What is Industrial Hygiene? How we can help.

Written By: Adam Fillmore

Written By: Adam Fillmore


San Diego Industrial Hygiene services offered by EHS Analytical Solutions, Inc.

Industrial hygiene is the practice of identifying, evaluating, and controlling workplace stressors or hazards that can affect the health and safety of workers, their families, and those in the community.  These hazards fall into one or more categories and are referred to as either chemical, physical, or biological agents.  Ideally, hazards are identified and controlled when a workplace is planned through design reviews, when conditions or processes change, or through yearly reviews or surveys.  By identifying hazards before a worker is adversely affected, employers can proactively protect their employees and their families and prevent long-term health effects.  Most employers do not typically have professionals as part of their safety team who are qualified to perform industrial hygiene assessments, unless they are a large corporation.


How can you as an employer, identify those stressors and hazards that could negatively impact your employees, and do so in a cost-efficient manner?  You can easily hire an industrial hygiene consultant.  The role of an industrial hygienist is to anticipate, recognize, and evaluate health and safety hazards or concerns and recommend controls to prevent negative health effects from exposures to identified hazards (i.e. chemical, physical, or biological).  But you should know, anyone can call themselves an industrial hygienist.  To ensure that you, as a responsible employer, are utilizing a knowledgeable and experienced professional, the American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH) certifies industrial hygienists, providing a well-respected benchmark in the field.  The ABIH was established as an independent body with the sole purpose of providing a certification program that ensures a minimum level of knowledge, skills, and education in industrial hygiene.  Once certified, the industrial hygienist is designated as a Certified Industrial Hygienist or CIH.  CIH’s are recognized as the “gold standard” or the most qualified expert when it comes to evaluating exposures in the workplace or community.


By hiring a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH), you can rest assured that the services you receive will meet and even exceed your expectations.  Contracting with a CIH from EHS Analytical Solutions establishes the highest level of professional expertise and verified technical background for the majority of environmental health and safety (EHS) projects.  When a CIH performs any professional work, this work is based on an extremely deep technical foundation with an advanced professional college education, training, certification, and ongoing certification maintenance requirements that are all performed under a stringent Professional Code of Ethics and Moral Conduct established by the ABIH. 

An industrial hygienist uses rigorous scientific methods to evaluate and control hazards in the workplace, including risk assessment tools and information, such as Safety Data Sheets, which are put together by chemical manufacturers and contain detailed information about each chemical.  Industrial hygienists also conduct a worksite analysis to evaluate all jobs, operations, machinery, and work activities at that site, in addition to problem-solving on specific activities or work areas.

After a hazard is identified, an industrial hygienist will work with your company to control or eliminate the hazard in the most cost-effective manner.  This can include substituting a chemical for a less hazardous one, recommending engineering controls to reduce exposure to hazards or possible utilization of personal protective equipment such as hearing protection or a respirator.


So exactly what types of hazards and stressors can an EHS Analytical Solutions CIH identify and possibly control for you and your company?  Our CIHs evaluate air contaminants, chemical hazards, physical hazards and biological hazards.  We use highly specialized equipment and analytical methods to assess potential and actual worker exposure, identify the source of contaminants and determine the effectiveness of the engineering and administrative controls.


Chemical hazards and air contaminants can take many different forms, including gases, vapors, mists, smoke, dust, and/or fumes.  Potential chemical exposures also include liquids and solid materials like lead; these chemical hazards can be absorbed, inhaled, or ingested into a worker’s system.  A few other examples include formaldehyde, methylene chloride, asbestos, welding fumes, silica, acids, bases, and respirable dust.  Our CIHs can evaluate your chemical hazards and potential exposure routes, and determine the best control methods for your unique situation.  This evaluation is commonly referred to as industrial hygiene monitoring, industrial hygiene assessment, or an “IH survey”, or sometimes simply as air testing or chemical testing.  After the on-site industrial hygiene assessment is complete, our CIHs utilize American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) accredited labs to obtain laboratory analytical results.  We then use this data and compare those values to Occupational Exposure Limits to assist with the evaluation.  These limits may include Cal/OSHA’s published Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs), Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) developed by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) or the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) Recommended Exposure Limits (RELs).  


Physical stressors include noise, vibration, radiation, temperature, lighting, and ergonomics. The most ubiquitous physical hazard is noise. Noise exposure, both chronic and acute, can lead to hearing loss.  Once you lose your hearing, it’s gone forever.  But a simple noise study and sound level mapping of your facility will answer a lot of questions and give you solid solutions on how to protect your workers’ hearing. 


Bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other living organisms are considered biological hazards.  OSHA states that such organisms can cause acute and chronic infections either directly via inhalation or through breaks in the skin.  Workers who deal with plants or animals, and laboratory or medical workers are particularly at risk for biological hazards.  But all workers can be at risk for biological hazards such as mold and bacteria, including that which causes the infamous Legionnaire’s disease.  Legionella can contaminate various building water supplies or water sources, such as cooling towers.  Many biotech or life science companies perform research on various known pathogens that are typically categorized into different biosafety levels, such as BSL 1 to BSL 4.  Most biotech labs utilize BSL 1, BSL 2, or BSL 3 control methods based on the hazards.  Risk assessments are performed to determine the appropriate BSL level.


Once a hazard has been identified by one of our CIHs, the next step is to eliminate or control the hazard. This is done by utilizing the hierarchy of controls.  According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the five rungs of the hierarchy of controls can be defined as elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment (PPE).  You can look at this as an upside-down pyramid (see Figure 1) with the most preferred method, elimination, at the top of the pyramid, and as you venture down the list, the methods become less preferable.

Figure 1

Elimination and substitution, (i.e. either physically removing the hazard or replacing it with a less hazardous option), are considered the most effective but can also be the most difficult to attain either due to cost or ability to implement. 

Engineering controls physically separate your workers from the hazard through local exhaust ventilation or isolation of the hazard.  These are more preferred than administrative controls or PPE because they are meant to remove the hazard at the source to preclude any sort of possible exposure.

The least preferred methods of control are administrative and PPE.  While these controls are typically the least expensive and easiest to implement, they rely on a significant effort by the affected workers to successfully implement. EHS Analytical Solutions CIHs will consider all of these factors and will recommend the most cost-effective and efficient controls for the hazards at your worksite.


EHS Analytical Solutions helps our clients reduce risk, improve work practices and meet Cal/OSHA requirements.  Our industrial hygiene and safety professionals are highly trained to identify ways for employees to not only work safer but also be more productive by having a detailed understanding of processes, operations, and best practices within the industry.


EHS Analytical Solutions, Inc. uses senior-level CIHs to conduct worksite assessments.  Our CIHs are highly qualified experts who can evaluate and control chemical, biological, and physical hazards.  We are professionals who are devoted to protect and enhance the health and safety of people at work and in their communities.  We also offer the most affordable rates since this is one of our main specialties.  Hire a CIH today to have your operations evaluated.  Not only will this bring you peace of mind, but this will also help you meet Cal/OSHA compliance requirements and mitigate risk.

Please visit our Industrial Hygiene services page for more information or feel free to call us at 619-288-3094 to schedule an assessment.

EHS Analytical Solutions, Inc.

EHS Analytical Solutions, Inc.

EHS Analytical Solutions, Inc. is a professional Environmental Health, and Safety (EHS) consulting company serving businesses in San Diego and throughout the United States. We are specialized in supporting: Biotech, Research and Development, Pharmaceutical, Manufacturing, Aerospace, and Construction companies.