In the early 20th century, public awareness of occupational-related illnesses was not yet a reality, but advocacy for the safety of US laborers was beginning to grow. Physicians, research scientists, and medical experts began documenting worker health problems. Pioneers of the labor-advocacy movement led efforts to improve industrial hygiene after finding conclusive evidence linking worker illness to contact with noxious contaminants. Industrial hygiene, simply put, is the environment of cleanliness in a given industry. It is a broad-reaching topic, one that includes indoor air quality.
Indoor air quality can be compromised everywhere – in all types of businesses. Perhaps the most at-risk industries are those in the production of goods. Dust and fumes generated during the manufacturing process can result in the release of impurities in the workplace. This exposure to unclean air can be hazardous which is why agencies such as OSHA have gone to great lengths to protect the US labor force from unsafe working conditions.
The World Health Organization named airborne dust and vapors in the workplace vital global health concerns because of their association with widespread disease. (1)
Clean Air Standards in the Workplace
The government requires all industries to comply with certain clean air standards. But in some cases, business owners wish to go beyond what is federally mandated and ensure that their workers are completely protected from errant toxins in order to eliminate health risks and improve productivity.
This is where industrial hygiene becomes a necessary focus. OSHA defines industrial hygiene as,
The science devoted to the anticipation, recognition, evaluation, and control of those environmental factors or stresses arising in or from the workplace, which may cause sickness, impaired health and well being, or significant discomfort among workers. (2)
Industries most likely to generate excessive dust include:
- Any job that breaks or crushes solid material, such as stone masonry
- Blasting labors such as rust and paint removal
- Glass and ceramics manufacturing
- Powered chemical use in chemical, pesticide, pharma and rubber industries
- Food processing plants, such as flour mills and bakeries
In addition to dust and particulates, fumes and mists threaten workplace safety. Specific manufacturing jobs that have a high incidence of occupational exposure to chemical fumes include those in the paint, welding, rubber, and pharmaceutical industries. It isn’t just the health of the workforce that can suffer. When indoor air quality is poor, production can suffer as well.
Often, business owners are aware of the exposure risks faced by their employees and take steps to remediate. However, when it isn’t clear what environmental dangers exist, they can hire industrial hygienists (IHs) to analyze, identify, and measure occupational hazards that can cause health problems in their workers. (3) IHS uses environmental monitoring and analytical methods to detect the extent of worker exposure.
The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) names – but does not limit – occupational risks to the following contaminants:
Aerosols, airborne particles, asbestos, combustibles, dust, gases, hazardous waste, lead, nanotechnology, pesticides, silica, and solvents. (4)
A professional industrial hygienist will measure air quality in two key areas: a worker’s breathing zone and the ambient air in a given physical area. The resultant approach to improving air quality is three-tiered:
- Eliminate or reduce particles and fumes through engineering controls
- Extract particulates and fumes through capture and ventilation systems
- Filter particulates and fumes from inside and then discharge outside (5)
WHO backs up this standard of practice, citing the best way to improve poor IAQ is through elimination at the source, containment, and ventilation. (1)
Don’t let poor industrial hygiene prove to be a setback for your business. At AIR Systems, Inc. we serve our customers by identifying areas of potential risk. We supply stellar products that will eliminate, extract, and filter out hazardous dust and fumes, removing air-impurities from your place of business, keeping your workers safe. Contact us today to schedule a free estimate with one of our skilled and experienced clean air specialists.