This is one of the most commonly asked questions…and there are many different answers. Probably the most concise definition I have seen in a while is that occupational hygienists apply scientific, engineering, and business principles for assessing and controlling risks to health and welfare caused by work activities.
Or the current technical definition is:
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Occupational Hygiene is generally defined as the art and science dedicated to the Anticipation, Recognition, Evaluation, Communication and Control of environmental stressors in, or arising from, the work place that may result in injury, illness, impairment, or affect the well being of workers and members of the community. These stressors are normally divided into the categories Biological, Chemical, Physical, Ergonomic and Psychosocial.
The fact that not many people know what an occupational hygienist does may be tied to the complexity of the job we do. It’s complicated to explain in a simple sentence because we need to be competent in many technical disciplines including chemistry, physics, biology, engineering, mathematics, mathematical modelling, toxicology, physical hazards, risk assessment etc….and that’s just the technical bit. We also need to be persuasive, be able to problem solve, train, facilitate and negotiate! Basically we need to take a very complex and technical scenario and convert it into something that is meaningful and easily understandable to the everyday person.
Now obviously as most everyday people don’t have a clue what we do…we mustn’t have been doing a very good job at the last bit. So how do we change that? Well that’s why this blog was developed. One little blog isn’t going to change the world, but hopefully it’s a step in the right direction!