Industrial Hygienist Job Description
Industrial hygienists assess health risks within the workplace, including air quality, noise pollution, and ionic radiation, and devise strategies to reduce the effects on employee health and well-being. This role requires a balance of analytical skills and leadership, since industrial hygienists often work closely with management to provide reports and make recommendations to improve environmental quality.
While industrial hygienists can come from a wide variety of backgrounds, most study subjects related to environmental science or engineering. This role requires extensive familiarity with the scientific method as well as the ability to gather and analyze data, then use it to develop recommendations and educate employees.
Industrial Hygienist Duties and Responsibilities
Although industrial hygienists can work in a variety of industries, most share several core responsibilities in any setting:
Gather Environmental Data
One of the primary duties of an industrial hygienist is gathering environmental data within workplaces such as manufacturing plants. This data can relate to a variety of factors depending on the industry, but typically includes ventilation, noise, and ionic radiation. In this role, industrial hygienists use a variety of methodologies to gather environmental readings and may also speak to workers about their health and well-being.
Identify Potential Occupational and Environmental Hazards
Industrial hygienists analyze the environmental data they gather to identify potential health and safety risks within the workplace. This process can involve developing a hypothesis about employee health issues and testing environmental samples to determine the causes behind them or using data analysis methodologies to identify current and potential risk factors. Industrial hygienists may also consult government guidelines as they develop assessments.
Reduce and Eliminate Health Risks
Another central duty of an industrial hygienist is developing strategies to reduce and eliminate health and wellness risks within the workplace. This can range from relatively simple changes such as improved air filtration and ventilation to more intensive solutions such as mold and asbestos removal or outfitting employees with personal protective equipment. Generally, an industrial hygienist works with company leadership and personnel to enact these changes.
Design and Enact Educational Programs
Many industrial hygienists also develop educational materials and programs to support employee health and wellness. This can include signage that is placed throughout the workplace, handouts outlining steps employees can take to reduce exposure to hazardous materials, and company-wide presentations related to new standards for industrial hygiene and occupational safety hazards.
Recommend Improvements to Management
If an issue requires a particularly complex solution, an industrial hygienist may provide consulting and advice to management on integrating the solution without interrupting workplace functionality. In this aspect of the role, the industrial hygienist may develop short-term strategies that help mitigate the issue while keeping costs to a minimum.
Industrial Hygienist Skills and Qualifications
Industrial hygienists promote workplace environmental safety and resolve issues related to occupational health. Most workers in this role have at least a bachelor’s degree and the following skills:
- Scientific expertise – industrial hygienists should be very knowledgeable about environmental and occupational hazards and should be able to quickly identify problems related to air quality, radiation, and other environmental factors
- Analytical thinking – this role also requires strong analytical skills to assess issues and develop working hypotheses about the causes of environmental and occupational health issues
- Attention to detail – industrial hygienists should also be very attentive and able to notice, measure, and monitor slight changes that can impact workers’ health and wellness
- Problem-solving skills – technical problem-solving is vital in this role, since industrial hygienists need to devise short- and long-term solutions to environmental and safety issues on jobsites
- Communication skills – industrial hygienists also need to be effective written and verbal communicators to prepare reports related to their findings and solutions and collaborate with physicians and supervisors
Industrial Hygienist Education and Training
Typically, industrial hygienists have at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as industrial hygiene, environmental science, chemistry, or mechanical engineering. Additionally, workers in this role need at least four years of professional experience to achieve certification through the American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH). For specialized industrial hygienist roles, employers may require an advanced degree in a related field.
Industrial Hygienist Salary and Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) categorizes industrial hygienists as occupational health and safety specialists and technicians. According to the BLS, workers in this field earn a median annual salary of $71,780. The highest-paid workers in this role earn more than $105,840 per year, while the lowest-paid 10 percent earn less than $41,670.
The BLS expects employment of occupational health and safety specialists and technicians to grow at an average pace of 8 percent through 2026.
We searched the web and found many resources for further reading and information if you’re interested in starting a career as an industrial hygienist:
American Industrial Hygiene Association – the AIHA is a professional and advocacy organization for industrial hygienists, providing career development and industry resources and developing public awareness programs
Basics of Industrial Hygiene – this book explores industrial hygiene through a number of educational modules that highlight concepts and provide illustrations and diagrams to help clarify information
American Board of Industrial Hygiene – industrial hygienists can achieve certification through the ABIH, which helps them advance their careers and provides them with the latest information related to their work
Fundamentals of Industrial Hygiene – read this in-depth book to learn about key industrial hygiene topics such as government regulations, environmental health and safety, and protective equipment
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