An industrial hygienist is a specialist in evaluating workplaces and ensuring their safety for workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines industrial hygiene as “the science of anticipating, recognizing, evaluating, and controlling workplace conditions that may cause workers’ injury or illness.”
Industrial hygienists (sometimes called occupational hygienists) use a variety of tools and approaches to not only protect workers from harm, but to ensure that their work spaces are comfortable and efficient. Site visits are a key component of an industrial hygienist’s work. These visits allow industrial hygienists to assess risks such as toxic chemical exposure, dangerous levels of noise, extreme temperatures, poor air quality, the presence of radiation, repetitive motion, and emotional stress. An industrial hygienist performs careful evaluation and analysis of existing and potential future hazards. They use that information to help modify a workplace in a way that addresses current needs and risks, while also anticipating potential future hazards.
In general, an industrial hygienist must have at least a bachelor’s degree, usually in a scientific or engineering discipline. Many industrial hygienists also have master’s degrees, and some universities offer specific industrial hygiene degrees. Additionally, field experience is critical for the industrial hygienist. The job also requires an analytical mind and strong critical thinking skills, as well as the creativity and flexibility to design innovative solutions.
Industrial Hygienist Tasks
- Inspect and evaluate workplace environments, equipment, and practices, in order to ensure compliance with safety standards and government regulations.
- Investigate accidents to identify causes and prevention.
- Collaborate with engineers and physicians to institute control measures for potentially hazardous conditions or equipment.
- Order suspension of activities that pose threats to workers' health and safety.
- Conduct safety training and education programs, and demonstrate the use of safety equipment for new and current employees.