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Industrial Hygiene Monitoring

Last updated: May 5, 2019

What Does Industrial Hygiene Monitoring Mean?

Industrial hygiene monitoring refers to the practice of measuring the amount of harmful and non-harmful contaminants that exist within a workplace.

This measurement may be conducted through some combination of qualitative and quantitative measurements, depending on the purpose of the monitoring and the substance being monitored.

Safeopedia Explains Industrial Hygiene Monitoring

A qualitative assessment involves monitoring worker operations and noting any potentially harmful exposures that occur during the monitoring process, as well as their duration. Semi-quantitative assessments involve using mathematical exposure models and/or direct reading instruments to estimate the amount of exposure that occurs during a known work operation. Quantitative assessments involve using a sampling device to directly collect a contaminant throughout the length of a work operation or other period of interest in order to produce a specific measurement of a worker’s exposure to the hazard being sampled.

Industrial hygiene monitoring is used to determine whether ongoing worker exposure to a hazardous substance is within the occupational safety standards set by OSHA or other jurisdictional authority. These monitoring programs also determine the need for additional safety procedures, such as the use of engineering hazard controls (e.g. ventilation) or personal protective equipment (PPE). Furthermore, industrial hygiene monitoring programs can provide employers with protection against compensation claims and may be required by insurance agencies hired to guarantee an employer against losses due to occupational injury or illness.

Industrial hygiene monitoring is commonly performed by an industrial hygienist. This is an occupational safety profession that engages in in-field hygiene monitoring and also conducts research into safe exposure limits for workers, such as the American Conference of Governmental Hygienists’ (ACGIH) threshold-limit values (TLVs)—a set of internationally recognized exposure limits. As industrial hygiene is considered both an art and a science, the practice of industrial hygiene monitoring for a specific substance can be achieved and interpreted using a variety of different methodologies that are purported to accurately reflect workplace exposure under specific conditions.

For instance, standards for monitoring exposure to diisocyanates (polyurethane plastics) have been created by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and the International Standards Organization (ISO). Both OSHA and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have also evaluated various testing methods as being suitable for different situations, and the American Chemistry Council has proposed modifications to two OSHA-validated methodologies and one NIOSH methodology alongside its own guidance documentation for diisocyanate monitoring.

Not all industrial hygiene monitoring is conducted by industrial hygienists. In many situations, such as work in confined spaces where there is a risk of elevated hydrogen sulfide levels, qualified workers must engage in ongoing or regular hygiene monitoring as part of their regular work duties.


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