CEM’s extensive experience and expertise in the fields of Industrial Hygiene and Occupational Health & Safety are valuable assets for our clients. We not only offer laboratory and field services, but we also providing vital knowledge and expertise so our clients fully understand all the Industrial Hygiene methods, hazards, regulations, and best practices.
Here we offer a sampling of CEM’s extensive knowledge. The primary purpose of these pages is to make you aware of the hazards and the standards that exist. Our first goal is to promote the safety and health of all employees worldwide.
Industrial Hygiene is the science of anticipating, recognizing, evaluating, and controlling workplace conditions that may cause worker injury or illness. 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.
Industrial Hygiene integrates the following areas of knowledge to help promote safety and health:
Industrial Hygiene includes the following areas/hazards:
Harmful chemical compounds in the form of solids, liquids, gases, mists, dusts, fumes, and vapors exert toxic effects by inhalation (breathing), absorption (through direct contact with the skin), or ingestion (eating or drinking). Toxic effects can be acute (immediate, caused by a single exposure) or chronic (gradual, caused by a history of multiple exposures). Airborne chemical hazards exist as concentrations of mists, vapors, gases, fumes, or solids. Some are toxic through inhalation and some of them irritate the skin on contact; some can be toxic by absorption through the skin or through ingestion, and some are corrosive to living tissue. Additionally, inhalation of non-toxic air contaminants like particulate dusts or microscopic fibers can result in damage to the lungs. Continued exposures to non-toxic air contaminants can be just as harmful as exposure to toxic chemicals.
Nearly every industrialized nation has laws that specify the occupational exposure limits (OELs) for chemical compounds and air contaminants in the workplace. Several other non-governmental organizations also publish OELs based on independent research of toxicological and exposure data that are stricter than the governmental limits. OELs are specific to each individual chemical compound. These limits should be carefully followed for every regulated substance in order to ensure the health and safety of workers, and to avoid legal and civil action for non-compliance.
Chemical and air contaminant exposure can be controlled first by limiting the exposure time to hazardous materials. Additionally, workers should be supplied with proper personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, safety glasses, respirators, ventilation systems, aprons or coats, etc., to reduce or eliminate direct contact with hazardous substances. Monitoring programs are also vitally important in preventing over-exposure to hazardous materials. Proper monitoring can determine if over-exposures exist and are also essential in litigation to prove safe working environments. Finally, chemical hazard assessments aimed at evaluating all possible chemical hazards is a way to reduce costs while also dramatically increasing the effectiveness of monitoring programs.
Noise is a significant physical hazard. Over time, workers in environments with high sound levels can experience significant hearing loss. When workers experience continuous or near-continuous noise in the workplace, even lower sound levels can cause hearing impairment. Additionally, infra-sound and ultra-sound which cannot be normally heard can still have adverse effects and must be monitored and controlled in order to minimize risks of hearing impairment.
Limits on noise exposure are given in terms of sound pressure levels and durations of exposure: longer exposure times require lower sound levels. For most jurisdictions, the sound level over an 8-hour shift should not exceed 83-85 dBA. However, noise levels must never exceed 140 dBA. Many jurisdictions, including OSHA in the United States, require that workers in noisy areas be periodically tested as a precaution against hearing loss. Additionally, if noise levels in a workplace exceed noise limits, a hearing conservation program must be implemented including routine monitoring, worker education, and exposure control including supplying workers with hearing protection equipment.
Noise can be reduced by proper use of personal hearing protection including ear plugs and ear muffs. Protection must be selected that has adequate noise reduction ratings (NRR) in order to reduce exposure to the safe levels. Noise can be also reduced by installing equipment and systems that have been engineered, designed, and built to operate quietly; by enclosing or shielding noisy equipment; by making certain that equipment is in good repair and properly maintained with all worn or unbalanced parts replaced; by mounting noisy equipment on special mounts to reduce vibration; and by installing silencers, mufflers, or baffles. Substituting quiet work methods for noisy ones is another significant way to reduce noise, for example, welding parts rather than riveting them. Also, treating floors, ceilings, and walls with acoustical material can reduce reflected or reverberant noise. In addition, erecting sound barriers at adjacent work stations around noisy operations will reduce worker exposure to noise generated at adjacent work stations. It is also possible to reduce noise exposure by increasing the distance between the source and the receiver, by isolating workers in acoustical booths, limiting workers’ exposure time to noise, and by providing hearing protection.
The science of ergonomics studies and evaluates a full range of tasks, such as lifting, holding, pushing, walking, and reaching. Many ergonomic problems result from technological changes such as increased assembly line speeds, adding specialized tasks, and increased repetition. Some problems arise from poorly designed job tasks. Any of those conditions can cause ergonomic hazards such as excessive vibration and noise, eye strain, repetitive motion, and heavy lifting problems. Improperly designed tools or work areas also can be ergonomic hazards. Repetitive motions or repeated shocks over prolonged periods of time as in jobs involving sorting, assembling, and data entry can often cause irritation and inflammation of the tendon sheath of the hands and arms, a condition known as carpal tunnel syndrome. The benefits of a well-designed, ergonomic work environment can include increased efficiency, fewer accidents, lower operating costs, and more effective use of personnel.
Although very few nations have specific legal limits for ergonomics in the workplace, it remains vitally important to protect workers from ergonomic hazards ensure health and safety, promote productivity, minimize accidents, and reduce the risks of litigation.
Hand activity, lifting, and partial and whole-body vibration should be monitored and controlled to ensure the safety of workers.
Ergonomic hazards are avoided primarily by the effective design of a job or job site and better designed tools or equipment that meet workers’ needs in terms of physical environment and job tasks. Through thorough work site analyses, employers can set up procedures to correct or control ergonomic hazards by using the appropriate engineering controls (e.g., designing or re-designing work stations, lighting, tools, and equipment); teaching correct work practices (e.g., proper lifting methods); employing proper administrative controls (e.g., shifting workers among several different tasks, reducing production demand, and increasing rest breaks); and, if necessary, providing and mandating personal protective equipment. Evaluating working conditions from an ergonomics standpoint involves looking at the total physiological and psychological demands of the job on the worker.
Thermal stress is a significant health hazard and is an important topic in Industrial Hygiene. Thermal stress represents a significant risk to health and safety. Excessive heat stress can cause heat stroke, and excessive cold stress can cause hypothermia, both of which are life threatening. More than any other physical agent, the potential health hazards from work in excessively hot or cold environments depends strongly on physiological factors that lead to a range of susceptibilities. In order to ensure that workers are not exposed to excessive heat or cold stress, thermal stress monitoring on each employee should be used to determine the level of thermal stress so the adequate thermal stress reduction controls can be implemented.
ACGIH has established a TLV for thermal stress, with the goal of maintaining core body temperature to within ± 1 ° C of normal (37 ° C).
General and job-specific controls should be used to reduce thermal stress. Some of these measures include fluid replacement, self-determination of exposures, health status monitoring, adjustment of expectations and work load based on environmental conditions and acclimatization state, and environmental temperature controls.
Never ignore anyone’s symptoms of heat-related or cold-related disorders.
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