Why Industrial Hygiene Is Important for Your Business and Employees
No matter your business or place of work, industrial hygiene — the protection of all employees’ health and safety from chemical, physical, and biological threats — is critical for short- and long-term corporate success.
To ensure that employers are taking necessary steps to defend employee health and wellness, industrial hygiene is regulated by The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), a U.S. government body dedicated to perpetuating workplace safety. OSHA industrial hygienists make up more than 40% of all OSHA compliance officers, helping to enforce hygiene standards in evaluating jobs and places of business for a wide range of health hazards.
Benefits of Good Industrial Hygiene
Industrial hygiene standards are put into place to ultimately protect workers and their communities. Businesses that implement positive industrial hygiene can receive a wide array of associated benefits.
These benefits can include:
- Healtheir employees;
- Fewer substantiated healthcare costs to be covered by employers;
- Enhanced in-office task efficiency;
- Educated workers who now help to independently eliminate hygiene risks;
- Reduced employee absenteeism — which can cost employers $3,600 per year, per employee;
- Improved morale across the workplace.
Workplaces can directly impact the health and the output of the workers who frequent them. Both employers and employees can stand to benefit from correctly-implemented industrial hygiene practices, positively influencing productivity and overall wellness.
Major Industrial Health Hazards
A risk-free workplace can benefit employee competence and morale alike. Just as easily, a workplace characterized by even one preventable industrial hazard can quickly compromise a worker’s ability to perform tasks to the best of their ability.
Given the strong influence of a workplace on its employees, it's critically important that workplace hazards are correctly identified and quickly minimized. Consult the individual hygiene aspects below, alongside examples of real-life threats to workplace safety and steps all employees can take to minimize them.
Common air pollutants and contaminants are often one of the biggest culprits for poor overall air quality. Whether criteria pollutants, air toxins, or biological pollutants, air contaminants like carbon monoxide and lead represent one of the largest threats to immediate employee safety in the workplace.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), air contaminants can even change the way the body works, potentially compromising organ functionality as they make their way through the skin, bloodstream, and digestive system. Over time, extended exposure to air contaminants in the workplace can also lead to accelerated lung aging, damaged respiratory system cells, and the development of diseases like asthma, bronchitis, and cancer.
Fortunately, the prevention of air contaminants in the workplace is made easier when you schedule regular air duct and HVAC cleaning. Keeping ducts clean can extend equipment life, and can have a very real, positive effect on the quality of the air that employees breathe every day.
Industrial hygienists examine workplaces for a wide range of potential chemical hazards, given how quickly chemical misuse or negligence can lead to serious risk. From exposed flames and exhaust, potential explosives, and decaying organic material to smaller issues like battery corrosion, chemical hazards are often unnoticed before yielding serious issues for all employees.
As expected, even short or occasional exposure to chemical hazards can result in negative health consequences. These can include impaired physical development, permanent organ damage, pregnancy complications, and difficulty breathing after accidental chemical ingestion.
If a chemical spill is threatening industrial hygiene at your place of business, a reputed chemical cleanup service often represents the fastest, most secure solution. Seek help from chemical cleanup specialists trained in decontamination protocol and federally-mandated safety standards.
Sometimes, removal of biological hazards is as simple as effective mold remediation. Other times, your workplace situation may call for a full-scale virus response. Whether you’re facing a bacteria outbreak, mold, or even exposure to potentially contaminated animals, biological hazards are often overlooked before jeopardizing industrial hygiene.
The serious nature of many biological hazards often means calling in professionals. Fortunately, biohazard cleanup and restoration services can help expedite the cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting stages in the biological hazard removal process, returning employees to work as soon as the workplace — and its highly-used items like doorknobs, keyboards, and light switches — are sterilized and confirmed as safe.
A physical hazard is present any time an employee’s environment can harm the body, even without contact. Physical threats can include radiation, extreme temperatures, and noise. Fortunately, employees can often perceive the risk of physical hazards when near, and can always take steps to remove themselves from potentially risky situations.
In extreme cases, fire can also represent an uncontained threat to industrial hygiene and immediate safety. If a fire has devastated your place of business, fire damage restoration services can help restore your space and eliminate any remaining threats to industrial hygiene.
At work, repetitive or strenuous movement can represent a serious threat to overall safety. Ergonomic hazards can include improper lifting techniques, sudden or awkward movements, and poor posture when sitting or standing.
Widely regarded as the most difficult type of industrial hygiene violation to identify in the workplace, ergonomic hazards can yield everything from sore muscles to long-term ligament damage and illness.
OSHA has even taken steps to distribute an ergonomic hazards workbook to employees — one that outlines risk factors like a musculoskeletal disorder — to promote education and action while protecting the body at work.
Recognizing and Controlling Hazards
The promotion of industrial hygiene standards at work begins when employers take steps to reduce employee exposure to occupational hazards. Businesses are responsible for the safety and well-being of all employees during work hours, and should adopt practices that prioritize safety over output.
Reference the below strategies available to any employer, to help them recognize and control potential hazards in the workplace.
One way to effectively control hazards in the workplace is to design the solution into the workplace itself. Known as engineering controls, these strategies are designed to minimize industrial hygiene issues through the proper design, creation, and use of company property.
Engineering controls are also implemented when employers and employees alike take steps to put barriers between themselves and potential hazards. For example, localized ventilation systems can remove air contaminants before they can compromise workplace air quality. Despite higher initial costs, engineering controls can help eliminate potential industrial hygiene issues before they even exist.
Work Practice Controls
Another way to reduce potential industry hygiene issues is by changing the way that tasks are performed. Work practice controls are especially useful when current practices place employees, employers, or their workplace at risk for potential hazards.
To implement work practice controls, employers should review and revise workplace habits and standard operating procedures for maximum risk aversion. This can mean eliminating workplace smoking, upgrading your commercial cleaning provider, and mandating sufficient handwashing practices before employees return to work. Quality building and reconstruction services can help businesses considering larger-scale work practice controls.
Shifts in official policy, employee training, or other high-level procedures are considered administrative controls, to reduce occasions where employees meet industrial hygiene risks in the workplace.
Many businesses regularly refresh employee manuals and update policies, which will make implementing administrative controls easier to achieve. These controls come directly from business administration, and involve policies that help employees avoid toxic hazards, potentially harmful repetitive motions, excessive temperatures, and other potentially dangerous workplace situations.