Identifying, minimizing danger from workplace health hazards

An occupational hygienist can help improve on-the-job safety

Construction worker with helmet and safety jacket on outdoor construction site examines blueprints.

Occupational hygienists work to recognize and mitigate workplace health hazards.

Employers use many different materials daily in carrying out their business operations. Many of these materials contain toxins which can have devastating effects on their workers’ health.

Sanford Occupational Medicine professionals can provide onsite evaluations to review hazardous toxins, unsafe work practices, dangerous noise exposures and provide guidance on limiting harmful health effects.

Limiting risk at work

In evaluating the risk and making recommendations to limit the risk, Sanford Health uses the following as a guide:

  • Elimination: Physically remove the hazard.
  • Substitution: Replace the hazard.
  • Engineering controls: Isolate people from the hazard.
  • Administrative controls: Change the way people work.
  • Personal protective equipment: Protect the worker with equipment such as helmets, respirators, earplugs and more.

“If the toxic agent can be eliminated and substituted by a less toxic agent, that is the most effective action,” said Joel Blanchard, M.D., an occupational medicine specialist at Sanford Health. “If that is not possible, we can recommend engineering controls such as venting the area to limit toxic vapor exposure, or isolating a noisy portion of the worksite with noise-reducing additions.”

On occasion if these first three steps are not feasible, employers can limit the hours worked in dangerous areas by rotating staff to safer areas.

Last resort: personal protection

Lastly, if there is still a concern, personal protective equipment is recommended. Occupational medicine professionals can make sure that the PPE is fitting properly and providing the best protection for the worker.

Once workplaces have minimized worker exposure to these agents, Sanford Health can provide annual surveillance exams. The exams will monitor the workers to assure that protection is working properly and the workers are not developing any work-related adverse health effects. These exams are based on OSHA recommendations.

By following the OSHA regulations, occupational medicine provides the best protection for employees and ensures that employers are following the best safety practices.

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Posted In Health Information, Workplace Health

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