Occupational hygiene is the science of anticipating, recognizing, assessing and controlling chemical, physical or biological agents before they adversely affect employees' health and safety.
- Chemical agents - gases, dusts, mists, fumes, vapours
- Physical agents - noise, radiation, vibration, extreme temperature
- Biological agents - moulds
While some signs of an occupational hygiene problem are immediately apparent – the dizzying smell of solvent vapours, a burning sensation from contact with a certain chemical, ringing in the ears after prolonged exposure to loud noise – common symptoms such as frequent headaches, eye/throat irritation and fatigue can also signal a health hazard. Left unchecked, overexposure to harmful agents can lead to more severe problems such as respiratory conditions, skin diseases and hearing loss.
Measuring workplace noise levels and workers’ noise exposure is an essential part of any hearing loss prevention program. Noise sources are identified, and the sound levels are measured and evaluated against applicable legislations. Recommendations are provided to address solutions to decrease noise exposure, including proper selection of hearing protectors to reduce the risk of occupational hearing loss.
WSPS can provide occupational hygiene services including airborne chemical, physical and biological agent exposure assessments, and indoor air quality exposure assessments. Services such as developing written programs such as a Respiratory Protection Program and Hearing Loss Prevention Program are also offered.
Hearing Loss Prevention Program Development
This service is to help organizations (provincial and federal) formalize their Hearing Loss Prevention Program (HLPP) and ensure it is customized for their application. Having an HLPP in place enables organization to enhance worker health, safety and well-being and optimize system performance to prevent and/or reduce the severity occupational and non-occupational noise induced hearing lost.
Designated Substances Assessment and Control Program
According to Ontario Regulation 490/09, Designated Substances; workplaces that have select chemicals such as lead, benzene, crystalline silica and isocyanates, amongst others, may be required to have an assessment and control program completed.
The assessment should evaluate the exposure or likelihood of exposure to the designated substance. It should also be in writing and completed in consultation with the Joint Health and Safety Committee. If the assessment determines that a worker is exposed or likely to be exposed to the designated substance, then a control program needs to be developed.
Respirator Fit Testing
In accordance with good industry practice and CSA Standard Z94.4, Selection, Use and Care of Respirators, prior to wearing an air purifying respirator in a workplace, a worker needs to be trained on the selection, care, use and limitations. The fit testing should be a function of the workplace’s Respiratory Protection Program for workplaces where respirators are used to protect workers from inhaling an atmospheric hazard when engineering or administrative control measures are not practicable or adequate.
Betty joined WSPS in 2007, and has since experienced great satisfaction seeing the before-and-after results - the fewer accidents and lower costs - of effective health & safety training. Elizabeth (Betty) Lofthouse, BSc, Consultant