Some Typical Occupational Hygiene Services Now Available in South Africa
After centuries of failing to recognise the concept of occupational hygiene and the related services that are required to protect the health and safety of employees in the workplace, the subject has now been awarded the status of a science in its own right. In fact, the North-West University’s Potchefstroom Campus has announced that it will be presenting South Africa’s first undergraduate degree course in this subject. Furthermore, successful students may seek admission to a Master’s course after which those meeting the necessary prerequisites may pursue a PhD degree in this specialism.
This move certainly appears to confirm the importance of this new specialist field, but what does the job actually entail? The proposed course content, which includes all the basic chemistry, physics, and physiology essential to the understanding of the 16 specialised occupation hygiene modules, provides us with a clue to the nature of the typical services. Thus, one of the primary responsibilities of the qualified consultant is to inspect a given workplace with the goal of identifying any potential chemical, physical, or biological hazards to which an employee may be routinely exposed when carrying out their particular job. That said, the tasks undertaken by these specialists tend to be as varied as the workplace environments in which they must perform them. Some common examples follow.
Monitoring of indoor air quality: Commonly abbreviated to IAQ, it refers to the quality of air both within and immediately surrounding the work premises. In this situation, the consultant will be looking for a variety of hazardous contaminants. These may be microbial, such as moulds and bacteria, gaseous, such as carbon monoxide and volatile organics, or particulate, such as metal dust. It will then be the responsibility of the consultant to check that measures to maintain the levels of these air-borne contaminants within internationally accepted safety limits are in place and sufficiently effective.
Checking for thermal stress: It may surprise many people to learn that the acts governing occupational hygiene and its support services refer to the need to ensure that employees are not required, or permitted, to work in temperatures that are considered either too hot or too cold. In the latter case, protective clothing can do much to eliminate worker discomfort, but tackling the risk of hyperthermia is less straightforward and could include reducing the physical workload by automating more processes and screening individuals to determine if they are sufficiently acclimatised to the hot conditions.
Monitoring noise levels: Given that NIHL (noise-induced hearing loss) is the leading cause of deafness and that exposure to sounds in excess of 85 decibels can cause permanent damage to delicate cells in the inner ear in less than an hour, this is an area of increasing importance. The objective here is to demarcate noise zones and evaluate the compliance with international standards of ear protection within these zones.
The above summaries outline just three of the many crucial tasks conducted under the banner of occupational hygiene services and generally assigned to a third-party consulting company. IOH Solutions is one such company. Located in the North-West Province, the DOL and SANAS accredited inspection authority offers all of the above services and more. To ensure your workers remain safe, chat to the industry experts.