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Longshore Insider
The Critical Role Industrial Hygiene Plays in Your Safety Program
May 21, 2018 - Jason Lake, CSP, The American Equity Underwriters, Inc.

Even the more effective safety professionals can be outside of their comfort zones when it comes to industrial hygiene. In this article, we strip away the intimidating science, complicated math, and delicate testing instruments to define what industrial hygiene is at its core, and how you can incorporate it into your established safety practices.


Defining Industrial Hygiene

Industrial hygiene, or IH, is the process used to identify and control the various environmental factors and stresses which employees may encounter, and that have the potential to affect employees’ health and wellbeing, cause sickness, or cause significant discomfort or inefficiency.


The Industrial Hygiene Process

  1. Identify Potential Sources of Exposure

    The first part of the IH process is to candidly evaluate the operations being performed to identify potential sources of exposure. This means that every material, process, or environment involved in the work should be looked at critically. You can think of this process as an extremely detailed Job Safety Analysis or Risk Assessment that is geared towards looking for exposures including:

    • chemical (gas, vapor, dusts, etc.)
    • physical (noise, radiation, temperature, etc.)
    • biological (plants, insects, mold, etc.)
    • ergonomic (repetitive motion, vibration, workstation design, etc.)

  2. Measure

    Once you know what to look for, the next step is to measure. This is a very broad topic and the sampling techniques vary depending on the risk, but it is important to determine the level of exposure to employees.

    For example, chemical stressors can be measured through air sampling, and ergonomic stressors can be measured by completing an evaluation of highly repetitive tasks. A number of tools are available to conduct noise sampling, a common test for physical stressors.


  3. Control the Hazard

    Finally, it is time to control the hazard. As with any identified hazard, it is important to apply the hierarchy of controls:

    • Elimination (physically remove the hazard)
    • Substitution (replace the hazard)
    • Engineering controls (isolate people from the hazard)
    • Work practices/Administrative controls (change the way people work)
    • Personal protective equipment (PPE) (protect workers from the hazard)

     

Maritime industries have many potential sources of industrial hygiene stressors. These exposures can be effectively mitigated to ensure worker safety if they are not ignored. For a more detailed description of how to get started evaluating your workspace for IH hazards, ALMA members may access our Safety Bulletin on this topic by clicking here. Contact us if you have any questions or would like additional information.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason Lake, CSP joined The American Equity Underwriters, Inc. as a Loss Control Manager in 2013. Jason received his bachelor’s degree in marine transportation from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. After graduation, he sailed with the world’s largest container shipping company as third mate, second mate, and then, in his last two years, as chief mate. He is licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard as Chief Mate of Steam or Motor Vessels of any Gross Tons Upon Oceans or Waterways. Jason has also earned his Certified Safety Professional (CSP) designation.
 
The opinions and comments expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect the opinion of ALMA, AEU or AmWINS. None of ALMA, AEU, AmWINS or the authors are responsible for any inaccuracy of content or for any loss or damages incurred by any party as a result of reliance on information contained in this article. Content may not be published or reproduced without the written consent of the authors. Prior articles may not be updated for accuracy as pertinent information changes over time. The Longshore Insider is intended to provide general information about the industry and should not be construed as legal advice.
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