SGS Analyzes a New Trend in the Health and Safety Industry: Reverse Industrial Hygiene
SGS Tecnos, in collaboration with Foment del Treball Nacional, recently organized two seminars on “reverse industrial hygiene,” an emerging trend described as a “return to the origins.”
The main objective of industrial hygiene is to prevent work-related diseases by controlling factors that may cause sickness and improving working conditions via implementation of process control, technical measures, industrial airing, and substitution of dangerous substances, among others.
In the beginning, industrial hygienists applied such measures without being able to analyze the toxic and dangerous agents in the working environment. This is because sampling systems, analysis methodologies and assessment criteria were not defined until the second half of the 20th century.
During recent years, a reverse situation has been emerging – the quantitative assessment of potential risks has become the explicit goal in industrial hygiene’s conventional model, displacing the primary goal of preventing work-related diseases.
A prominent question has been raised: Should the measuring be done prior to taking action, or first take action and then measure to check if it is correct? This new methodology was introduced in the seminars on industrial hygiene organized by SGS. It has been called “reverse industrial hygiene” because it changes the order of “conventional industrial hygiene” preventive measures.
In this new model the order is reversed:
First, a risk group that enhances all used chemical products is determined.
Control and protection measures are then identified, taking into account working conditions and the manner of use of the chemical products for each risk group.
After considering the facilities and jobs of their risk group’s conditions, a quantitative assessment of residual hygienic risk is performed in order to verify its acceptability.
This new qualitative or empirical model offers several advantages over the conventional model:
It assigns practical control measures that are directly applicable to the industrial processes.
It does not require costly actions to perform sampling and analysis to define acting priorities.
Preventive actions can be taken even when there are no Occupational Exposure Limits (OELs).
It provides criteria designed for the continuous improvement of industrial processes’ hygienic prevention.
It is especially suitable to accredit conformity of the processes without needing costly measurement and analysis.
Due to these reasons, among others, reverse industrial hygiene has been adopted by many health and safety institutions including in England, USA, France, Germany, Belgium, Holland and Norway.
Both seminars were well attended, with representatives from several sectors including the chemical, automotive, pharmaceutics and hospital industries. There were 80 attendees in Barcelona and 50 in the Tarragona seminar. They ended with the conclusion that the new model is a return to health and safety’s origins, a step forward in the preservation of workers’ health and safety in work conditions.
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