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Course 750 - Introduction to Industrial Hygiene

Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

Industrial Hygiene and OSHA

How Are OSHA and Industrial Hygiene Related?

What is Industrial Hygiene - AIHA

Under the Act, OSHA develops and sets mandatory occupational safety and health requirements applicable to the more than 6 million workplaces in the U.S. OSHA relies on, among many others, industrial hygienists, or IHs, to evaluate jobs for potential health hazards. More than 40% of OSHA's compliance officers are IHs.

Developing and setting mandatory occupational safety and health standards involves determining the extent of employee exposure to hazards and deciding what is needed to control these hazards, thereby protecting the workers.

Industrial hygienists are trained to anticipate, recognize, evaluate, and recommend controls for environmental and physical hazards that can affect the health and well-being of workers. Important IH responsibilities include:

  • Identifying, measuring and analyzing workplace health hazards and exposures (chemical, physical, biological, ergonomic) that can cause sickness, impaired health, or significant discomfort.
  • Recommending hazard control strategies to eliminate/reduce hazards and employee exposure to hazards.

Worksite Analysis


To be effective in recognizing and evaluating on-the-job hazards and recommending controls, industrial hygienists must be familiar with the characteristics of all hazards. Major job risks can include air contaminants, and chemical, biological, physical, and ergonomic hazards. A worksite analysis is an essential first step that helps an industrial hygienist determine what jobs and work stations are the sources of these potential and existing hazards.

During the worksite analysis, the industrial hygienist measures and identifies exposures, problem tasks, and risks. The most effective worksite analyses include all jobs, operations, and work activities.

The industrial hygienist inspects, researches, or analyzes how the particular chemicals or physical hazards at that worksite affect worker health. If a situation hazardous to health is discovered, the industrial hygienist recommends the appropriate corrective actions.

Recognizing and Controlling Hazards

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Industrial hygienists recognize several primary hazard control strategies to eliminate or reduce hazards and employee exposure.

Controlling hazards and exposures to occupational hazards is the fundamental method of protecting workers. ANSI/ASSP Z10-2012, Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems, encourages employers to use the following hierarchy of hazard controls:


Elimination entirely removes the hazard. This strategy totally eliminates the hazard from the workplace. This should be the top priority for all safety professionals including industrial hygienists. An example of this strategy includes replacing a hazardous chemical with a totally non-toxic, safe, chemical.


This control strategy reduces the severity of the hazard. This strategy should be used if it is not feasible to eliminate the hazard. The idea is to replace the hazard with a less hazardous substitute. An example would be to replace a hazardous chemical with a less hazardous one. There would still be a need for protection like personal protective equipment, but the hazards of exposure would be less serious.

Engineering controls

Engineering controls remove or reduce the severity of the hazard through design. This strategy involves the design or redesign of tools, equipment, machinery and facilities so that hazardous chemicals are not needed or that exposure to those hazardous chemicals are not possible. Examples include using equipment that does not require the use of hazardous chemicals in a process or for cleaning. Enclosing work processes or installing general and local ventilation systems might also be used.

It's important to understand that these three strategies are the most effective and primary means to control hazards in the workplace. The next strategies discussed focus in on controlling exposures not hazards.

Recognizing and Controlling Hazards(Continued)

Napo in...Danger: chemicals!


Warnings promote employee awareness of hazards. Warnings are merely visual, audible, and/or tactile indicators that warn people of potential danger. Greater awareness is gained by using signs, alarms, signals, labels, placards, cones, and other methods. For example, a warning sign might be used to keep workers from entering a confined space. Although ANSI categorizes warnings as a separate control strategy and gives it higher priority than administrative controls, we believe warnings should be thought of as an administrative control because they do not prevent exposure to a hazard.

Administrative Controls

Administrative controls eliminate or reduce exposure to hazards by developing and implementing effective training, policies, programs, processes, procedures, work practices, and safety rules. Examples include scheduling production and worker tasks in ways that minimize exposure levels. The employer might schedule operations with the highest exposure potential during periods when the fewest employees are present. Developing and using Job Hazard Analyses (JHAs) is another way to reduce exposure through safe work practices. Following safe procedures while operating production and control equipment, good housekeeping, and safe practices are all good examples of administrative controls.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

PPE eliminates/reduces exposure through personal barriers. This strategy is generally used in conjunction with the other strategies to reduce exposure. When effective elimination, substitution and engineering controls are not feasible appropriate PPE such as gloves, safety goggles, helmets, safety shoes, and protective clothing may be required. To be effective, PPE must be individually selected, properly fitted and periodically refitted; conscientiously and properly worn; regularly maintained; and replaced as necessary.

It's important to note that administrative/work practices controls and personal protective equipment are the primary control strategies used by IHs to control exposure to health hazards in the workplace.

Reducing Exposures

To reduce exposures to hazardous chemicals, everyone who works with toxic substances should know the names, toxicity and other hazards of the substances they use. Employers are required by law to provide this information, along with training in how to use toxic substances safely. A worker may obtain information about a chemical's composition, physical characteristics, and toxicity from the Safety Data Sheet (SDS).

Engineering Controls. Limiting exposure at the source is the preferred way to protect workers. The types of engineering controls, in order of effectiveness, are:

Substitution. Substitution is using a less hazardous substance. But before choosing a substitute, carefully consider its physical and health hazards. For example, mineral spirits (Stoddard Solvent) is less of a health hazard than perchloroethylene for dry cleaning, but is more of a fire hazard and an air pollutant.

Enclosure/Isolation. Process or equipment enclosure is the isolation of the source of exposure, often through automation. This completely eliminates the routine exposure of workers. For example, handling of radioactive materials is often done by mechanical arms or robots.

Ventilation. Local exhaust ventilation is a hood or air intake at or over the source of exposure to capture or draw contaminated air from its source before it spreads into the room and into your breathing zone. General or dilution ventilation is continual replacement and circulation of fresh air sufficient to keep concentrations of toxic substances diluted below hazardous levels.

Personal Protective Equipment. Personal protective equipment (respirators, gloves, goggles, aprons) should be used only when engineering controls are not possible or are not sufficient to reduce exposure.

Respiratory Protective Equipment. Respiratory protective equipment consists of devices that cover the mouth and nose to prevent substances in the air from being inhaled. A respirator is effective only when used as part of a comprehensive program established by the employer, which includes measurement of concentrations of all hazardous substances, selection of the proper respirator, training the worker in its proper use, fitting of the respirator to the worker, maintenance, and replacement of parts when necessary.

Protective Clothing. Protective clothing includes gloves, aprons, goggles, boots, face shields, and any other materials worn as protection. It should be made of material designed to resist penetration by the particular chemical being used. The manufacturer of the protective clothing usually can provide some information regarding the substances that are effectively blocked.

Barrier Creams. Barrier creams are special lotions used to coat the skin and prevent chemicals from reaching it. They may be helpful when the type of work prevents the use of gloves. However, barrier creams are not recommended as substitutes for gloves. Cosmetic skin creams and lotions (such as moisturizing lotion) are not barrier creams.


Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. Industrial hygienists are trained to anticipate, recognize, evaluate, and recommend controls for environmental and physical hazards.

2. More than _______ of the OSHA compliance officers who inspect America's workplaces are industrial hygienists.

3. During the worksite analysis, the industrial hygienist measures and identifies _______.

4. Mike is an Industrial Hygienist and he is performing a worksite analysis. In order for Mike's worksite analysis to be as effective as possible he should include _____.

5. Mary is an Industrial Hygienist and has just discovered a situation "hazardous to health" at a worksite. What should she do?

6. Industrial hygienists recognize several primary hazard control strategies to eliminate or reduce hazards and employee exposure. These basic control strategies are organized into _____.

7. As a result of a worksite analysis, replacement of a toxic chemical with a less hazardous one is recommended. Which of the control strategies below is being recommended?

8. Bill is following proper procedures that minimize exposures while operating production and control equipment. This is an example of _______.

9. Samantha is a manager at a worksite. She is scheduling operations with the highest exposure potential during periods when the fewest employees are present. This is an example of _____.

Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.