Industrial hygiene focuses on the identification, evaluation, and control of work place hazards. It differs somewhat from occupational safety because chemical and biological hazards are more often the focus. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the federal authority responsible for enforcing industrial hygiene standards. (In Illinois, the Illinois Department of Labor is the enforcement authority for public institutions such as the University.)
The goal of an industrial hygiene program is to maintain worker exposures below permissible levels and to reduce or eliminate exposures when possible. The Office of Environmental Health and Safety (OEHS) can assist departments with industrial hygiene investigations by providing technical expertise, regulatory consultation, and industrial hygiene sampling/baseline monitoring.
Personal Protective Equipment
Engineering or administrative controls are always the first choice for controlling worker exposure. When either method is not practical, personal protective equipment (PPE) must be used. PPE is equipment supplied to the employee to protect him or her against potentially harmful exposure.
OSHA standard 1910.134 regulates respirator use and requires the use of respirators when individuals could possibly be exposed to hazardous materials at or above the threshold limit. Respirators shall be used only when there are no other practical means of keeping exposures below acceptable levels.
It is the department's responsibility to identify all potentially hazardous conditions and procedures that may require the use of a respirator. The OEHS will assist in evaluating the actual hazard potential. If respirators are required, the departments will be responsible for providing the following items:
- Annual physicals
- Proper respirators
- Fit testing
- Training every 6 months
- A written respirator program
The OEHS can assist in the fit testing and can provide a model written respirator program..
Work environments with potential hazards (i.e., electrical, chemical, mechanical, noise, radiation, etc.) should be evaluated to determine the severity of the hazard and the protective measures that need to be taken. The hazard assessment is designed to do this. The assessment shall consider:
- Materials used
- Standard operating practices
- Actual working practices
- Protective measures taken
- The magnitude of current exposures
In performing an assessment, one should determine if the protective measures used are effective. The OEHS can assist departments in performing hazard assessments.
The evaluation of contaminant levels is an integral part of the hazard assessment. The OEHS can assist departments by performing chemical monitoring or by providing guidance in securing monitoring services. Both direct reading instruments and analytical methods are available from the OEHS.
The Illinois Department of Labor regulations require the monitoring of certain chemicals, if employees are exposed to these chemicals. Examples of such chemicals include formaldehyde and benzene. The OEHS will assist the departments in monitoring the chemicals. First, the OEHS will conduct the baseline test and analysis. Then they will assist in establishing a monitoring schedule and provide the names of equipment, laboratories, and contractors for the ongoing periodic monitoring.
Employees desiring a hazard assessment or chemical monitoring should request the assistance of the OEHS through their respective departments.