It is recognised that there are significant data gaps regarding worker exposures and that information on employment trends and workplace controls vary. Nonetheless, it has been estimated that globally a total of 160 million new cases of work-related illness occur each year. Of these illnesses 35 million are due to chemical exposure and 2 million lives are lost to occupational disease on an annual basis.
Inhalation is the most common route of entry of chemical hazards and in some workplaces gases and vapours can be easily inhaled. However, many chemicals are readily absorbed through the skin and can cause health effects even when there is little airborne exposure. In some cases, the toxic effects arise when skin absorption contributes to the dose absorbed by inhalation of the chemical from the air.
Occupational Hygiene (also referred to as Industrial Hygiene) has been defined as ‘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.‘
The British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS)
The BOHS foundation level qualification is W201 Basic Principles of Occupational Hygiene and the successful completion of this enables entry to the Faculty at the Associate grade.
W201 provides training in the broad principles of occupational hygiene, and on completing this course successfully, students will have a basic understanding of:
- The value of occupational hygiene and the role of the occupational hygienist;
- The range of hazards (physical and chemical) in the workplace;
- Hazard recognition techniques;
- Sources and potential routes of exposure;
- Hazard evaluation, exposure assessment and measurement processes;
- Methods of controlling exposure;
- The management of occupational hygiene programmes.
The course is designed for people who want to develop a career in occupational hygiene. It is particularly suitable for: Health and Safety officers and consultants, occupational health specialists (including physicians and nurses). It is also suitable for specialists in subjects such as acoustics, ergonomics, human factors, occupational psychology, work organisation, biosafety, engineering, and/or analytical chemistry, who want a broader appreciation of how their role interfaces with other professions over health issues in the workplace.
There are no pre-requisites and/or prior qualifications necessary to take this course. Assessment is by way of an ‘open book’ examination consisting of 20 short answer questions with an allowed time of 60 minutes. The exam and the entire course can be held online.
Based on recent estimates there is a need for approximately 44,000 accredited occupational hygienists globally and an absence of development pathways has impeded the advancement of the Occupational Hygiene profession.
Occupational hygienists are engaged in assessing health risks and exposures using methodologies such as: air quality monitoring, testing containment and ventilation systems, measuring noise and vibration levels and conducting workplace studies. They also provide practical guidance on how exposures can be eliminated, reduced or managed by means of substitution, engineering methods, improved work procedures and protective equipment.
Since 2020 online training courses in occupational hygiene have been provided by Acoustic & Environmental Consultants Limited (Moloney & Associates) – BOHS Approved Training Provider and Engineers Ireland CPD Registered Training Provider.