Occupational hygiene

From CEOpedia | Management online

Occupational hygiene (industrial hygiene) is the environmental science of anticipating, recognizing, evaluating, and controlling health hazards in the working environment with the objectives of protecting workers' health and well-being and safeguarding the community at large. It encompasses the prevention of chronic and acute conditions emanating from hazards posed by physical agents, chemical agents, biological agents, and stressors in the occupational environment as well as concern for the outdoor environment" (T. J. Smith, T. Schneider 2006, p. 190).

In the view of B. S. Levy: "occupational and environmental health is the multidisciplinary approach to the recognition, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention and control of disease, injuries, and other adverse health conditions resulting from hazardous environmental exposures in the workplace, the home, or the community. It is part of public health - what we, as a society, do collectively to assure that the conditions in which people live and work are healthy. Occupational and environmental health is an integral part of many disciplines" (B. S. Levy 2006, p. 3).

Occupational illnesses

Occupational illnesses can be caused by chemical agents, such as: dusts, fumes, mists, vapors, gases, or by physical agents, such as: noise, temperature extremes, radiation.

Employees can experience adverse health effects if they are over-exposed, i. e., if the exposure exceeds recognized safe limits. Effects can develop over long periods of time after repeated exposures (chronic) or via a single exposure event (acute). Such diseases can cause temporary or permanent disability, affect the quality of life, or result in a shorter life span. Such risks are reduced by effective occupational hygiene programs (S. K. Jones 1990, p. 1).

Employment law perspectives

"Health and safety is not only governed by written legislation. Under what is known as 'common law' all employers have a duty of care imposed on them to protect their employees. Common law implies into all employment contracts the duty on employers to take care of their employees' health and safety. For example, employers must:

  • provide a safe place at work,
  • provide a safe system of work,
  • provide adequate plant and equipment,
  • recruit competent and safety conscious staff.

If an employer fails to take reasonable care in any of these areas, an employee may have a number of legal claims, including being able to resign and claim constructive, unfair dismissal and personal injury claims" (Lewis J., Thornbory G. (2012), p. 35). 

Occupational hygienerecommended articles
Work environmentDuties of employersOccupational diseaseStochastic effectIllegal workOccupational accidentWorkplace safetyWorking conditionsWorkplace violence


Author: Elżbieta Woyke