Industrial Hygiene Keeps Everyone Safe
Industrial hygiene is all about maintaining occupational safety and workers’ health in South African workplaces. Legislation dictates that companies both anticipate and formally recognise workplace hazards or hazardous conditions, and address these through logical control measures. The legislation extends to surrounding communities, too – companies have a responsibility to consider the health implications of their conduct or nature of business not only for their workers, but also for those close to the business premises.
Zoning obviously has its role in keeping heavy industry away from most populated areas, but industrial hygiene comes into play on the ground, at the coalface, so to speak. It addresses a wide array of workplace ills or potential problems, some immediately dangerous, and others potentially harmful over the longer term.
It’s really about how any company treats dangerous goods or processes – whether protocols are in place for safe working, and whether PPE is supplied and utilised. It also has environmental implications – carelessly handled toxic waste, for example, can contaminate the local environment and sicken resident communities.
Industrial Hygiene is Proactive Safety
Industrial hygiene evaluates workplace risks as a preventative measure and legitimises controls put in place to mitigate them. Asbestos use, for example, has been banned in a great many countries, and South Africa is no exception. The inhalation of asbestos fibres we now know leads to serious health issues. Nonetheless, asbestos is still encountered in a broad array of commercial and industrial contexts, and industrial hygiene protocols exist to address its safe handling and disposal.
Such protocols start with an occupational health risk assessment, looking at the reality of workers’ exposure to the material. Risks are calculated, allowing the company concerned to institute storage and handling protocols that meet government guidelines for everyone’s safety. In the case of asbestos, this will include a recorded measurement of the airborne concentration of asbestos on company grounds. The law attempts to be reasonable, mandating such base testing, but on an annual basis.
Industrial Hygiene Spans Many Facets of Industry
We all know that industry can be noisy, but when seeing someone using a jackhammer, or when driving past noisy factories, it’s easy to overlook the fact that the workers experience that constantly, whereas we’re just passing through. A moment’s exposure is trivial, but daily exposure at work means that industrial hygiene must address a multitude of commercial pursuits, looking at noise levels (noise-induced hearing loss is a persistent problem), vibrational soft tissue damage, and chemical handling, to name but a few.
Chemical compatibility is a big part of industrial hygiene oversight too, as mixing the wrong chemicals can not only result in fires or explosions, but also more insidious human sickness from prolonged inhalation. To that end, air quality as a whole is an aspect of the workplace that requires constant monitoring, too – and it’s not just at big factories or heavy industry. Office workers can suffer protracted illness from poor air quality, often the result of poorly designed ventilation systems.
Exposure to heat, poor quality water, and even poorly designed workflows can all reduce industrial hygiene levels to less than the mandated minimum. More than that, practising good industrial hygiene is a show of corporate responsibility and makes for a company ethos of empathy and professionalism. Whenever you need an assessment or protocol formulations to keep you compliant, call on a company with decades in the business – IOH Solutions. We’re fast and focused, and our measuring processes and practical recommendations keep our clients on the right side of the law.