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5 Major Benefits of Working with an Industrial Hygienist

By Jonathan Sharp
Published: January 25, 2022
Key Takeaways

Industrial hygienists take a scientific approach to workplace health and safety, which can benefit facilities of any size.

Caption: Inspecting industrial facility Source: onuma Inthapong / iStock

Every organization wants to make safety a priority. In some cases, they even set incredibly ambitious goals for themselves, like bringing incident rates down to zero.

In industrial settings, however, keeping everything 100% is extremely challenging.

Working with industrial hygienists makes this easier and helps employeres make their workplaces as safe as they can be.

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What Is Industrial Hygiene?

Industrial hygiene is a scientific discipline that is concerned with identifying and managing workplace hazards. It is concerned with four categories of occupational risk:

  • Chemical
  • Biological
  • Physical
  • Ergonomic

Industrial hygienists operate according to five basic principles that allow them to prevent injury and reduce illness rates in the wokplace:

  • Anticipation of hazards by surveying the worksite's design, operations, processes, work tasks, materials, and workforce
  • Recognition of hazards by understanding the types of risks present in worksites, including a knowledge of technical details such as exposure limits
  • Exposure assessment to evaluate the risk of exposure to identified and potential hazards
  • Controlling exposure by following the hierarchy of hazard controls to determine which measures should be implemented
  • Approval of control measures to ensure that they are adequate, effective, and properly correct for the hazards in the work environment

(Learn more in A Primer on Engineering Controls)

The Benefits of Industrial Hygiene

Industrial hygiene is a beneficial addition to any workplace because it takes a scientific approach to health and safety. It is thorough, takes into account numerous factors that contribute to hazardous conditions, and is effective in reducing risks.

Regardless of the industry or the size of the company, every organization has to deal with safety. The risk of exposure and injury is real in any work setting. While those risks can't be entirely eliminated, working with an industrial hygienist is one of the best ways to minimize them.

These are some of the major benefits that result from it.

1. Increased Productivity

A worker's productivity isn't entirely the result of individua factors. The conditions of their job, their work environment, and how they are treated all affect how efficient they can be.

Working in an unclean or unsafe environment not only puts employees at risk but can also be distracting, stressful, and can provoke anxiety and fatigue. On the other hand, workers in heavy industry who carry out their jobs in safe and sanitary facilities with flexible work conditions and supportive supervisors report lower levels of stress and increased morale. Industrial hygiene measures can help any workplace achieve these types of outcomes by eliminating many of the stressors that affect employees.

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Moreover, it helps keep workers from getting sick on the job or developing uncomfortable, painful, or debilitating musculoskeletal conditions. The result is a workforce with more focus and energy to carry out tasks safely and efficiently.

(Learn about the Risk Factors for Developing Musculoskeletal Disorders)

2. Lower Healthcare Costs

Running a business in a high-risk industry means having to deal with exorbitant healthcare costs associated with employee illness and injury. This is especially true when factoring in the potential for disabling injuries in jobs that rely on heavy material handling, strenuous work, or other physically demanding tasks.

These costs compound since these incidents also have an impact on the company's insurance premiums and the cost of their healthcare packages.

Investing in industrial hygiene means investing in a safer facility, resulting in reduced short- and long-term healthcare costs.

3. Reduced Absenteeism

Absenteeism is one of the indirect costs of unidentified risks and improperly controlled hazards.

Like the name implies, absenteeism is a tendency to not show up at the workplace, leave early, or avoid work. There are many factors that contribute to this phenomenon, and some are out of the employer's hands. For instance, it can result from chronic health issues, being the caregiver for an ill family member, or juggling work and parenting responsibilities.

Some of the contributing factors, however, are squarely related to working conditions. Occupational illnesses, stress from spending the day in a poorly designed workspace, and feeling undervalued by an employer can all discourage a worker from showing up consistently. And all of these can be ameliorated with the application of industrial hygiene principles.

4. Maintaining a Higher Level of Professionalism

Running a safe workplace is a major part of corporate social responsibilty. It is also something that stakeholders, partners, and clients value.

Maintaining a safe workplace reflects positively on the company as a whole. A reputation for safety makes the organization and its employers appear more professional. This, in turn, can provide a significant competitive advantage and help foster strong professional relationships.

5. Lower Turnover, Onboarding, and Training Costs

Another expense associated with occupational illness and injury is the costs incurred from replacing workers. Taking on a new employee, even temporarily, involves additional up-front expenses that have to be accounted for.

There is, to begin with, the extra labor and resources involved in finding qualified candidates, vetting applicants, and conducting interviews. Then there is the onboarding process, followed by new employee training. New workers also need time to familiarize themselves with their tasks and the work environment, which has an impact on productivity.

All of these costs, moreover, can be magnified if the position requires specialized skills or certification. In those cases, the job search might be more intensive and the training could be more elaborate.

Sound industrial hygiene practices reduces the number of cases in which an employer needs to find temporary or permanent replacements for their employees, which translates into even more cost savings in the long run.

Conclusion

All heavy industrial operations must understand, implement, and maintain stringent industrial hygiene measures. It keeps workers safe, helps ensure compliance, and benefits the company financially.

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Written by Jonathan Sharp

Profile Picture of Jonathan Sharp

Jonathan Sharp is the CFO of Environmental Litigation Group, P.C., a law firm based in Birmingham, Alabama, focused on helping workers and communities who have been unknowingly exposed to life threatening hazards.

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