A Week in the Life of an Occupational Hygienist
Updated: May 23
I was going to write a blog on the typical “day in the life of” but as a hygienist the work we cover is so diverse I decided to cover a week to provide a reasonable overview of the things we do.
Before I start, lets just clear up a couple of things. An Occupational Hygienist has nothing to do with teeth nor does it have anything to do with cleaning of any sort.
So, what do we do?
We protect workers' health by identifying/recognising health hazards in the workplace, controlling those health hazards so that exposure to them is either prevented or kept at a level where the risk is low.
As occupational hygienists, we can work in a range of settings, including factories, offices and building sites. We have a good understanding of how chemical, physical and biological agents may affect the health of the workforce and, in turn, the health of the business.
We are concerned with controlling health risks in practical and cost-effective ways by assessing and resolving practical problems. This involves looking at the short and long-term health effects, caused by both acute and chronic exposure to hazards, and helping organisations to respond effectively to legislative requirements.
Occupational hygienists may also be known as industrial hygienists.
Types of workplace hazard
chemical - dusts, vapours, fumes
physical - heat, light, noise, radiation
ergonomic - posture, motion
biological - bacteria, viruses
psychosocial - stress, violence, bullying.
Its an early start on the Monday so on this particular week I start preparing on Sunday night. This involves checking that all the equipment I need is present and correct, batteries are fully charged and that I have my route planned. My final checks involve ensuring that I have the right PPE for the site (including my COVID-19 face mask) and most important of all, my packed lunch made and is ready to go!
Photo: Some of the equipment we use
Its an early start, up at 4:30am for a quick shower and a bit of breakfast before a 2 hour drive to site for a 7am start at a fabrication workshop.
On arrival, the usual meet and greet takes place followed by a brief induction before calibrating ten air sampling pumps. The day primarily consists of carrying out personal exposure monitoring for welding fume so that we can check what level of exposure the workers are being exposed to in relation to the prescribed legal limits. Once the pumps are set up and placed on the workers, the process of surveying the workplace starts. I start by looking at what controls are currently in place, if they are being used and if there is any evidence that they are working as per design, i.e. fume is seen being captured or escaping the LEV systems and that appropriate RPE is worn and in good working condition.
All observations are recorded on a check sheet so that it can be referred to later for compiling the survey report for the customer. Photographs are also taken (with permission of course) of any significant observations and are usually included in the final report. Any findings at the time both negative and positive are discussed with the point of contact for the business before concluding the day at site.
Before leaving the site, the flow rate for each of the air sampling pumps are re-checked to make sure there is no significant deviation from the morning calibration settings and the samples are placed in their transport holders ready for posting off to the lab.
It another 2-hour drive home followed by another prepping for the next day before completing shift for the day.
There are two of us going to the site today to carry out some Vibration monitoring and Workplace Noise Exposure Monitoring at a manufacturing site where they make domestic and industrial garage doors.
Its an early start again with another long drive to site for an 8am start. Again it’s the usual meet and greet followed by an induction before work begins with calibrating the equipment.
My job for the day is to carry out the noise monitoring survey, both personal exposure and a noise map of the workplace. The survey consisted of monitoring ten employees for personal exposure to noise using noise-dose badges. In addition to this measurements with a hand held Sound Level Meter (SLM) were taken at twenty positions where employees, contractors and visitors might be exposed to noise.
Part of the monitoring was to also carry out an octave band analysis of the noise being produced to determine if the hearing protection being used was suitable or if an alternative was required.
Throughout the day, observations of the workplace are made and existing controls are assessed for effectiveness. In addition to this I also look for areas where improvements can be made and discuss these further with staff and the point of contact.
Before leaving the site we have a wash-up meeting with the site contact and the HSE manager to discuss the findings from the noise and vibration surveys.
No traveling today as its an office-based day where I can catch up on paperwork.
The morning consists of a series of Microsoft Teams meetings with potential and existing customers. As with all existing customers, following any survey work, we look to hold a follow-up meeting either on site or digitally to discuss in depth the contents of the report to ensure that they fully understand what the findings mean to them as a business.
The afternoon is taken up with preparing reports from the Monday and Tuesday site days along with preparing quotes for any potential new work.
Another day out on site but at least it's local! A short drive to a bakery to carry out a thorough examination and test of their Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) systems.
Our previous blog LEV Testing – Extracting your Legal Obligations covers why its essential to test LEV systems.
Another office day to catch up on paperwork. report writing, meetings with customers and potential clients and preparing quotes.
I would like to say that is a typical week but the truth is that every week is different. No matter what the week consists of you can be sure that we meet our primary objective of helping businesses protect their workers’ health and ensure compliance with current health and safety legislation.
Whatever your Occupational Hygiene needs are, Blue Turtle Ltd is here to help your business protect your workforce and help you meet your legal obligations.
Give us a call today to discuss your needs or if you prefer, complete the online form with a brief outline of your business needs and/or concerns.
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