The goal of the industrial hygienist is to keep workers, their families, and the community healthy and safe. They play a vital part in ensuring that federal, state, and local laws and regulations are followed in the work environment.
Typical roles of the industrial hygienist include the following:
- Anticipate, identify, and recognize workplace hazards (or health hazard identification)
- Investigate and examine the workplace for current risks, emerging, and developing risks
- Analyze the risks stemming from the identified workplace hazards
- Evaluate risks to achieve As Low As Reasonably Practical (ALARP) risk levels
- Make recommendations on improving the health and safety of workers and the surrounding community (apply appropriate risk treatment)
- Monitor and review the proposed control measures to improve productivity, sustainability, and product stewardship
- Align industrial hygiene programs with operational, financial, and strategic objectives of the organization
- Develop a business case for industrial hygiene interventions and improvements
- Communicate the value of industrial hygiene risk assessment and risks treatment in terms of financial and non-financial benefits
- Work together with upper level managers (C-Suite) to fully integrate industrial hygiene programs into an Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) system.
Industrial hygienists work with the issues that concern us all...
Industrial hygienists deal with the health and safety challenges facing people everywhere including:
- Indoor air quality (sick building syndrome, second-hand tobacco smoke)
- Evaluating and controlling environmental lead exposure
- Emergency response planning and community right-to-know
- Occupational disease (AIDS in the workplace, tuberculosis, silicosis)
- Potentially hazardous agents such as asbestos, pesticides, and radon gas
- Cumulative Trauma Disorders (repetitive stress injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome)
- Radiation (electromagnetic fields, microwaves)
- Reproductive health hazards in the workplace
- Setting limits on exposure to chemical and physical agents
- Detection and control of potential occupational hazards such as noise, radiation, and illumination
- Hazardous waste management
Common questions about industrial hygiene
What is the CIH designation all about?
AIHA recognizes the need for certification by every professional industrial hygienist as an appropriate hallmark by one's peers. We strongly urge all professional IHs to obtain Board for Global EHS Credentialing® (formerly known as the American Board of Industrial Hygiene) certification, commonly called the CIH (Certified Industrial Hygienist).
The BGC® has established that successful candidates for certificates shall attain the status of Diplomate of the American Academy of Industrial Hygiene, subject to compliance with requirements established by the Board for Global EHS Credentialing®.
The active BGC certification process for a CIH requires that the person be admitted to examination based upon academic training and four years of experience, successfully pass a one-day examination, and maintain active professional involvement by recertification on a five-year cycle following first certification.
What resources are available for someone who is interested in industrial hygiene as a career option?
We have a few resources for you to consider checking out:
- Check out this handy infographic about the profession.
- Find a career in industrial hygiene with AIHA's CareerAdvantage program.
- Find more governmental, educational, and other IH and OEHS resources.
- Students/Early Career Professionals Fact Sheet.
- See what possible career paths are available.
Isn't industrial hygiene restricted to just a few industries?
Job diversity is a major benefit to consider when choosing a career in the environmental health and safety arena. Industrial hygienists are not limited to one particular type of industry; they are employed in a variety of organizations such as:
- Public Utilities
- Colleges and universities
- Insurance companies
- Labor unions
- Agricultural companies
- Chemical companies
- Research laboratories
- Consulting firms
- Manufacturing companies
- Hazardous waste companies
And that's just a short list!
Many industrial hygienists work for private corporations or federal or state government agencies as salaried employees. However, the fastest-growing segment of the industrial hygiene profession is self-employment or consulting. Many industrial hygiene careers can lead to upper management positions. The IH’s job is a multifaceted one that touches every aspect of an organization and benefits a company’s bottom line through increased productivity, improved morale, and lower workers’ compensation and liability costs. The industrial hygienist acts as an adviser, making recommendations and setting standards to keep the workplace safe. This requires working with employees at all job levels and requires a genuine commitment to caring about people and the environment.
What kind of education/knowledge do industrial hygienists have?
A professional industrial hygienist is a person possessing either a baccalaureate degree in engineering, chemistry, physics, or a closely related biological or physical science from an accredited college or university, who also has a minimum of three years of industrial hygiene experience. A completed doctorate in a related physical, biological, or medical science or in related engineering can be substituted for two years of the three-year requirement. A completed master's degree in a related physical or biological science or in related engineering can be substituted for one year of the three-year requirement. Under no circumstances can more than two years of graduate training be applied toward the three-year period.
While this definition does not include certification, AIHA recognizes the need for such certification by every professional industrial hygienist as an appropriate hallmark by one's peers and strongly urges all eligible members to obtain Board for Global EHS Credentialing® certification.
The active BGC certification requires that the person be admitted to examination based upon academic training and four years of experience for the Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH), successfully pass a one-day examination, and maintain active professional involvement by recertification on a five-year cycle following first certification.
Download this free copy of the Core Competencies for the Practice of Industrial & Occupational Hygiene for more detailed information.