Occupational Hygienist - to the unfamiliar this job title is shrouded in mystery. What is it and what do they do? One may guess that they are dental assistants, perhaps someone who takes care of workplace sanitary needs, or even somebody involved in food safety. Although they may assist with some or all of those aspects in the workplace, there is more to occupational hygiene than meets the eye.
Occupational hygiene, or industrial hygiene, as it is known in some parts of the world, is defined as: the science and art devoted to the anticipation, recognition, evaluation, control, and confirmation of protection from hazards in the workplace that may result in injury, illness, or affect the well-being of workers. In layman’s terms, it is the health side of health and safety, ensuring that everybody goes home from work just as healthy as when they arrived. Hygienists examine workplaces to identify conditions and circumstances that can cause harm and assess whether there is a risk. If hazards exist, they apply their expertise to control it for the protection of workers, consumers and or communities. Speak to a hygienist, and they will most likely tell you that it is also about influencing and advocating on behalf of workers, ensuring they have a healthy environment in which to work.
Occupational hygiene is preventative health for the workplace. It is critical in any workplace health program because it’s about prevention and stopping people from becoming unhealthy and unwell at work. The Occupational Hygienist plays a vital role in raising awareness of hazards, recognising hazards, evaluating those hazards and the extent of them, and then controlling those hazards in the workplace. So it’s really about striving to anticipate and stop the need for treatment, looking for hazards in the workplace and anything that can cause disease. Their focus is on the prevention of illness and disease as opposed to injury. Ensuring that whatever workers may be exposed to today doesn’t affect them in the future, long after they’ve changed jobs, careers or transitioned into retirement. Hygienists also consider the potential impact on surrounding communities and the general environment, which is of particular concern on large scale projects, and how to best protect them through preventative actions in the workplace. Occupational hygiene benefits workers and industry alike, resulting in:
The Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists is a professional body representing the interests of Occupational Hygienists in Australia. Their mission is to promote and preserve the health and well-being of Australian workers through application of the knowledge, practice and standing of occupational health and hygiene. Having been around for over 40 years, the AIOH and its members are very active both locally and internationally in the recognition, evaluation and control of hazards in the workplace. Their focus is on prevention, stopping people from becoming unhealthy and unwell at work, looking for anything that can cause illness and disease, as opposed to injury. The AIOH is the largest occupational hygiene society in Australia and the only professional society representing qualified Occupational Hygienists in Australia. The overall objective of the AIOH is to use science and engineering to prevent ill health caused by the environment in which people work. Their vision is for a healthy workplace, the AIOH seeks to achieve this by:
The role of the AIOH revolves around Occupational Hygienists and promoting the principles of occupational hygiene in the prevention and control of diseases in Australian workplaces. Occupational hygiene is a continually changing and challenging profession demanding constant training, education and networking opportunities to share best practice. With this in mind, the AIOH holds an annual conference now in its 37th year where attendees can take part in a program of continuing education sessions that provide a diverse range of events for Occupational Hygienists and health and safety professionals to update their knowledge and skills. The conference allows participants to attend keynote presentations and workshops hosted by a range of national and international occupational hygiene and safety experts and specialists in the areas of leadership, communication and influencing. This year the 37th Annual Conference and Exhibition of the Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists will be held in Perth from the 30th November through to the 4th December and is themed: The Power of Many, recognising that united we can harness our collective power to achieve better worker health outcomes. For more information on occupational hygiene or the AIOH conference & Exhibition you may wish to visit the Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists (AIOH) website.
Mark Reggers, 3M Occupational Hygienist and passionate host of the 3M Science of Safety Podcast spreading the safety message.
3M is passionate about protecting the health and safety of workers in all types of industries and workforce environments, enabling them to return home safely to their families at the end of each workday. For many years we have supported the industry’s continued growth and innovation in occupational health and safety as a supporter, sponsoring partner and exhibitor at the annual AIOH conference. We recognise that occupational hygiene in industry plays a vital role in the protection of workers’ health, one that cannot be overlooked.
This year we are proud to once again take part in the conference as an exhibitor, and as the sponsor of the annual themed social evening. The themed dinner event is viewed as the highlight of the conference’s social calendar, allowing delegates to network in a relaxed atmosphere while taking part in fun activities, striking a pose in their fancy dress costumes and getting involved in the 3M charity auction.
1. Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists, accessed on 14/11/2019, <https://www.aioh.org.au>.