Interested in a career in Occupational Hygiene?

What is a career in occupational hygiene like?

Occupational hygiene practitioners come from various pathways. They may be chemists, engineers, doctors, nurses or other professionals all of whom have chosen to apply their skills to protecting the health of workers.

As part of the annual AIOH conference in 2014, our members were invited to create short videos to help explain occupational hygiene. The competition, aptly named, “The CANARY” for Communicating Awareness - a New Approach Representing us on YouTube showcased our members passion for our profession. Check out Alex Wilson’s winning entry below. You can view all the fantastic entries here.

Ace Day Jobs followed Perdita Dickson around for a day so you can see what it is like to have a career in occupational hygiene.

(media courtesy of the ABC)

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Occupational Hygiene Roles and Training Explained

There are varying levels of training in the field of occupational hygiene. Typically, the level of training required will relate to the role of the occupational hygienist or technician performing the work.

Occupational hygiene technicians typically collect measurements of worker exposure using standard techniques. Technicians are able to perform calibration and maintenance of sampling equipment and either organise or self-perform laboratory analysis of collected samples. Technicians are involved in routine inspections of control measures such as ventilation systems, and usually work under the supervision of a professional occupational hygienist.

Training for occupational hygiene technicians typically encompasses the fundamental principles of occupational hygiene such as the AIOH Basic Principles of Occupational Hygiene. This course provides an introduction to occupational hygiene and enables participants to describe the general basic approach to the recognition of occupational hygiene hazards.

Occupational hygiene technicians have also completed further tertiary specialised study in one or more aspects of occupational hygiene. This may include The International Certificate in Occupational Hygiene (ICertOH). Completion of such intermediate training is expected to equip participants with sufficient skills to be able to select the appropriate equipment to measure specific occupational hygiene hazards; devise a suitable sampling strategy; present results in a useful format; and recommend suitable control strategies.

Occupational hygienists work to prevent disease and injury arising from the workplace. They may check work environments and processes for health and safety hazards related to:

  • Chemical agents (for example, dust, gases, vapours)
  • Physical agents (for example, heat, cold, noise, radiation)
  • Biological agents (for example viruses, bacteria, moulds).
  • Psychosocial (for example, bullying, occupational violence, customer aggression)

Specific duties and responsibilities may vary considerably from one job to another. In general, however, occupational hygienists:

  • observe processes, procedures and operating conditions both inside and outside work sites
  • develop strategies for evaluating the work site to determine the degree of risk
  • collect and analyse samples to assess worker exposure to physical, chemical and biological agents
  • use direct reading instruments, sampling techniques and other methods to measure levels of physical agents such as light, heat, noise and radiation
  • determine airborne exposure concentrations of contaminants and compare them to regulatory standards and guidelines and accepted occupational exposure criteria
  • evaluate the effectiveness of control strategies implemented to protect against workplace exposures and hazards (for example, personal protective equipment, ventilation systems)
  • interpret the results of exposure evaluations and determine risk to human health based on scientific research and recommend ways to control workplace hazards through engineering methods, improved work procedures and protective equipment

Training for occupational hygienists requires the successful completion of an acceptable degree in Science or Engineering (or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the AIOH Council) for consideration of one of the professional membership grades. Further requirements, including the length of professional experience, are detailed in the Become a Member section.

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