help protect them from health hazards. The most effective way of providing training is through manuals and instruction books provided by the company or industrial unit managers. The trainer plays a major role in imparting skills by teaching them to avoid risky situations without knowing about them.
- Managing hazards – involves the company’s standards in managing and controlling the risks or hazards from a particular source. It also involves establishing critical control points in operating systems and setting up emergency plans for employees who may be affected if exposed to hazards.
Benefits of Industrial Hygiene
- Reduce environmental pollution
The implementation of industrial hygiene practices can significantly reduce environmental pollution. Industrial hygiene enables a company to minimize the impact created by pollutants, reducing greenhouse gases and preventing water, air, soil, and human health degeneration.
- Improve productivity
Industrial hygiene helps in ensuring that employers can help sustain their business success by protecting the health of their employees. This can lead to improved employee morale, leading to an increase in productivity, increased worker loyalty, and higher employee retention rates for employers.
- Reduce absenteeism and lost time
An industrial hygiene program can help a company reduce sickness rates by introducing engineering controls and personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks, safety shoes, etc. Indirectly, this can help reduce absenteeism, keeping employees healthy and happy at work all the time – while retaining their loyalty to the company.
- Reduction in worker’s compensation claims
An industrial hygiene program can help workers by reducing accidents on the job and making them more productive. Workers can be safe on the job without spending half their time at the doctor’s office recovering from certain illnesses.
- Reduced demand for medical care and insurance coverage
Industrial Hygiene programs help reduce costs associated with illness, injury, and accidents for employers, employees, or both. By reducing employee absenteeism and increasing productivity, a company will have fewer cases of serious injury or illness and non-serious ailments.
- Improve health through the reduction of illness and injury rate
An industrial hygiene program can help reduce common illnesses among employees in the workplace, such as respiratory infections and viral diseases, which may often be the result of a poor work environment.
- Improve relationships with neighboring businesses, communities, and customers
A company’s reputation for providing a safe work environment greatly impacts the company’s relationships with its employees, surrounding businesses, and the community. Implementing an industrial hygiene program can help increase the company’s overall productivity and establish good relations with these groups.
- Reduce product rejection costs
Implementing an industrial hygiene program can help a business reduce losses due to product rejection and complaints from customers regarding the product being unfit for use or consumption. By adopting an industrial hygiene program, companies will be able to provide a higher quality product to consumers and increase demand for their products as a result.
The introduction of industrial hygiene practices into a company can help to provide employees with a safe and healthy environment, increase productivity, reduce absenteeism and lost time, decrease insurance claims, reduce product rejection costs and customer complaints, improve relationships with neighboring businesses and communities, and increase reputation for providing a safe work environment. With the world in a state of upheaval, these incentives are not only attractive but a dire need.