Occupational Hygiene is the discipline of anticipating, recognising, evaluating and controlling health hazards in the working environment with the objective of protecting worker health and well-being and safeguarding the community at large.
The term (used in the UK and Commonwealth Countries as well as much of Europe) is synonymous with Industrial Hygiene (used in the US, Latin America, and other countries that received initial technical support or training from US sources). Environmental Hygiene addresses similar topics to Occupational Hygiene, but is less likely to be limited to the workplace context.
In common usage ocupational hygiene has taken on a much narrower definition linking it to cleanliness, frequently leading to the misunderstanding of the term occupational hygiene, which is NOT about hand washing or handling food properly at work.
The Occupational Hygienist may be involved with the assessment and control of physical, chemical or environmental hazards in the workplace that could cause disease or discomfort. Physical hazards may include noise, temperature extremes, illumination extremes, ionizing or non-ionizing radiation, ergonomics. Indoor air quality (IAQ) and safety may also receive the attention of the Occupational Hygienist. As part of this activity, the Occupational Hygienist may be called upon to communicate effectively regarding hazard, risk, and appropriate protective procedures; to evaluate and occasionally to design ventilation systems; and to manage people and programs for the preservation of health and well-being of those who enter the workplace.
Academic programs offering industrial hygiene Bachelors or Masters degrees in United States may apply to the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) to have their program accredited. As of October 1, 2006, 27 institutions have accredited their industrial hygiene programs. Accreditation is not available for Doctoral programs.
The International Occupational Hygiene Association
was formed in 1987. Its membership are the national professional associations, now numbering more that 20 organizations and representing over 20,000 occupational hygienists worldwide.
National professional societies include the following (in alphabetical order):
- American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH)
- Formed in 27 June 1938 as the National Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists, renamed American Conference... in 1946. This organization was originally conceived as a gathering of the governmental organizations that employed industrial hygienists and membership was limited to two from each organization. From 1946, all industrial hygiene personnel employed by government agencies and educational institutions were eligible for membership. Today, membership is open to all practitioners in industrial hygiene, occupational health, environmental health, and safety.
- American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA)
- Founded in 1939, AIHA has more than 75 local sections and 11,800 members, making it the largest of the national professional associations.
- Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists
- Formed in 1980
- Belgian Society for Occupational Hygiene
- Brazilian Association of Occupational Hygienists
- Established in August 1994
- British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS)
- Founded in 1953, its aim is to help reduce work-related ill-health. With approximately 1300 members, it is the biggest occupational hygiene society in Europe and the voice of occupational hygiene in the UK.
- Dutch Occupational Hygiene Society
- Established 1983
- French Occupational Hygiene Society
- Finnish Occupational Hygiene Society
- Founded 1975
- German Society for Occupational Hygiene
- Hong Kong Institute of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene
- Established 1 July 2000
- Italian Occupational Hygiene Association
- Japan Occupational Hygiene Association
- Japan Association for Working Environment Measurement
- Established 25 September 1979
- Malaysian Industrial Hygiene Association
- Mexican Industrial Hygiene Association
- Founded July 1995
- New Zealand Occupational Hygiene Society
- Founded 1994
- Norwegian Occupational Hygiene Association
- Occupational Hygiene Society of Ireland
- Formed 1986
- Polish Association of Industrial Hygienists
- Registered as a professional and scientific organization in 1992
- Southern African Institute for Occupational Hygiene
- Formed in 2000 as an amalgamation of the Occupational Hygiene Association of Southern Africa and the Institute of Occupational Hygienists of Southern Africa
- Swedish Association of Occupational and Environmental Hygienists
- Swiss Society of Occupational Hygiene
- Founded 24 October 1983 as the Swiss Local Section of the American Industrial Hygiene Association and grew into an independent organization
- Taiwan Occupational Hygiene Association
Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene
- published jointly since 2004 by the American Industrial Hygiene Association and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists, replacing the American Industrial Hygiene Association Journal
and Applied Occupational & Environmental Hygiene
Annals of Occupational Hygiene - published since 1958 by the British Occupational Hygiene Society
United States of America
Practitioners who successfully meet minimum education and work-experience requirements and pass a written examination administered by the American Board of Industrial Hygiene
(ABIH) are authorized to use the term Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) or Certified Associate Industrial Hygienist (CAIH). Both of these terms have been codified into law in many states in the United States in order to identify minimum qualifications of individuals having oversight over certain activities that may affect public health.
ABIH Certification examinations are offered twice each year in the US, and are also offered at locations outside the US, including Canada, Australia, and East Asia among other locations.
The CIH designation is the most well known and recognized industrial hygiene designation throughout the world.
In Canada, a practitioner who successfully completes a written and oral examination administered by the Canadian Registration Board of Occupational Hygienists
can be recognized as a Registered Occupational Hygienist (ROH) or Registered Occupational Hygiene Technician (ROHT).
The Faculty of Occupational Hygiene, part of the British Occupational Hygiene Society, represents the interests of professional occupational hygienists.
Membership of the Faculty of Occupational Hygiene is confined to BOHS members who hold a recognised professional qualification in occupational hygiene.
There are three grades of Faculty membership:
- Licentiate (LFOH) holders will have obtained the BOHS Certificate of Operational Competence in Occupational Hygiene and have at least three years’ practical experience in the field.
- Members (MFOH) are normally holders of the Diploma of Professional Competence in Occupational Hygiene and have at least five years’ experience at a senior level.
- Fellows (FFOH) are senior members of the profession who have made a distinct contribution to the advancement of occupational hygiene.
All Faculty members participate in a Continuous Professional Development (CPD) scheme designed to maintain a high level of current awareness and knowledge in occupational hygiene.
Examples of occupational hygiene
- See the Related Journals listed above for many examples of the science underlying occupational hygiene and its practical application
- Analysis of occupational hygiene effects can lead to worker protection plans. For example it is common in high noise environments to use earplugs or earmuffs. These are available over a range of applications, effectiveness and quality.
- Occupational Hygienists are among the experts planning the controls to protect against exposure in the event of a flu pandemic.
- Occupational/Industrial Hygienists are responsible for monitoring and testing the air for hazardous contaminants that can lead to potential worker illness and sometimes death.
Examples of occupational hygiene careers
- Compliance officer on behalf of regulatory agency
- Professional working on behalf of company for the protection of the workforce
- Consultant working on behalf of companies
- Researcher performing laboratory or field occupational hygiene work
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