What is Occupational Hygiene?

The definition used by IOHA is:
Occupational Hygiene is the discipline of anticipating, recognising, evaluating and controlling health hazards in the working environment with the objective of protecting worker health and well-being and safeguarding the community at large.

Occupational Hygiene has also been defined as the practice of identifying of hazardous agents; chemical, physical and biological; in the workplace that could cause disease or discomfort, evaluating the extent of the risk due to exposure to these hazardous agents, and the control of those risks to prevent ill-health in the long or short term.

Occupational hygienists are committed to protecting the health and safety of people in the workplace and the community.

Some occupational hygienists work in manufacturing, petrochemical, pharmaceutical, steel, mining and other industries. Others work in national governments, hospitals and public utilities. Some are employed as consultants or in research or academia.

Occupational hygienists keep workers, and the communities surrounding workplaces, healthy and safe. They also ensure compliance with laws and regulations in the work environment.

Occupational hygienists assess health risks in a workplace; sample air to determine if there are harmful substances present; measure noise levels in factories; supervise the safe removal from asbestos from buildings; and provide practical advice on how workers can be protected from job-related health and safety risks.

Education, training and experience are all important aspects of an occupational hygienist’s career.

Education can be obtained through formal undergraduate or postgraduate degrees, training can be gained by taking specialised courses, and experience can be achieved by working in the field.

Additional information about occupational hygiene can be found on the Occupational Hygiene Training Association website OHlearning.com.

None really. The term Industrial Hygiene originated in the USA while in other parts of the world it is known as Occupational Hygiene. In some ways the term Occupational is a better description as health risks occur in all places that people work such as offices, shops, hospitals and farms, not just in places you would think of as industrial.

The word hygiene is derived from the name of the Greek goddess of health known as Hygeia. She was the daughter of Asklepios and sister to Panacea. While her father and sister were connected with the treatment of existing disease Hygeia was regarded as being concerned with the preservation of good health and the prevention of disease.

IOHA has a permanent secretariat in South Africa. The executive committee consists of a President, President-Elect, Past-President and Secretary/Treasurer. These positions are held for one year. Each member organisation designates one person to serve on the IOHA Board. IOHA is resource constrained and relies on it’s members to be involved in the functioning of IOHA.

IOHA does not provide individual member services. IOHA serves Member Organisations. IOHA objectives are to promote and develop occupational hygiene throughout the world, promote the exchange of occupational hygiene information among organisations and individuals, encourage further development of occupational hygiene at a professional level and maintain and promote a high standard of ethical practice in occupational hygiene.

Many national occupational hygiene organisations feel that occupational hygiene is an international issue, not just the business and interest of just a few developed countries. In fact, globalisation highlights this situation even more now. There is much to be gained by sharing knowledge internationally, particularly when some regulatory systems cross national borders, such as EU REACH (European Union Regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals), and Global Harmonisation Scheme (GHS) for labelling.

A key element of interest for many national organisations is the recognition of its national accreditation scheme. IOHA is particularly sensitive to local academic, legislative and cultural conditions. The IOHA National Accreditation Recognition (NAR) Committee officially recognizes national organisation certification schemes which comply with the Model Process accreditation scheme.

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