All around us, invisible dangers are lurking. While it’s simple enough to spot an unattended spill or exposed electrical wiring (if you’re looking for them), many threats to workplace safety are undetectable to the naked eye. And as EHS leaders know, this is exactly what makes these threats so insidious. For example, according to one recent study, exposure to high levels of air pollution has a measurable negative impact on worker productivity.
Do you know how healthy your workplace environment is, beyond the dangers you can see? Are you confident that you’re taking appropriate steps to keep unseen risk factors at bay? Identifying and resolving such issues is a key priority for today’s EHS leaders, and the solution lies in industrial hygiene (IH). This practice shines a light on hidden hazards and enables you to address them, with long-term benefits that may surprise you (and your boss).
IH in the Workplace: Why It Matters
A strong industrial hygiene program focuses on minimizing risk and maximizing productivity through the assessment, evaluation, and remediation of the environmental risks in your workplace— perils that may endanger your company’s reputation, profitability, and efficiency.
These environmental factors are strongly correlated with employee health and happiness, which themselves affect your team’s ability to get things done. Statistics show that happy employees are 31% more productive and take 10 times fewer sick days.
Improving Indoor Air Quality
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) notes that poor indoor air quality (IAQ) “has been tied to symptoms like headaches, fatigue, trouble concentrating, and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and lungs,” with even graver potential long-term risks if unaddressed.
For the most part, indicators of air quality issues can’t be easily detected by sight or scent. This is why we must be especially vigilant in rooting them out. Some of the elements you’ll want to consider with IAQ include temperature, humidity, HVAC maintenance, dust, allergens, and more.
And then, there are mysterious smells. It tends to be an uncomfortable subject. You probably don’t want to confront your cubicle neighbor whose perfume is making you squeamish, or your colleague who decided to reheat last night’s fish casserole in the break room. But unpleasant odors can take a real toll on happiness and harmony in the workplace, and in some cases can be indicative of air quality issues.
Air quality can fluctuate dramatically over time so it’s important to monitor it continually. Seasons change, air filters get old, construction takes place, etc. Conducting an indoor air quality assessment will provide you with a baseline, and follow-up measurements will help bear out any concerns. Air assessments typically involve a combination of practical measures and advanced technical instruments to gain comprehensive readings, which a certified industrial hygienist can certainly help with.
In efforts to continually maintain, manage, and improve air quality after taking these steps, we’ve provided a handy checklist for managing and improving indoor air quality.
Mitigating Noise Nuisances
Have you ever worked in an office where loud, relentless construction was taking place? If so, you probably haven’t forgotten how distracting and frustrating it was. While that’s an extreme (and often unavoidable, short-term) case, there are many less obvious and more typical contributors to problematic noise pollution.
Equipment, computers, fans, and even chatty coworkers can all produce troublesome noise levels. Loud noise can affect more than just your ears, leading to potential physical and mental stress.
Addressing these issues can entail many solutions, from protective gear like earplugs or noise-canceling headphones to rearrangement of workplace layout. But the first step is getting a clear eye (and ear) on the issues at play.
A certified industrial hygienist can conduct detailed sound surveys, which identify unwanted noise, diagnose causes, and present solutions. The next level would be a dosimetry assessment, which uses technology to develop more thorough workplace noise evaluations for compliance with federal standards. When needed, guidance on control measures can also be provided.
Remediating Exposure to Lead, Contaminants, and Harmful Metals
The way our surroundings feel, sound, and smell affect us in direct and distinct ways. But the presence of lead, contaminants, and certain metals can be even more discreetly detrimental to the well-being of employees when unaddressed. Lead exposure can be harmful to many of our body’s organs. Several metallic elements are known to cause similar damage, and have been classified as human carcinogens.
Lead is found in many commercial and industrial buildings, especially older ones. Air sampling will help determine personal exposure levels and can provide peace of mind if you have any concerns. Meanwhile, if your business does any type of industrial processes where metals are used (e.g., welding, painting, electroplating, etc.) you’ll want to conduct targeted air sampling to ensure you’re clear of OSHA limits and protecting your employees.
Create a Happy, Healthy, Productive Workplace
Happy, healthy employees are more productive. As such, business executives and EHS leaders need to make healthy environments a key priority. With matters this critical, you’ll always want to ensure you’re relying on experienced professionals.
Industrial hygiene and indoor air quality monitoring rank among our top specialties, and it would be our pleasure to contribute to the well-being and happiness of your employees. Give us a shout to learn more.
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