Exposure and risk assessment are therefore at the heart of all occupational health and industrial hygiene programs. The use of a systematic method to characterize workplace exposures to chemical, physical and biological agents is a fundamental part of this process. Once a thorough and organized characterization of employee hazard exposures has been completed, occupational health program resources can be more effectively allocated to reduce employee health risks. This includes better focus of training programs, improved execution of medical surveillance programs, effective purchase and implementation of control measures, and valuable data for program evaluation.

Exposure assessment supports all occupational health program elements, including the following important program areas:

  • Education and Training
  • Hazard Communication
  • Epidemiology
  • Exposure and Compliance Monitoring
  • Medical Surveillance
  • Radiation Safety
  • Hearing Conservation
  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • Respiratory Protection
  • Work Practice Controls
  • Administrative Controls
  • Engineering Controls
  • Hazardous Material Management

Comprehensive Exposure Assessment

A comprehensive exposure assessment program involves a continual process of collecting information, prioritizing controls, and gathering follow-up information. Systematic procedures for conducting a comprehensive exposure assessment have been prescribed by the American Industrial Hygiene Association

Characterize Exposure: Gather information to characterize the workplace, workforce, and environmental agents. This may be accomplished as part of the job hazard analysis. This involves describing and evaluating the exposures present in the workplace and documenting them in an organized manner.

Assess Exposure: Assess exposures in the workplace relative to the information available on the workplace, workforce, and environmental agents. Exposure monitoring is not essential to exposure assessment. Many occupational exposures can be assessed without monitoring data. Although traditional assessment strategies have emphasized personal monitoring to measure exposure to air contaminants and noise, modeling techniques are more widely accepted and may be required for prospectively assessing an exposure that has not yet begun. Qualitative risk assessments may be used to screen exposure risks and set priorities. Through this process, groups of similarly exposed workers will be defined by similar exposure groups (SEG)] and their exposure profile will be described. Judgments about the acceptability of each exposure profile are made based on estimated exposure level, the severity of health effects, and the uncertainty associated with the available information.

Risk for occupational health exposures may be judged as:

  • Unacceptable or Intolerable — requiring the implementation of engineering and/or administrative controls along with the use of personal protective equipment until controls can be effectively implemented;
  • Acceptable — no action is required but routine monitoring may be needed to validate the judgment or ensure that exposures do not become unacceptable; Or
  • Uncertain — additional information is required to determine the acceptability of the exposure and it may involve modeling, exposure monitoring, biological monitoring, or the development of toxicological or epidemiological data.

When there is uncertainty regarding the risk, occupational exposure assessments should be conducted by experienced Industrial Hygienists. The exposure assessments should consider the immediate exposure group of workers and those who work nearby. Area measurements can provide additional information regarding the airflow and dissemination of exposure within a confined or built environment.

Gather Additional Information: Implement prioritized exposure monitoring or the collection of more information on health effects so that uncertain exposure judgments can be resolved with higher confidence. Exposure monitoring may be conducted by a Workplace Monitor under the direction of an experienced Industrial Hygienist.

Implement Health Hazard Controls: Implement prioritized control strategies for unacceptable or intolerable exposures. Such circumstances don’t occur often except when leadership or management fails to understand the risk or chooses to conduct the work without taking the proper precautions to protect worker health.

Reassess Exposure: Periodically business and industry should perform a comprehensive re-evaluation of exposures. Determine whether routine monitoring is required to verify that acceptable exposures remain acceptable. Exposures should be re-monitored whenever there is a change in the process or operation by using used or modified equipment or machinery, increasing or decreasing the number of workers performing the same or similar work tasks, and the transfer of workers from other departments or work areas to assist with production or the workload.

Communicate and Document Findings: Communicate the risk assessment results to workers and occupational health program managers in a timely manner. Fully document SEGs, their exposure profiles, judgments on the acceptability of exposures, all monitoring results, and hazard control recommendations and control plans. Sometimes exposures assessments need to be repeated to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the results rather than rely on anecdotal information.

Industrial Profiles

The genesis behind this project was to identify occupational health exposures by work tasks in the industry in order to assist students, newly hired personnel or transferees to support occupational and environment functions, and/or individuals who seek a better understanding of the risks associated with their occupation. The information contained herein does not suggest nor indicate potential exposure but that industrial hygienists have evaluated these exposures in the past. A more robust understanding of the actual exposures must be evaluated on a site-specific basis and the information may vary based on geographic location and work practices. The information should be used for educational or training purposes to protect worker health.

Using the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system, various industries are characterized by a unique four-digit code. Established in the United States in 1937, it is used by government agencies to classify industry areas. The SIC system is also used by agencies in other countries, e.g., by the United Kingdom's Companies House.

SIC codes have a hierarchical, top-down structure that begins with general characteristics and narrows down to the specifics. The first two digits of the code represent the major industry sector to which a business belongs. The third and fourth digits describe the sub-classification of the business group and specialization, respectively. For example, "36" refers to a business that deals in "Electronic and Other Equipment." Adding "7" as a third digit to get "367" indicates that the business operates in "Electronic, Component, and Accessories." The fourth digit distinguishes the specific industry sector, so a code of "3672" indicates that the business is concerned with "Printed Circuit Boards."

Industrial profiles have been generated for the following SIC codes:

SIC Code

Industrial Classification


Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing






Not used




Transportation, Communications, Electric, Gas and Sanitary service


Wholesale Trade


Retail Trade


Finance, Insurance and Real Estate




Public Administration



The industrial hygiene exposures are based on the OSHA Information Management Information System (IMIS) from 1984 to 2019. The OSHA IMIS was designed as an information resource for in-house use by OSHA staff and management, and by state agencies that carry out federally-approved OSHA programs. Access to this OSHA work product is being afforded via the Internet for the use of members of the public who wish to track OSHA interventions at particular work sites or to perform statistical analyses of OSHA enforcement activity. It is critical that users of the data understand several aspects of the system in order to accurately use the information. The source of the information in the IMIS is the local federal or state office in the geographical area where the activity occurred. Information is entered as events occur in the course of agency activities. When IMIS is put to new or different uses, the data should be verified by reference to the case file and confirmed by the appropriate federal or state office.

Identifying workers' exposure to health hazards is typically more complex than identifying physical safety hazards. For example, gases and vapors may be invisible, often have no odor, and may not have an immediately noticeable harmful health effect. Health hazards include chemical hazards (solvents, adhesives, paints, toxic dusts, etc.), physical hazards (noise, radiation, heat, etc.), biological hazards (infectious diseases), and ergonomic risk factors (heavy lifting, repetitive motions, vibration). Reviewing workers' medical records (appropriately redacted to ensure patient/worker privacy) can be useful in identifying health hazards associated with workplace exposures.

How to identify occupational health hazards:

  • Identify chemical hazards – review SDS and product labels to identify chemicals in your workplace that have low exposure limits, are highly volatile, or are used in large quantities or in unventilated spaces. Identify activities that may result in skin exposure to chemicals.
  • Identify physical hazards – identify any exposures to excessive noise (areas where you must raise your voice to be heard by others), elevated heat (indoor and outdoor), or sources of radiation (radioactive materials, X-rays, or radiofrequency radiation).
  • Identify biological hazards – determine whether workers may be exposed to sources of infectious diseases, molds, toxic or poisonous plants, or animal materials (fur or scat) capable of causing allergic reactions or occupational asthma.
  • Identify ergonomic risk factors – examine work activities that require heavy lifting, work above shoulder height, repetitive motions, or tasks with significant vibration.
  • Conduct assessments quantitative exposure – when possible, using air sampling or direct reading instruments.
  • Review medical records –to identify cases of musculoskeletal injuries, skin irritation or dermatitis, hearing loss, or lung disease that may be related to workplace exposures.

How do we identify occupational health hazards associated with both emergency and nonroutine situations? Emergencies present hazards that need to be recognized and understood. Nonroutine or infrequent tasks, including maintenance and startup/shutdown activities, also present potential hazards. Plans and procedures need to be developed for responding appropriately and safely to hazards associated with foreseeable emergency scenarios and nonroutine situations.

Identify foreseeable emergency scenarios and non-routine tasks, taking into account the types of material and equipment in use and the location within the facility. Scenarios such as the following may be foreseeable:

  1. Fires and explosions
  2. Chemical releases
  3. Hazardous material spills
  4. Startups after planned or unplanned equipment shutdowns
  5. Nonroutine tasks, such as infrequently performed maintenance activities
  6. Structural collapse
  7. Disease outbreaks
  8. Weather emergencies and natural disasters
  9. Medical emergencies
  10. Workplace violence

Project Resources

The tables represent in each profile is the best available information on exposure risk assessment for each industry. The information may be updated as more research information is known or becomes available from new occupational health exposures and changes in technology. This is a living document so the information contained herein represents both past, current, and future exposures to at-risk workers.

Some of the information used for the project included the chemical health hazard information from the OSHA Integrated Management Information System (IMIS). Industrial hygiene profiles of past inspections within the industry provided insight into the occupational health exposures from 1984 to the present. OSHA compliance officers often take industrial hygiene samples when monitoring worker exposures to chemical hazards. Many of these samples are submitted to the Salt Lake Technical Center (SLTC) for analysis. The sampling results included on this web page represent the records of the SLTC sampling information system from 1984 forward.

They include data on personal, area, and bulk samples for various airborne contaminants. All inspection sampling results will be included here once the case is closed. OSHA does not publicly disclose information from the following types of cases: open inspections and citations currently under contest or under appeal to the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Review Commission or the U.S. Courts of Appeals. After litigation has concluded, the sampling data from the related inspection will be added at the next scheduled update. OSHA updates the data on this web page semi-annually in January and July. All of the industrial hygiene information is compiled into a Chemical Health Database at: https://www.osha.gov/opengov/healthsamples.html

Personal sampling results represent the exposure to the individual who was actually wearing a sampling device. Area samples are taken in a fixed location and results may represent the potential risk from airborne contaminants or physical agents to workers in that area. Bulk samples were taken to verify if certain constituents are present and if so, in what concentration. Bulk samples are used individually or in conjunction with personal or area samples to help interpret the level of worker risk.

Surveys have been conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) under the Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) program. All of the relevant reports were reviewed from 1976 to the present. Many of these industrial hygiene surveys provided detailed information on air, surface, and bulk samples collected from various companies participating in the program. More information can be found athttps://www2a.cdc.gov/hhe/search.asp

Additional support information was found in the OSHA Chemical Database, which can be found at: https://www.osha.gov/chemicaldata/ This chemical inventory is OSHA's premier resource for occupational chemical information. It compiles information from several government agencies and organizations. Information available on the pages includes:

  • Chemical identification and physical properties
  • Exposure limits
  • Sampling information, and
  • Additional resources.

Note that some results represent exposures that can change during any given work shift. As a result, these occupational exposure values may not be directly comparable to levels listed in OSHA's Permissible Exposure Limits (PEL) for short-term or ceiling exposures and longer-term exposures that extend beyond a typical 8-hour work shift.

Another valuable resource beneficial to the reader is the NIOSH Occupational Diseases: A Guide to Their Recognition – Publication No. 77-181. Reference: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/77-181/default.html The information contained in each of these chemical profiles complements the information found in the industry tables.

Project Support Acknowledgements

Special thanks are given to the AIHA project team members who volunteered their time and experience to developing each of the industrial profiles. These people include:

  • Keenan Monaghan
  • Bernie Fontaine
  • Aadam Debevec
  • Robin Miszkeiwicz
  • Maddie Demo

Another special thanks are given to the industry profile reviewers who corrected and harmonized all of the occupational health exposures and provided guidance for a more robust understanding of each market segment. The balance between academia, industry career professionals, and graduate students provided greater insight into the type of information that should be included with each market segment profile These volunteers include:

  • Dr, Georgi Popov
  • Dr. Robert Herrick
  • Dr. Larry Whitehead
  • Krystal Murphy
  • Donald Wolski
  • Jakalynne Gosnell
  • Kim Castillon
  • David Abrams
  • Pamela Susi
  • Lupita Quintanna
  • Eric Randleman