It is said that there are an estimated 2000 airborne chemicals that are harmful to human health if exposure occurs. These chemicals can be found in both the workplace and in the community. Industrial hygiene consultants are charged with the duty of efficiently monitoring these chemicals through a process that calls for them to anticipate, recognize, evaluate and control situations in which exposure occurs or is likely to occur. This process is known as industrial hygiene sampling.
This procedure is carried out by industrial hygiene companies who employ the services of specialists such as industrial hygienists, chemists and toxicologists, as well as environmental and engineering professionals. They provide services to various industries including hospitals, mining, engineering, semiconductors, aerospace and laboratories.
Agencies that offer industrial hygiene services execute their duties by efficiently planning and building industrial hygiene risk assessment programs for these industry specific companies. They also perform ongoing analyses to facilitate continuous evaluation and the effective mitigation against risk.
Due to the unique nature of each industry and business, the industrial hygiene consultant has to use a client-focused approach in their services. They have to first gain an understanding of the business of the specific client being served, perform risk assessment and develop a module that can adequately enable them to find a solution. The proposed solution is best tailored in a manner that allows it to be implemented using the resources of that company.
Industrial hygiene risk assessment involves the evaluation of environmental factors that may pose a threat to human health and safety. In the case of an assumption that chemical exposure has occurred or may occur, the consultant must:
* Take measurements to ascertain the intensity of the exposure.
* Determine the frequency and duration of the exposure.
* Compare the findings with existing regulatory, professional, and internal standards.
* Make a judgement by weighing all the factors.
This entire procedure is based on industrial hygiene sampling which seeks answers to questions such as:
* Who or what was exposed? Was it people, animals or facilities?
* What was the route of exposure? Was it through the breathing in of the air, skin contact, or drinking water?
* How much exposure occurred?
* How often and how long does this exposure occur? This relates to the frequency and duration of the exposure.
The consultant will do a walk though assessment of the client’s facility so as to:
* Familiarize himself with plant processes.
* Identify the process chemicals and materials.
* Observe the activities of the workers.
* Identify and examine the exposure controls already being employed by the client.
* Start collecting and recording data that will be used in the formulation of a solution.
All these activities are used to facilitate the entire process of consulting, exposure modeling (where the information gathered is used to create a model or identify the model being used), and exposure remodeling (where existing models are modified/redone to offer a better solution). Exposure evaluation can now be more valid/accurate due to the use of:
* Better dispersion models.
* Validated exposure parameters.
* The use of computers which now account for environmental factors which are deemed to be complex.
A thoroughly executed industrial hygiene risk assessment process will see the use of valid exposure evaluation data that will allow consultants to better serve their clients by mitigating risk.
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